George W. Bush’s first term in office was so disastrous that he didn’tdare run his 2004 campaign on his actual record — starting a war based onlies and willful deception, record-setting federal deficits, major joblosses, to name a few problems; he had to resort toscare-mongering. Exploiting the fear of terrorism was one way that Bushfrightened just enough Americans to cling to the presidency.

The other fear Bush played upon was that of same-sex marriage.

Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper, desperately looking for awinning issue for the next federal election, and having seen how effectivefear was south of the border, is importing the same tactic — and one of thesame issues — that kept the Bush dynasty in the White House.

However, the Tories are not content to argue that Prime Minister PaulMartin wants to “impose” same-sex unions on Canadians. According to Harper,“the next thing on the Liberal agenda will be polygamy and who knows whatelse.”

Harper is targeting the so-called “ethnic” vote in order to draw supportaway from the Liberals, while hoping to increase voter turn-out amongtraditional conservatives. The Bush team used this tactic very successfullyto mobilize their supporters to get out and vote on election day.

But the problem with this approach goes beyond questionable electionstrategies and even the issue of same-sex marriage itself. By focusing onthis question, Harper is trying to avoid discussing other serious problemsfacing Canada, issues that could harm his election prospects.Instead, he wants to deflect attention to other concerns.

What other priorities are Canadians concerned about?

Bush’s “Star Wars” program to militarize the heavens is a serious threatto the peace of the world. China and Russia, for instance, have alreadyindicated that they will meet the U.S. challenge. Moreover, the diversionof scarce resources to a new arms race is the last thing that the people ofthe world — half of whom try to survive on $2 per day or less — need.

But because most Canadians oppose this scheme, the Conservatives areafraid to openly back Bush (as they did when Harper demanded that Ottawasend young Canadians to war alongside U.S. troops in Iraq).

On the other hand, most Canadians want all levels of government to make agreater effort to protect our environment, especially regarding the Kyoto protocol to begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But Harper and theTories reject Kyoto (and some even claim that global warming is unrelated tothe wasteful burning of fossil fuels).

Then there are the “family values” that the Tories claim to stand for.

The well-being of our children is certainly a “family value”, but we arefailing them in numerous ways. For example, the pollution that we aredumping on the natural world will haunt our children and grand-children, notonly some day in the future, but it is killing them right now.

As a recent study from the University of Birmingham found, “Mostchildhood cancers are likely caused by pollutants expectant mothers areexposed to during pregnancy…Emissions that appear to raise cancer risk themost include carbon dioxide created by burning fossil fuels (notably gasolineused by vehicles…)”

Why is Harper silent on this family value?

Child poverty is a national disgrace in a rich country like Canada, andParliament passed a unanimous resolution, Conservatives included, to end itby the year 2000. But there are now more poor children in Canada than ever.Stephen Harper hasn’t made the elimination of child poverty a priorityissue, but aren’t the needs of children a family value?

Then there’s the reality that more Canadians are working longer hours,with the consequences of “less leisure time, less family time, and more workand home-related stress,” according to Don Drummond, chief economist of TDBank. The Tories have not proposed any solutions that would reduce work timefor parents.

Quality national day care is something that most parents and childrenneed, but which many cannot afford. Harper has chosen not to fight for auniversal system of child care.

The problem for Harper is that many key Conservative positions arerejected by the majority of Canadians, but rather than honestly debating themerits of their ideas, the Conservatives have chosen to obscure theirpriorities behind a facade based on fear and intolerance.

This deceitful practiced worked for George W. Bush. I doubt, however,that it will work for Stephen Harper.