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         Time For Plan C For Desperate Harper Tories?


By Susanna Kelley

Stephen Harper's Tories are beginning to look more than a little desperate.

It seems both their Plan A and Plan B Election 2015 campaign strategies are failing.

With the new redistribution in the next election there will be 338 seats contested.  That means a party needs to win 170 of them to form a majority government. 

According to the well-respected website, however, an amalgam of polls shows Stephen Harper's Conservatives are nowhere near that number.

Rather, its latest projection shows the CPC running neck and neck with the Liberals in popular support.

However, our distorting, undemocratic first past the post system means that doesn't have much to do with the number of seats they'd win. predicts the Tories likely would win 143 seats if an election were called today, with the Liberals at 117 and the NDP at 73.

That may be true, but it's Ontario that hold the key to who wins this year's election and whether it will be a majority or a minority.

And recent polls consistently show the Liberals and Tories are at a virtual tie here.

Such ties usually break one way or the other - it's unusual for much of the electorate not to swing one way or the other by the time they get to the voting booth, so either the CPC or the Liberals could win minority or majority governments.

And if there is a minority, a coalition of Liberal and NDP members could still spell the end of Mr. Harper's government.

So the Conservatives know that the stakes are even higher than usual.

The CPC campaign team has already run through two election campaign plans, and there is evidence it needs to move on to a third. 

First, the brain trust mapping out Mr. Harper's re-election game plan wanted to run on the economy — that was Plan A.

Mr. Harper would stress these themes: the economy was doing well and he himself was the reason why.

Or, even if the economy wasn't doing well — and it isn't, especially for young people — only Stephen Harper's strong economic stewardship could see Canada through the rocky economic shoals ahead (a repeat of the 2011 election theme.)

There was never much evidence to support either of these ideas this time around. 

The recent collapse of the oil prices is only the latest bump, but one that has received some attention from Mr. Harper as he considers Alberta his political base. (He ignored Ontario's serious economic woes for a decade - until, knowing an election was coming this year, he finally acknowledged that Premier Kathleen Wynne's increasingly loud calls for a meeting with him would hurt his re-election chances. Ontario, of course, has a huge number of seats and voters.)

The CIBC recently reported what we've all known for some time — that the quality of jobs that are left in Canada is at a 25 year low.

Part time. Low wage. Short shifts that barely cover the cost of travelling to and from home. (Often that's so that employees will work less than five hours, when employers must give them a mandatory break under Ontario law.)

When you get even a major bank in Canada reporting this, you know you're in trouble. Although to be fair and give credit where credit's due, the TD Bank's Chief Economist, Craig Alexander, has been warning for several years of the economic disasters ahead of us if we don't fix the income inequality that is choking off demand in Canada.   

By the way, that 25-year date coincides with several major Canadian and world political trends and shifts that Stephen Harper still passionately supports, stemming from Reaganomics and Thatcherism. Those are the free trade agreements that have taken down the tariffs that protected Canada's products, thus Canadian jobs; and the failed theory of 'trickle down" economics:  that cutting taxes on the wealthy would create jobs as they spent their tax savings, which would "trickle down" to middle and lower income groups. That, of course, never happened as the highest income earners - the 0.1 per cent - collected so much money they couldn't spend it all, and instead, just sat on it. Result? Demand for goods and services dropped, resulting in fewer jobs. 

In practical terms these policies are affecting Canadians every day.

Now, we desperately beg the auto companies to stay here by giving each of them billions of public dollars as bribes to get them to produce their products and their jobs here in Ontario alone.  Governments feel they have no choice.  

So much for the CPC's Plan A.

Then came Plan B.

Really, Plan B was very predictable.

When Prime Ministers are tired and lacking fresh ideas, and their governments are old and have run out of steam, they often turn to foreign affairs in a desperate attempt to increase their polling numbers.

Foreign affairs are usually the last refuge of a faltering Prime Minister who is unpopular at home. Remember Pierre Trudeau's 1983 world peace initiative as his unpopular government desperately tried to stave off defeat in the 1984 election by Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives? 

Right on cue, then, Mr. Harper in the last two years seems to have spent as much time as he possibly could outside the country, jetting to G8 and G20 summits every couple of months, interspersed with signing yet another free trade document with yet another country.

