Stephen Harper has been traveling the country, announcing tax breaks. So you know the election campaign is on. But the real proof that Mr. Harper is in campaign mode, Michael Harris writes, is that the three cornerstones of Harperism are now firmly in place - fable, fear and smear:
Fables are comforting tales with few details. And, if there is one thing Mr. Harper doesn't want Canadians to look at, it's the devil in the details:
With the Canada-Europe CETA deal — which remains a work in progress, no matter how many press releases they’ve issued — we’re told that Canada’s GDP will go up 32 per cent. No mention in that bald prediction of who will benefit, or what it will cost. How many subsidies will the federal government have to pay to people like cheese producers? How much will seniors end up paying for their pharmaceuticals if the Europeans get their way? Judging from his past performance, Harper’s deals will be good for the five-carat wedding ring set. For lesser mortals, it will come down to a chicken-wing in every pot.
Then, of course, there is Harper's newly minted war in Iraq, which is being fueled by fear:
That same mainstream media (with notable individual exceptions, including the intrepid Canadian Press) is endorsing Harper’s view that Canadians are in imminent danger of being beheaded at the outlet mall by Islamic State. Man-eating pythons rising up from the toilet bowl pose more of a direct threat.
And, finally, there is the attempt to smear Justin Trudeau -- which has apparently been outsourced to Jason Kenny:
Jason Kenney is apparently spending 20 per cent of his time whipping the shiny new pony on Twitter. Kenney’s staff is in on the act but the minister assures us they do the work on their personal time. (They would never kick the pony during working hours because that would be … well, that would be dirty pool, right?)
The whole idea is to sow seeds of doubt about Trudeau's judgment. But, that tactic could well backfire. It might cause voters to take a second look at Harper's judgment:
As for trashing Justin Trudeau for being inexperienced or having poor judgement — does Harper really want to go there? A debate about judgement? Does he really want to revisit all his least statesmanlike moments — from recruiting his staff from the ranks of guys who have done time to turning Libya into Thunderdome?
It's the tried and true Harperian formula. The question is: After almost a decade, do Canadians know a snake oil peddler when they see one?