“We have so much money,” a Harper aide would admit at the end of the  campaign’s first week, shaking his head in amazement. “We have shitloads of money. Way more than we can spend in a campaign. In a way we wouldn’t have minded Martin’s preferred schedule, which was to go in February, because we could have run this huge pre-writ campaign” — a blitz of television, radio, and newspaper ads, and direct mail, all of it unregulated by Elections Canada spending limits because it pre-dated the dropping of the writ.
— Right Side Up, everyone’s favourite Christmas gift
When Mom says no, ask Dad. It’s a universal instinct. When Stephen Harper lost Belinda Stronach he paid closer attention to Chuck Cadman. When Vancouver wouldn’t give the Conservatives an MP Harper reached out to David Emerson. And now it happens again: He cannot win this new confrontation in the Commons. So he has bought himself another week — to reach outside the Commons to the country.
And outside the Commons, the Conservative war chest and tool kit are formidable. This will be one of the most astonishing weeks in the history of Canadian politics.
What follows is based on six years of watching Harper as a political leader, not on fresh reporting. But I think it’s reasonable to assume that email will go out this weekend soliciting fresh donations from hundreds of thousands of Conservative supporters. Direct-mail appeals (“Stéphane Dion: Not a Democrat”), Web ads, broadcast and print buys, messaging for Conservative bloggers and for commenters on other blogs, talking points for talk-radio callers and the party’s teevee spokesmen — that will only be part of it. The messaging will be concentrated against the most vulnerable MPs: If you’re a Liberal or a New Democrat who won narrowly over the Conservative in your riding, you can expect your life to be hell, beginning tonight. There could be public “We Want Our Canada Back” rallies, including probably a big one on the Hill (“Send Ottawa A Message From the Real Canada”) by mid-week. It could be massive.
At every step, the Conservatives are better funded, more experienced at this sort of thing, and a lot more scared, and therefore more motivated, than their opponents. This controversy began with Harper recognizing his advantage in grassroots fundraising and organizing and seeking to consolidate it. It will end with Harper using that advantage to the hilt.
How will it all end? Harper’s crystal ball may be broken, but the battery in mine is dead. I’ll find out when the rest of you do, somewhere between now and Dec. 8.
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