Saturday, April 01, 2023


Erin O'Toole has resigned from Parliament and from the Conservative Party -- proof that the party is still Stephen Harper's party. Harper has been offering advice to the Conservatives. Susan Delacourt writes

Harper, on the other hand, offered this advice when he appeared on stage last week at a big conference in Ottawa:

“What I say to Conservative opposition leaders is: your job today, yeah, broadly speaking, indicate a direction you’re going to go, but it’s not to talk about how you would run the country.”

This, Harper said, is the road map to power for current Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre — say as little as possible on the hope-and-ideas front.

Mr. Harper is a master of political bait and switch:

What made Harper’s do-nothing advice stand out in this discussion, though, is that it was at direct odds with their recollections of how they led their parties to prominence and, in Harper’s case, power.

Reform almost single-handedly put deficit reduction and constitutional weariness on the political radar in the 1990s and forced the Liberals to adopt those policies. That is absolutely true. Reform’s pressure created the public-opinion conditions for the Liberals’ budget-balancing measures under Jean Chr├ętien and Paul Martin.

Harper, meanwhile, seems to have developed a case of amnesia about how the Conservatives rode to power in 2006 on the strength of five big priorities, which they hammered home with incredible message discipline and clever marketing in the 2005-06 election campaign. They were, for those who have forgotten: a cut to the GST, $100 cheques for child care, the “accountability act,” cracking down on crime and ending health-care wait times.

What Harper has also forgotten — as many have observed — is that he came into office as one of the most media-friendly politicians of his era. He was a regular on TV political panels. He frequently held long, answer-filled scrums as Opposition leader. He spoke often to journalists like me, on and off the record.

It was only after he became prime minister that he became overtly hostile to the media — an approach that Poilievre has clearly adopted in opposition.

Harper, showing that old paranoid-PM streak, warned Poilievre last week that to talk openly about hopes and ideas would be to fall into a trap with the “liberal media.”

There were two Stephen Harpers. We shouldn't forget who the real one was. I suspect that there are also two Pierre Poilievres. What the two Harpers and Poilievres are telling us is that there is no such species as a Progressive Conservative anymore. They are all extinct.

Image: The Toronto Star


Cap said...

The Progressive Conservatives, aka the Tories, became extinct the minute Harper hung the "Under New Management" sign outside their HQ. The name lives on provincially in Ontario, but it's a misnomer that I'm sure will be corrected at some point.

Refusing to talk about how you would run the country is a giant red flag, as we know all too well from Ford's last campaign. But it's also a golden opportunity for the other parties to define the Cons as shifty and untrustworthy. A clever politician could even pin the Cons down on certain issues and force them to deny what they are all about. We saw how Biden pulled that juijitsu move when he forced GOP leaders to deny that they were coming after social security and Medicare. The Libs and NDP really need to get more creative in going after PP.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Cap. PP should be an easy target.

jrkrideau said...

Refusing to talk about how you would run the country is a giant red flag,

True but this is assuming Poilievre and his motley crew can keep to a reasonably sane and consistent message that does not alienate a lot of voters but manages to retain the wackier Con support like the ones who put Danielle Smith in the Primier's office in Alberta.

Harper had a pretty clear idea of what would sell. It is not clear to me that Poilievre does nor that he could carry a lot of the "core" with him if he tried to base a campaign on such ideas. That was one of O'Toole's problems. He had some idea of what a successful platform would look like but it was a betrayal of some of that "core"s thinking.

Harper may well be right. Trudeau and the Libs has been in office a long time and have made enough gaffes that the opposition has things to throw at them. That may be a lot better than either advancing a crazy platform or getting into a civil war within the Conservative Party. It is not an optimal plan but it may be the best that Harper thinks today's party can pull off.

Owen Gray said...

It's true that governments defeat themselves, jrk. That doesn't mean that the folks who replace them are better than the old folks.

Anonymous said...

Unless we move to a proportional representation system (which neither the Conservatives or the Liberals would ever support), it is inevitable that we will only really have two political parties that can form government. Once the Reform Party took root, the Progressive Conservatives were doomed. In the 1993 watershed election, the Progressive Conservatives only won 2 seats, but received over 2 million votes. The NDP won 9 seats with slightly less than a million votes. On the other hand, the Bloc received less than 2 million votes, yet won 54 seats. There was no way for the PC's to come back from that debacle. So under our system, the Liberals will eventually run out of steam, and the only other party that can replace them are the Conservatives. AN

Owen Gray said...

That outcome is precisely why we need proportional representation, AN.

e.a.f. said...

Don't think proportional representation will solve the political problem we are faced with. The P.C. party is dead and gone and with O'Toole Leaving hat is it. didn't read anything about why O'Toole resigned, but perhaps he thought the party was not quite as advertised.
The Liberals have provided a number of benefits for Canadians. If PP were elected P.M> you can bet those benefits would be gone and it would be back to tax excemptions, which don't help people who need it.

What A. writes is true, but these are sweeping numbers and we vote via riding and that works for me. Of course in Quebec some of their parties do very well because that is what the majority of people want. They don't run in the rest of Canada. This second and third choice thing is just ridiculous. We vote in Ridings and if the majority of voters in a riding vote for a person who obtains the most votes then they become the "winner" and M.P.
If some are unhappy with that they might have to work harder to get their candidate elected.

Owen Gray said...

There are several versions of proportional representation, e.a.f. What makes a difference is the model you choose.

Northern PoV said...

My recollection of 2006 differs from Delacourt's.

Those five priorities were simply smart but hollow marketing slogans (ding-ding) launched with great effect at a time when the Libs were committing political suicide.

But it is 'good' advice for Lil'PP. He can win over the somnolent brand-brain-dead Cdn electorate with slogans while his 'policies' would never sell.

Owen Gray said...

The real question, PoV, is: Can Canadians see through Poilievre?