Worst. Campaign. Ever.
Is it too late for the reconstructed socialist to save the earnest professor from the impenitent bully? Tune in tomorrow…
It “sounds obtuse” to send Stéphane Dion out on parade with his would-be successors in tow, Lawrence Martin writes in The Globe and Mail, but having Bob Rae around seems to have “enliven[ed]” Dion, and in any case it’s “probably the only way for the besieged professor to get out from under his nimbus of vulnerability.” Indeed it is, and it doesn’t sound the least bit obtuse to us, either. If you had Rae, Michael Ignatieff, Gerard Kennedy, Martha Hall Findley and Marc Garneau (we’ll pretend Martin didn’t mention Justin Trudeau among the luminaries), wouldn’t you want to publicly contrast that team against Harper’s gang of nobodies, hacks, mimbos and Common Sense Revolution refugees?
It’s already happening, Don Martin reports in the Calgary Herald: Ruby Dhalla and Ken Dryden were rolled out yesterday, he notes—pause here for polite applause—and Ignatieff takes the stage today. Indeed, Martin believes “highlighting the team was always in the campaign script.” But it’s still undeniably fraught with peril for Dion, since “every breath of oratorical fire they unleash puts their leader’s uneven communications skills in starkly unfavourable contrast.” And while it’s unclear to what extent attack dog politics are able to counteract the Liberal team’s star appeal, Martin assures us, based on Jason Kenney’s anti-Rae press conference yesterday, the Tories will be on Dion’s wingmen and women like a rottweiler on a soup bone.
The Toronto Star‘s Bob Hepburn believes Dion’s campaign thus far has been even worse than John Turner’s—and as such, is the “worst campaign ever”—and suggests the Tories are on their way to “a huge majority.” His six-point plan to salvage what would surely be The End of Canada as We Know It: attack ads that are as vicious as possible; “shut[ting] up about the Green Shift”; ditching the campaign organizers; appointing Rae and Ignatieff as de facto leaders; hammering away at job losses in Ontario; and “prepar[ing] like crazy for the TV debates, because they’re the last chance to start reversing the polls.”
Sun Media’s Greg Weston too sees an ever-increasing chance of a Tory majority in the pollsters’ tea leaves, noting that “even among those who say they plan to vote Liberal, 38% indicate they are OK with the prospect” of four years of unfettered Harperism. The NDP represents something of a wild card, however, since fully 62% of intended Dipper voters are uncomfortable with that same prospect. They might “stampede” to the Liberals at the last minute, as they did in 2006, says Weston, but if the Tories continue to widen the gap, they might well stay with Captain Jack and make things even more interesting.
Harper is borrowing heavily from the conservative campaign playbooks of both John Howard and Karl Rove, Jeffrey Simpson suggests in the Globe. His tax credits for first-time home buyers in Canada’s various urban sprawls—loathed by smart people as “itsy-bitsy economics” but adored by Tory candidates on the hustings—are borrowed from Howard, for example. They could also have been borrowed from Tony Blair, either Democrat-controlled house of the U.S. Congress or, for that matter, the Irish, but we suppose we should take Simpson at his word. Likewise, we won’t bother to cast our minds back to the days before Rove assumed human form and swooped down on Washington. We’ll just assume nobody “attack[ed their] adversaries relentlessly with whatever distortions [were] necessary in the greater cause of victory” before then.
The Star‘s James Travers is in one of his less coherent moods today, perhaps trying to represent in prose what he sees as a serious case of cognitive dissonance in the Canadian public—and in the Liberal party, which set aside glaringly obvious concerns about Dion and elected him leader anyway. Despite all Harper’s politically inspired missteps, including cutting the GST and “changing the Liberal get-in-and-get-out strategy [in Afghanistan] into a stay-the-course commitment”—we have no memory of this “get-in-and-get-out strategy,” incidentally, but that’s probably the cognitive dissonance at work—the Tories are successfully framing this election as “a referendum on the opposition leader.” Travers politely suggests we all wake up. “It’s naive, even ostrich reckless, to reach crucial conclusions by wishing away reality.”
Jean Charest continues to snipe at Harper, Don MacPherson reports in the Montreal Gazette, including insisting Quebec control its own arts funding and other pro-nationalist gambits, and most recently by demanding Ottawa adopt stricter tailpipe emissions standards for cars manufactured in Canada. It’s not clear, however, to what extent his party stands behind this new defender-of-Quebec persona. Nor, says MacPherson, is it clear what damage (if any) Charest might do to his reputation if his various demands fall on deaf ears.
In the National Post, Michael Coren stands up for Opus Dei as simply an especially traditional, faithful sect of Catholicism, and suggests that when people like Gilles Duceppe and Raymond Gravel imply Tory candidate Nicole Charbonneau Barron represents some sort of Da Vinci Code-calibre conspiracy to ban abortion or heaven knows what else, they’re really saying “that genuine Catholics are not welcome” in Canadian politics. They’re just too chicken to put in so many words.
Farewell to prosperity
The Financial Post‘s Terence Corcoran is sarcastically confused. Weren’t “the massive post-Enron accounting overhauls” and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act supposed to prevent corporate meltdowns like AIG Insurance? Weren’t boards of directors and audit committees such as AIG’s, composed mostly of “Sarbanes-certified outsiders,” supposed to nip these things in the bud? Apparently not. In fact, Corcoran argues, new accounting rules that forced AIG to record assets with no reasonably measurable market value may have unjustifiably contributed to the firm’s tailspin.
George Jonas detects low-level economic panic in the salons of the rich, as the well-heeled realize all this talk of a New Economy, with its “progressive taxation, safety nets, government planning, state leadership and intervention,” was bunk—that we’re just as vulnerable to economic disaster now as we ever were, in other words. “Is it possible to look at a recession, not as a calamity, but as the economy’s living, beating heart?” Jonas asks in the Post, quoting an unnamed rich person. “Yes. All you need is to be: (a) rich and (b) diversified.” The rest of us, unfortunately, may soon be wearing barrels to preserve our dignity.