The paranoia of the 1950's is perhaps best captured in the 1954 film, Them!, a ninety-four minute saga which turned on two common themes of the day -- nuclear Holocaust and Communist subversion. In the film, a species of gigantic irradiated ants threatens the United States. Of course, the Americans throw everything they have at the monstrous enemy; and the film ends in the sewers of Los Angeles.
Tim Hudak began his quest for the premiership of Ontario by heading straight for the sewers. He immediately attacked Dalton McGuinty's plan to offer a $10,000 tax credit to companies which hire new Canadians -- the kind of professionals who need to be certified in Ontario before they can hang up a shingle.
Hudak, who likes to portray himself as just an ordinary guy, attacked the plan with feigned outrage:
"Basically, Dalton McGuinty wants to pay companies $10,000 to hire foreign workers while we have half a million people in Ontario today who are looking for jobs," the Tory leader said.
"He is going to pay companies $10,000 to hire anyone but you."
Mr. Hudak is no Mike Harris. But he is pulling a page from the Harris playbook. Harris became premier by turning the province's welfare recipients into straw men and women. Hudak now proposes to turn recent immigrants into the new enemy. And, like the ants, they are easy to identify, because most of them have brown skins.
The fact that this strategy directly undermines his federal cousins' pursuit of votes in the same community -- and indeed, contradicts his own recently introduced bill to help new Canadians -- is of no import. What matters is that these "aliens" can be used to scare Ontarians into a righteous fury -- just as Stephen Harper intends to use "Islamiciism" to frighten Canadians into accepting recently sunseted terror legislation.
Yesterday should have reminded us that politicians on both sides of the border have won power -- and feathered their nests -- by stoking paranoia. But, like the movie, their vision is a fantasy, a shadow on the screen.