I confess to being gobsmacked by an editorial in the Globe and Mail today endorsing the Conservatives, not because of the endorsement per se but because of the reasoning behind it:
“Mr. Harper could achieve a great deal more if he would relax his grip on Parliament, its independent officers and the flow of information, and instead bring his disciplined approach to bear on the great challenges at hand. That is the great strike against the Conservatives: a disrespect for Parliament, the abuse of prorogation, the repeated attempts (including during this campaign) to stanch debate and free expression. It is a disappointing failing in a leader who previously emerged from a populist movement that fought so valiantly for democratic reforms.
“[But] those who disdain the Harper approach should consider his overall record, which is good….
“The campaign of 2011 – so vicious and often vapid – should not be remembered fondly. But that will soon be behind us. If the result is a confident new Parliament, it could help propel Canada into a fresh period of innovation, government reform and global ambition. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are best positioned to guide Canada there. “
‘If the result is a confident new Parliament…’?
And just how would that come about? How could Parliament possibly be ‘new’ or ‘confident’ if the Conservatives, who have marginalized and abused it to the point where it is barely recognizable, remain in control of it?
I far prefer Andrew Coyne’s endorsement of the Liberals today. Again, not because of the end result — I didn’t expect him to announce who he would be voting for, frankly — but because he at least thought through the implications of rewarding that misbehaviour. Coyne writes:
“I will continue to make the case that we have a duty to perform as voters. Any election is in part a trial of the incumbents. Do we, the jury, find them guilty or not guilty, in this case of offences against democracy? And if we find them guilty, there has to be a penalty.
“But what about the economy? In punishing the government, do we risk punishing the country? No. Economies have enormous recuperative powers: as Adam Smith said, “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” We can afford a period of Liberal silliness. What we cannot afford is the continuing slide of Parliament, and parliamentary democracy, into disrepair. Conventions once discarded, habits of self-government once lost, are much harder to regain.
“If we return the Conservatives with a majority, if we let all that has gone on these past five years pass, then not only the Tories, but every party will draw the appropriate conclusions. But if we send them a different message, then maybe the work of bringing government to democratic heel, begun in the tumult of the last Parliament, can continue.”
As I write this, I am listening to a Stephen Harper commercial on television in which he talks about Canada as a country in which democratic principles are upheld. He specifically refers to freedom of expression as one of them.
And all I can think of is that this is a man who spouts those words but whose idea of leadership was to approve 6,000 other ads that attacked Michael Ignatieff’s loyalty and bona fides long before an election had even been called. The same viciousness was demonstrated in the Tory attacks on Linda Keen, Richard Colvin, Sean Bruyea, and all the others I’ve blogged about before.
Several pundits, including Andrew Coyne, insist that Harper is Teflon, and that Canadians don’t care about this stuff. Coyne, for example, writes: “Although the Liberals have tried to make accountability an issue in this election, they have signally failed.”
But I think they’re totally wrong. I think Michael Ignatieff did make accountability an issue and that the attacks on our democratic system by the Tories did resonate with Canadians, particularly after Sheila Fraser’s report on the G8/G20 spending was leaked. I think that this is why we’re seeing the astonishing rise in NDP fortunes.
Because Canadians saw those issues and they didn’t like them, but when it came to who to trust to deal with them, they didn’t trust Michael Ignatieff because they’d been inundated with Tory attack ads telling them not to.
That left them only Jack Layton to turn to as the standard bearer, and only because the Tories considered Layton irrelevant and failed to attack him in the same focussed way. Even now, their attack ads on Layton are little more than a reworking of the old Ignatieff attack ads –they almost look Photo-shopped — based, no doubt, on the belief that the NDP will simply split the vote and give them their majority.
Maybe so. But as at the time of writing, there have been over 4,200 responses to the Globe and Mail’s endorsement of the Conservatives. I haven’t read all of them but I’ve read enough to know that the overwhelming majority of those Canadians who have taken the time to post a comment wholly disagree with it. I have a feeling that an overwhelming majority of Canadians will disagree with it on May 2nd , as well.