The opening days of an election campaign are usually a time for optimism – an opportunity for politicians to wax lyrical about the country they love and the future they envision. In pursuit of that elusive majority government, Stephen Harper decided to go for more of an “Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars” vibe.
He pronounced ominous warnings. He issued dire ultimatums. And always, always, Stephen Harper made reference to the perilous peril of considering any leadership other than his own.
Speaking in Brampton, Ont., the Conservative leader said that were his party to be defeated on May 2, the consequences would be swift and severe: “Canada will pay a terrible price.” He made it sound like a threat. Harper’s message was direct—pick Michael Ignatieff as PM and the Liberals would raze the economy, give free candy to murderers and turn the 49th parallel into the 49th perpendicular. And then where would we be? Sideways, my friends. SIDEWAYS.
This much is clear from the Conservative leader’s speeches so far: Harper is bullish on Canada—so long as he’s in charge of it.
With Harper at the helm, we’re a secure, stable, prosperous country that’s the envy of the world. But dare to take him out of the picture—dare to replace this one essential man—and we are doomed to instantly succumb to economic collapse, rampant street crime and nationwide lactose intolerance. I mean, sure, we’re a great country and everything—but not so great that replacing Stephen Harper won’t leave us a charred husk of a nation. Apparently we’re that fragile.
This has been an ongoing theme of Harper’s for some time now. During a speech to mark his fifth anniversary of winning power, he painted a bleak picture of Canada before he charged to its rescue in 2006. “It’s almost hard to remember what Canada looked like that winter,” he said. Ah, yes, cast your memory back, my fellow Canadians—cast it back if you possess the courage!—to a frightful time when the budget was in surplus, our debt was declining and several other countries actually liked and respected us. Sweet mercy, it was a veritable hellscape!
Harper has reached the stage of his political career where he no longer even tries to rationalize or explain the contradictions he creates. He relies on voters not noticing or not caring, or both.
In 2008, he said we needed an election because that would bring stability at a difficult time. In 2011, he said we shouldn’t have an election because that would bring instability at a difficult time.
One day, Harper is clapping along as his finance minister heralds the robust, job-creating, world-leading nature of our economic recovery. The next, Harper is portraying our economy as being only slightly less fragile than Charlie Sheen’s grip on sobriety.
Harper portrays his rivals as being in it only for the power—as though he eschews power in all its forms, preferring instead to operate his government as an anarcho-syndicalist commune. If it’s Tuesday, that means Tony is in charge.
There are moments of unintentional comedy in every political campaign. We can always rely on the sight of Harper attempting to interact with actual Canadians—a moment that comes with the implicit warning: I am trying to connect with you on a human level. To avoid injury, please remain still and the moment will pass.
This time, Harper has taken the comedy a step further by revealing the flagship plank of his re-election campaign: a pledge to introduce income splitting for tax purposes… in four or five years. Good news, Canada: Marty McHarper has brought some awesome policy BACK FROM THE FUTURE. This nicely sets the table for further Conservative promises, such as a 2022 tax credit on the purchase of all robot butlers.
Still, nothing has been more amusing to witness than Harper’s seemingly sincere belief that, a half-decade after first being elected, he has made good on his pledge to govern “with hope. With hope, and not with fear.”
Don’t you see, people—we’ve been wrong about him. The vicious attack ads. The vitriol in question period. The alarming forecasts of what will happen to our country if we even think of taking his hands off the levers of power. All along he’s been hopemongering.