rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Jekyll, Hyde and the election campaign that's begun

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

So the federal election campaign has begun. All three national leaders are on the road setting out their cases. How are things going so far?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems to be running a Jekyll and Hyde campaign.

There is that nice Dr. Jekyll Harper. Reassuringly boring and stolid, he tells the people of Canada the priority must be to govern the nation in a stable, responsible manner so that the fragile economic recovery can be allowed to continue undisturbed. Throw in a few more appearances on stage behind the piano, and Dr. Jekyll Harper just might have the chops required to credibly campaign for a majority government in Ontario ... where it will be made or broken. Canadians are worried about the economy. They are probably not in much of a risk-taking mood with its recovery. The Prime Minister could build a case around these bones.

But then there is that nasty Mr. Hyde Harper. He is a very different proposition. Mr. Hyde Harper is back on his dime of wanting to bankrupt the opposition parties by bringing big money back into politics on terms that will only work for his party. Mr. Hyde Harper believes that middle-class families wake up in the morning worried that Canada needs to proceed with the purchase of billions of dollars worth of new military fighter jets. And Mr. Hyde Harper demands support in the election or, he threatens, the opposition parties will... will.... WORK TOGETHER. Yes they will, and that must be stopped.

Mr. Hyde Harper is no sale to the majority of the people of Canada. So, hopefully, we'll be hearing lots more from him about bankrupting other parties, buying military jets, and why parliamentarians must not be permitted to work together. The last thing Canada needs is a majority Conservative government. Mr. Hyde Harper is the politician in the best position to make sure that doesn't happen.

New Democrat Jack Layton, Canadians' second choice to be Prime Minister, is setting up to be the "not Harper" on all the major issues. Mr. Harper apparently wants an election. Mr. Layton is full of ideas about how to make this Parliament work.

Mr. Harper wants to focus on buying more military hardware and on cutting more taxes for rich people. Mr. Layton is setting out some detailed, step-by-step proposals to help middle-class families instead. Like giving them a break on their home heating costs. Like providing some economic security through an incrementally better pension system.

And crucially, Mr. Harper is campaigning on a promise that if elected, he will never work with other parties and other parliamentarians. Mr. Layton is campaigning on a promise than if elected, he will do the exact opposite -- he will work with other colleagues in the House, if and as the numbers justify it. On this last issue, Mr. Harper's campaign helpfully highlights one of Mr. Layton's characteristics that Canadians like the most.

Finally, there is the hapless Michael Ignatieff. What the heck is he running on? It's hard to say, but three different themes seem to be rattling around in there somewhere.

First of all, Mr. Ignatieff is running as Ronald Reagan. Cribbing word-for-word from Reagan's 1980 campaign, Mr. Ignatieff is asking if Canadians are better off than they were before Jimmy Carter.... err, Mr. Harper. There is a deep underlying seam of Liberal arrogance and sense of entitlement in this campaign theme. Mr. Ignatieff is suggesting that Canadians reflect on the fact that life in all its aspects was infinitely better under the previous Liberal government than under the current one. Now is the time to recognize our error, to repent, and to return to the way things are supposed to be.

To underline this theme, Mr. Ignatieff is then explicitly asking Canadians to recognize the Liberal party's entitlement to office. We don't live in a democratic system in Canada, Mr. Ignatieff wants you to know. Voters have no choice in the matter, no options or any opportunity to make up their own minds. They must vote Liberal or they will get Mr. Harper and his Conservative policies -- most of which Mr. Ignatieff voted for in Parliament and strongly supports.

Finally, for obvious reasons, Mr. Ignatieff is scrambling to try to create some policy room between himself and a Conservative government he has maintained in office and would fit comfortably within. Mr. Ignatieff and his version of the Liberal Party voted with the Conservatives in Parliament to enact Mr. Harper's program of corporate tax cuts -- but Mr. Ignatieff now suddenly demands these cuts be temporarily frozen, even though in the same breath Mr. Ignatieff says he strongly supports more corporate taxes cuts since, after all, he is not the NDP. Got all that?

What to make of it? What I make of it is that it seems that in every election, there will be a leader setting out to prove that running for prime minister is not an entry-level job -- a role that falls in this cycle to this Liberal leader.

It's too early to tell what effect all of this will have on public opinion. But one thing we can say for sure is that two or three more weeks of it are going to heighten public expectations of a spring election. In many ways that campaign started a week ago.

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.

Comments

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:

Do

  • 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.

Don't

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