As the government's attempt to scrap the long gun registry goes down to defeat, it is already plotting its next move. Having erected billboards in the ridings of MP's who previously voted against the registry, it is now revving up its election rhetoric, claiming that the death of the registry is an example of what would happen if Canada was governed by "a separatist coalition."
In a speech at the Chateau Laurier yesterday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty began fanning the flames of paranoia. He has given this speech before:
Under an Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Quebecois government, nothing would be safe. No part of our economy would be spared. No taxpayer would avoid the hit. Any coalition that would give the NDP access to taxpayer's wallets should strike fear in regular Canadians. What's more, any coalition that would give a veto on national policy to a party dedicated to the break up of our country is unacceptable..
A review of recent history reveals that the Harper government recognized Quebec as "a nation within a nation." A review of more ancient history reveals that less than fifty years ago -- when the country elected successive minority governments -- Parliament brought in the Canada Pension Plan, Medicare and a Canadian flag. These achievements required cooperation.
Both Mr. Layton and Mr. Ignatieff have suggested that all parties work to fix the weaknesses in the registry. But Mr. Harper and company are a peculiar species. They appear to have been born without a cooperative gene in their bodies. More importantly, they appear to have no sense of history. And, therefore, they are ill equipped to face the future.
Harry Truman said, "The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know." If there is one thing that is striking about the Harperites, it is how rarely they refer to historical precedent. Their ignorance of history goes a long way to explain their inability to make inroads in Quebec. That ignorance -- and Mr. Harper's appalling people skills -- are the reasons he leads a minority government.
Deborah Grey once said of the Prime Minister, "People skills? He was more fond of policy. Constituency work seemed like a grind to him." Like Richard Nixon, he is an introvert who is deeply suspicious of those around him. He sees opponents as enemies; and the paranoia his mistrust breeds makes cooperation with them impossible.
When it came to Richard Nixon, President Truman did not mince words: "Richard Nixon is a no good lying bastard," he said. "He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he'd lie just to keep his hand in."
It's clear that, in the coming election, the government will try to scare voters to death. If Canadians have a sense of history -- and if they remember what happened to Richard Nixon -- they will send Mr. Harper and company to the opposition benches.