Like Harry Houdini, Stephen Harper has built his career on illusion. His chief accomplishment has been to convince a significant number of Canadians that he is someone he is not. Along the way, he has sold a number of other illusions. Most important among them is the notion that he a a champion of the little guy. He has told middle class Canadians that he manages the economy for their benefit. Recent events, Geoffrey Hall writes, have exposed the lie behind that claim:
Harper’s carefully crafted image presents him to the nation as just another hockey-loving, Timmies-drinking, middle class guy — a person the average Canadian may not entirely trust or like, but not someone anyone suspects of being a mad-eyed radical ready to torch the neighbourhood. Steve’s projection of calm, banal, almost awkward normalcy has proved a highly effective illusion — concealing a very real agenda of radical change.
In Harper's Canada, prosperity goes directly to the top, while Canadian democracy sinks into oblivion:
Contracting-out the drafting of legislation, eroding the public service, removing science and evidence-based policy from decision-making, ignoring Parliament at every opportunity — step by step, Harper has concentrated the sum of power in his hands and, in effect, taken a match to many of Canada’s institutions. In fact, the greatest threat facing Canadians’ long-term economic and personal freedom is precisely this process of erosion — the slow loss of our ability to actually influence change, provide meaningful input to legislation and safeguard our fundamental freedoms.
Knowing that Canadians are beginning to catch on to the con, Harper has pinned his hopes on ginning up fears of jihadists at the gate. He knows that Canadians are justifiably afraid of lots of things:
Middle-class Canadians have plenty to be afraid of these days. Their numbers are shrinking along with traditional employment opportunities. The financial future for their families is uncertain. The pace of change in the economy is terrifying. These are all rational, legitimate fears — and they’re unlikely to go away in the course of an election year. A good politician knows he can’t make those fears vanish. But, if he’s both good and lucky, he can point those fears in another direction.
And that is precisely what the prime minister is trying to do. But it may not work. A Montrealer delivered a punch to Houdini's gut that caught the magician off guard. It was the punch that did Houdini in. Mr. Harper is convinced he has covered all his vulnerabilities.