Hugh Segal was never one of Stephen Harper's men. A Progressive Conservative -- with emphasis on the word progressive -- he was part of Bill Davis' Big Blue Machine. And he knows something about how to win elections. That is why his analysis of Mr. Harper's last campaign is so interesting. He writes:
The durability of any democracy is always tied to the viability of hope. To some extent, the absence, however unwitting, of hope in the Conservative Party’s recent election platform had a lot to do with the Liberal victory on Oct. 19. Hope is what voters are about in general elections in genuine democracies. Justin Trudeau epitomized the kind of hope Canadians were seeking in a way that Stephen Harper’s government, nearing its 10th year in office, often found difficult to reflect.Hope is what sits at the centre of international organizations such as the United Nations or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; it is the quality that domestic and foreign policy needs to advance. When excessive caution or angst overcomes hope, incumbents run into electoral difficulty that can, and have, produced defeats far worse than the Conservatives saw in October.
The Harperites were very good at peddling fear. And fear trumps hope -- unless citizens stop believing what they've been told. The basic problem Stephen Harper had was that Canadians stopped believing him. The arrival of Syrian refugees represents a deliberate changing of the channel:
When people reflect on how “hope” is made real for new arrivals, and for those who have been here for generations, the formula is not complex. Religious and political freedom, genuine engagement for opportunity and work, education for their children, and reasonable access to health care are all key instruments that sustain hope.Terrorists, and those who promote hatred and fear, count on the dilution and suffocation of hope to make cruelty, pessimism and a cynical self-survival all that matters in day-to-day life. When hope flags, fear and despair gather steam.
The challenge for all of us in the New Year is to continue to hope. After all, hope makes all the difference.