Yesterday, Stephen Harper conjured up the ghost of Pierre Trudeau and repeated what he has said throughout this campaign: "Boo!" He told an audience in Drumondviille that:
I think it’s a bit unfair to bash somebody in the grave - he’s not here to defend himself - but as you know Mr. Trudeau did have a different philosophy of government: a high-spending philosophy, a centralizing philosophy.
Unfair or not, that's precisely what he went on to do: "The comparison I’m obviously making is the fact that as we all know in 1972 ... we had a Liberal government that relied on the NDP for ongoing support." The result, Harper said, was unmitigated disaster:
All they did was spend money [and] that led to two decades of ... runaway spending, higher taxes, double-digit unemployment and double digit interest rates.
As Ned Franks, of Queen's University has noted, Mr. Harper's claim that coalitions are illegitimate is a figment of his imagination. Moreover, Harper's reading of history is highly selective. He ignores two Middle East oil shocks which had a lot to do with the stagflation of the 70's. More than that, he ignores the fact that the two highest deficits in Canadian history were run up by Conservative governments -- Brian Mulroney's and his own. In between, the Chretien-Martin governments eliminated the Mulroney deficit and ran up a $12 billion surplus. And, at the moment, Mr. Harper holds the record for both spending and deficits.
Mr. Harper is allergic to facts. That is why he deep-sixed the long term census. As long as a solid database exits, it's hard for him to support his argument. Whether its opposition politicians or members of the press, Mr. Harper finds it hard to confront a narrative other than his own. Perhaps that's because, deep down, he lacks the courage of his convictions. Or, perhaps, he simply lacks courage.
I found this attack on Trudeau remarkable. Since when were the seventies a period of terrible hardship? Despite the lies they love to spread, Conservatives are the ones who are fiscally hopeless and financially irresponsible. From Reagan to Thatcher to Mulroney to Harper, Conservatives end up making bigger government with and more spending. So how do they keep selling this different image?
That's a really good question, Kirby. And I admit I don't have an answer -- except to repeat what Naomi Klein has said.
Historically, Conservatives have been able to get people to vote against their own self interest by creating a sense of crisis.
That's precisely what Mr. Harper is trying to do now. The antidote is to face down the monster. And -- because it is imaginary -- it will dissolve into thin air.
Telling the truth? Let's not forger how impressed Mr. Harper was with Republican strategy during George "the Baby" Bush's years. They rarely told the truth about anything, by their lies stampeding their nation into a costly oil-driven occupation of Iraq.
Telling the truth, as Joseph Goebbles and Carl Rove successfully demonstrated (at least they did so for a while), has nothing to do with winning at politics. Subverting,embellishing, and concealing the truth does.
That's the great truth which Mr. Harper has embraced for most, if not all, of his political life.
But let's not jump to conclusions about the man's character: he's not afraid of the truth. In fact, I'm reasonably certain he'd defend and embrace truth to the bitter end - provided it was to his advantage to do so, and if the end didn't seem too bitterly bitter.
I just caught an interview (on the CBC) with Gordon Brown. He holds himself and others responsible for not understanding just how entangled the world's financial system is.
For instance, he says, half the subprime mortgages in the United States were sold into Europe. Whatever the man's faults, he seems to be a truth teller, even if it reflects badly on him.
My impression is that Mr. Harper will, as you say, tell the truth when it's to his advantage. When it's not, he'll work hard to make someone else take the fall.
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