I’m listening to Stephen Harper’s parroting of Australian war hawk John Howard’s speech on Iraq, and looking at polls showing the Tories slipping in Quebec and Liberals gaining in Ontario. I’m thinking: there goes the Conservative majority?
It was supposed to be a quiet day on the hustings, with the leaders prepping for the debates. Stephen Harper walked his daughter to school and Stephane Dion visited a (can you believe it) life support facility where a dummy was laid on on a gurney, looking like something resembling a prostrate Liberal party.
It was left to Bob Rae to unveil a devastating video of Stephen Harper, when he was Canadian Alliance leader in 2003, speaking in Parliament in support of George Bush’s war in Iraq. What made it news is that nearly half the speech was identical, word for word and paragraph by paragraph, to a speech given in the Australian Parliament the day before by then Prime Minister John Howard.
Did Harper plagiarize Howard’s speech favoring going to war in Iraq? Or vica versa? Or did they both get the script from some other source, say Washington?
At first, the Conservatives tried to brush this off by saying they won’t allow an old speech to distract them from the issues facing voters. But by mid-afternoon, campaign worker Owen Lipper fessed up to being the guilty party. He’s gone. I still think that for a guy who’s such a micro-manager, it’ll be hard for Mr. Harper to pass this off as something handed to him by an aide.
As for it being an old speech, Bob Rae’s point is that it reveals the PM as a man without a serious approach to foreign affairs. And the main grist of Conservative fault-finding ever since Mr. Harper took office has been sharp attacks on past Liberal management. And they’ve never let Bob Rae forget the problems he had as Premier of Ontario nearly 20 years ago.
On the polling front, there’s something strange going on. Some of the polls are wildly different. Angus Reid gives the Conservatives a 19 point lead, Harris Decima and Nick Nanos have the Tory margin at 10.
Today, polls in Qubec have firmed up the Bloc lead and show support for the Tories sagging. Harper’s attacks on arts and culture and his scheme to jall for life 14-year-olds convicted of murder have gone over “like a lead balloon,” according to Peter Donolo of the Strategic Counsel.
And Frank Graves of Ekos says his latest poll shows the Liberals are “eking out a small lead in Ontario.”
It’s worth keeping in mind that these polls are all telephone-based but do not reach people — mostly young and web-centered – who have abandoned land lines and rely on cell phones. Who knows how they’d vote, or if they’d vote atall.
But missing these key folks is something like the famous 1936 poll by Literary Digest that predicted a landslide for Republican Alf Landon over FDR. Trouble was, they surveyed only registered car owners — and missed out the great unwashed who were traveling by shank’s mare at that time. The Digest went out of business soon after.
In a shrewd move, the PM has asked for an extension to an hour the time allocated in this week’s debates for discussion of problems facing the economy.
In dangerous and uncertain times, people usually go with the status quo. Trouble is good for getting a government re-elected, providing the trouble doesn’t go on for too long before people get a chance to vote.
Yesterday, Mr. Harper changed his strategy on the matter of a Conservative majority. When he called the eleciton, he suggested another minority would be the likely outcome. Didn’t want to frighten off potential supporters.
Now, apparenrly, he’s so confident that he can afford to talk about his party’s need for a “stronger mandate.” Big mistake.
Looking at the latest Tory gaffe (if the PM’s old speech can be called that). and putting the slipping polls up against the early lead the Conservatives enjoyed, one can ask whether Harper and Company have not peaked too soon.
Before trying to answer that, I want to see the debates.