Mr. Harper eagerly joined the US-led coalition in Iraq, and now Syria. Now, young Canadian men and women fighting in nations half way around the world in the name of defeating terrorists trying to form an Islamic state nearly 10,000 miles away in the Middle East ­— and at the same time, propping up one of the most brutal regimes in the history of Syria. Because Canada's soldiers and military might, Mr. Harper appears to believe, can solve the Middle East crisis when no other country has been able to.

But Mr. Harper took Plan B a step too far — he deliberately tried to stoked the fires of anti-Muslim racism and ride that racism to election victory.

Mr. Harper carefully considers all his political moves beforehand. Hence when he comes out publicly against something like the wearing of the niqab by Muslim women, there's a reason.

Mr. Harper may be a good tactician, but his strategy is sometimes off, and this time he made a major mistake.

He assumed, incorrectly, that just under a public veneer of politeness, Canadians have a racist streak.

The vast majority doesn’t. They are much too smart for that.

Fighting against racism is a fundamental Canadian value, as evidenced by this video of a social experiment in Hamilton, Ontario that went viral, and Canadians recoiled.

Mr. Harper and his campaign team should have known much better.

Besides, what erroneous "strategic thinking" decided that it would be a good idea to target Canadian Muslims, clustered as they are in the seat and vote-rich Ontario 905 region - without which Mr. Harper cannot win a majority!

At the same time as he was doing his best to demonize Muslims over the niqab, Mr. Harper has tried to bring in draconian, civil liberties-reducing legislation under the guise of fighting "terrorism" here at home - that "lone wolf" acting by himself who shot up Parliament Hill.

Mr. Harper's Conservatives jumped to release party fundraising appeals on Facebook, for example, showing scary looking black-garbed niqab-wearing women with only slits for their eyes, and heavily armed, presumably ISIS fighters, with their faces hidden by swaths of dark cloths.

Add that to a couple of major so-called  "bozo eruptions" as Conservative MPPs made public comments about "whities" versus "brownies" and told Muslims who didn't like Harper's niqab position to "go back" to where they came from, and you had the face of a government that Canadians just couldn't reconcile with their own values of tolerance and multiculturalism.

The biggest terrorist in Canada actually appeared to be Mr. Harper himself, as he tries to terrorize Canadians into voting for him.

But when it came down to it, he's being forced by members of his own party to back off some and amend Bill C-51. 

Which was eminently foreseeable.

The right, while traditionally solid supporters of our military, has also never liked big government, including having Big Brother listening in on their telephone conversations and reading their emails without a warrant.

So what Mr. Harper gained within his own party by ramping up the terrorist threat, he frightened away by his intention to spy on them without significant oversight.

When your own party is getting nervous, it's time to scrap Plan B.

Time is short for the Tories. The election is only seven short months away - October 19 - if Mr. Harper decides to stick by his own government's fixed election date legislation.

The economy is in the doldrums.

Young voters - many about to hit their 30s - don’t have jobs, or if they do, have very low paying, substandard ones with no hope of anything better in sight.

Canadians have rejected Mr. Harper's attempt to exploit anti-Muslim racism.

The Liberals and Tories are in a virtual dead heat in the polls in Ontario, where this federal election will be decided.

And they are about to head into even worse times.

The Mike Duffy trial begins April 7th.

Mr. Duffy, whom Mr. Harper himself appointed to the Senate, is about to testify in his Senate expenses trial, and has made no bones about his intention to skewer Mr. Harper and his CPC government as hard as he possibly can. 

Former Harper government insiders such as Nigel Wright will be testifying.  Mr. Wright gave Mr. Duffy $90,000 dollars to pay back the former Senator's expenses. For some reason, the RCMP decided Mr. Duffy taking the money is a bribe and charged him, but Mr. Wright was not charged because giving him the money somehow did not constitute offering a bribe. This decision from the same police organization under such control of the Prime Minister that has every comment it makes publicly must be cleared by the Prime Minister's Office first.

Both Plan A and Plan B appear to be a bust.

There's a smell of desperation in the air.

What rabbit can Mr. Harper pull out of the hat now?

Whatever will Plan C be?














About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : March 30, 2015

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