Tuesday, March 20, 2012
The Party Of Illusions
Whatever else the Harper Conservatives are, they are good magicians. They are in the business of selling illusions. They claim to be the party of prosperity, when they are, in fact, the party of scarcity. They claim to stand for accountability, as they conduct parliamentary committees behind closed doors. They claim to be the party of limited government, when, under Harper's regime, the state -- in Lawrence Martin's phrase -- "is everywhere."
Any good magician knows that illusions only work if you can create a successful diversion. And that's what the new attack on Bob Rae is. It's an attempt to take the focus off the party. The problem, the newly released ad says, isn't Stephen Harper. It's Bob Rae.
The party has been in hot water before -- over political party subsidies, over Afghan prisoners and over contempt for Parliament. Each time it successfully created an diversion. In fact, in the first and third cases, the same diversion worked twice: they called it the "separatist coalition." Proroguing parliament got them off the hook in the showdown between Harper and Richard Colvin.
But the Conservatives are now in the tightest spot they have ever faced. As reports of election fraud have spread across the country to over 80 of Canada's 308 ridings, they know their government's legitimacy is at stake. And they will do anything -- anything -- to protect the bunker.
The ad against Rae needs to be seen in that context. This time there will be a response. And there is plenty of material available to the Liberals: the $12 million surplus that disappeared in 18 months; the Great Recession -- which Harper cheerfully predicted wouldn't happen; and the jobs which Canadians lost -- and continue to lose -- during that recession.
But it would be a mistake to simply get into he said/we say mode. This is all about trying to change the channel. The Conservatives want voting fraud to go away. They think they can make it go away by making Bob Rae go away. Neither will disappear.