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Harper Conservative response to NDP seems delusional -- And apparently ineffective

Pollster Nik Nanos

No one should be particularly shocked that yelps of protest by western premiers and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives in Ottawa have failed to dent support for the Opposition New Democrats after they dared speak the evident truth about the economic impact of Canada's muscular petro-Loonie.

Indeed, according a reasonable analysis of the Nanos Research poll published yesterday by the Globe and Mail, screeches by various conservatives may have even helped Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair and the NDP Opposition.

In an interview with iPolitics, pollster Nik Nanos suggested Mulcair's original reference to the effects of "Dutch Disease" on the Canadian economy was no gaffe -- as repeatedly claimed by mainstream media commentators playing the role of the PM's Greek chorus -- but "should be seen as part of a longer-term plan that has broken the NDP’s strategic mold."

Nanos argued in the interview that while the NDP once tried consistently to appeal to a broad range of Canadians, now Mulcair "seems ready to 'take a page from Harper' and focus on segments that he has a chance to bring on side." In other words, practice wedge politics.

Well, it could be. New Democrats certainly chose Mulcair as someone who would play politics like a grownup. But it may also be simply that the Harper Conservative strategy on this issue to date has been so laughably crude most Canadians see right through it.

Given the astonishing lack of sophistication of the recent Conservative attacks in the House of Commons, Canadians may, in fact, find Mulcair's plain talk refreshing!

Meanwhile, voters outside the two main petro-provinces may actually see the hysterical response by these Prairie conservatives as evidence of their self-interest, and indeed as affirmation of Mulcair's arguments.

Really, it takes a lot of brass for the Harper Cons to claim their main opponent is dividing the country by stating an observation that makes eminent sense to Canadians in every part of Canada except those corners of the Prairies awash in petro-cash. This is especially so when the Conservatives are running the most openly divisive government in Canadian history.

As has been said before in this space, the severity of the problem can be disputed, as can the best solution, but acknowledgement of the impact of oilsands development on the dollar, or the strength of the dollar on the country’s manufacturing sector, is apparent to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of economics or a hankering to travel to the United States.

Moreover, instead of just sticking to this factually wrong but faintly plausible storyline, the Harper Government's claims have grown more delirious by the day.

Mulcair calls oil patch workers themselves a disease, some Tory claims without a shred of evidence. Mulcair has a specific date in mind to close down Alberta's bitumen sands, another one chimes in, failing to provide a hint of substantiation.

Where do they get this stuff? Does anyone believe them? (Other than the plethora of conservative commentators in the mainstream media, that is.)

Never mind Dutch Disease, the Tories apparently make stuff up out of whole cloth on any topic.

When Mulcair asked a Question in the House Thursday about the prime minister's unexpected ramblings about the shortness of the European runway if neo-Con economic bromides are not adopted with alacrity, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty responded by pretending the Opposition leader wants to give money to the Europeans.

Since there's no evidence whatsoever Mulcair ever said any such thing, presumably the finance minister just made it up.

We ought not to be too smug about this. Eventually, the deep-pocketed Harperites will turn responsibility for sliming Mulcair and the NDP over to their highly competent propaganda professionals, and the results will be neither pretty nor ineffective.

The form the NDP response takes will tell the story of how successful the Tory onslaught proves to be.

But for the moment, watching the supposedly cunning and devious Harper Conservatives unravel into pathological delusions and pathetically transparent fantasies is a highly salutary experience.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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