Stephen Harper posed as a populist last weekend, claiming that he and Laureen didn't go to Ottawa to join an elite. That line, Lawrence Martin writes, doesn't ring true:
The populist schtick isn’t an easy sell when your government has given far more tax cuts to the corporations than to the little guy; when it’s been manifestly on the side of big oil; when it takes on unions at every turn; when its penchant for muzzling and censorship is legend; when it favours judges ill-disposed to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; when the Prime Minister’s version of grassroots democracy has been to centralize and expand executive power at a rate heretofore unseen.
To try to escape the hole he has dug for himself, Mr. Harper has returned to his Reform Party roots and appealed to his supporters' essential ignorance. He's convinced that the corruption of his office is of no interest to the base. They simply don't buy Mike Duffy's allegations.
However, there is at least one Conservative who will confirm Duffy's story. Martin writes that former MP Inky Mark had an experience similar to Duffy's:
“They’d call you up and tell you what to do. One time, someone from his war room threatened me. I said, ‘Don’t tell me what to do just ‘cause you got a little office in Ottawa. And tell Stephen Harper the same thing.’ ”
The Senate expenses scandal is no surprise to Mr. Mark, he said, because for the Harper operation, the end justifies the means. In the 2006 campaign, Mr. Mark said, the bullies wanted him to take part in a scheme to allow his campaign to go beyond official campaign spending limits. He refused. The Harper “populists” demanded to vet every single one of Mr. Mark’s press releases, as they did everyone else’s. He said no.
Like Rob Ford -- who drives a Cadillac to work -- Stephen Harper is a servant of the wealthy. Like Charles Foster Kane, both men are false populists.