Harper's changing political fortune in Atlantic Canada

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Twice the same day recently I heard this, spoken in dismissive rage: "That idiot, Harper" and "that fool in Ottawa."

In my decades watching politics, I've found that tone of voice is more indicative of political fortune than either polls or rational argument.

One speaker was a fisherman, angry at ham-fisted fishery management reforms, the other a guy who fixes houses for sale and had just been told by his bank manager that uncertainty over EI changes made an already catastrophic real estate market in Western Nova Scotia even worse.

Both probably voted for Harper last time, and neither thinks much about politics -- the type of "Tim Horton's crowd" voter the Conservatives target.

Now, however, the pileup of cuts, scandals, ideologically driven "reforms" and assaults on democracy have little fires like this smouldering all over the Harper edifice, although the façade is still standing.

Yet even the façade has wear and tear. Harper supporters usually put it this way: He's for self-reliance, smaller government and sound finances, so what's wrong with that?

Up to a point, nothing. The problem is with the way he's doing it. What Harper means by being self-reliant is having oil in the ground. People without are slackers, notably Maritimers. It's simple neo-con theology: money is virtue.

As for smaller government, I agree with that, too, up to a point. We've been building up bureaucracy since the 1960s without really reflecting on it. The public service must deliver what we want as a society effectively and efficiently, and it's necessary to make it do that. What Harper's doing is the contrary: assaulting the public service in a spirit of vandalism, driven by party ideology.

And talking of oil, new discoveries of heavy oil in the U.S., plus conservation and a slack economy have got the Alberta oilsands on the skids. Since that's the main pillar of the Harper view of the economy, and the basis of his claim to be a great fiscal manager, if they're on the skids, so is he.

Plus the old black magic borrowed from the U.S. Republicans is arguably no longer working. The swift attack on new Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is, by all appearances, just alerting media and public of the Harperites' nasty habits. Dirtbag advertising, I predict, will rebound to their discredit, making them the issue rather than the intended target.

Besides, the Liberals and NDP are wise to the tricks. Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, off balance, were easy prey.

The Conservatives haven't attacked NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, in part because he bites back. During a recent trip to the U.S., where he criticized the Keystone pipeline, the Conservatives attacked him for badmouthing Canada. He merely pulled out old Stephen Harper quotes badmouthing Canada while in the U.S. and that ended that.

There's a rich lore of Harper quotes ready to be thrown back at him from his less subtle days as a right-wing ideologue, and it's time he got them back.

As for Justin Trudeau, I don't much like the idea of a political royal family -- it indicates that things are out of whack and that a society is desperate for someone to rally around -- but I think the kid will get the benefit of the doubt until he finds his feet.

The only question in all this is how the Liberals and NDP will share the vote, which according to the latest polls, is 70 per cent between them.

The Conservative appeal in Ontario and beyond, through targeted tax cuts and giveaways to the politically half-conscious class, has been to put self-interest before country. I'll make an act of faith and say that that's changing.

As for Atlantic Canada, we wiped out both the Mulroney Conservatives and the Chretien Liberals in the 1990s when they were too annoying. Given Harper's blatant contempt for the region, we'll be pathetic indeed if we don't do the same thing to him.

This article was first published in the Chronicle Herald.

Photo: M. Rehemtulla/QUOI Media Group

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.