Private polling conducted for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government must be saying it can win a majority campaigning on such narrow, far-right wedge issues as restricting abortion rights, pandering to gun nuts, bigotry against gays and climate-change denial.
Other recent public opinion polls may have suggested the prime minister’s government remains mired in minority territory. But if they didn’t think they could win with divisive wedge issues, why would the Harperites be advancing polarizing positions at the same time as they are apparently trying hard to find something that will cause the Opposition to defeat the government on a vote of confidence?
When the government’s refusal to give Parliament documents about the mistreatment of Afghan war prisoners captured by Canadian troops failed to produce a vote of confidence, Harper’s inner circle moved on to something new. Now they seem to be trying to provoke a similar Parliamentary crisis by refusing to let their ministerial staff testify before committees of MPs.
If that doesn’t work, maybe there’s something in their enthusiastic defence of the international banking sector that can get the Opposition riled up enough to pull the plug. Whatever… Any old port in a storm!
It’s hard to shake the feeling the Harperites will stick with this tactic until they get their election — which for their purposes must appear to have been forced by the Opposition — or the polls consistently start to tell them something different.
As the Globe and Mail’s Lawrence Martin recently pointed out in an intelligent dissection of this phenomenon, the divisions in the centre and on the left of the Canadian body politic make it possible for the renamed Reform Party to win by campaigning only to its extremist base.
“So while a big majority of Canadian women might be pro-choice, there are probably enough anti-abortion advocates to cover off the one-third number the party needs,” Lawrence says in explaining how this “cynical optic” works.
Once they get their election, it’s likely the Conservatives will campaign on the relative strength of the Canadian economy. This will be an ironic position, of course, when one considers that the measures that have made our economy as strong as it is were mostly forced on this government in 2008 by the threat it would be toppled by a coalition of Liberals and New Democrats with support from the Bloc Quebecois.
However, the government need have no fear the mainstream media will report much about that fact!
God help us one and all, of course, if the Harper neocons get their majority. Then it will be austerity, austerity and more austerity — promoting the economic crisis and the upward economic redistributive opportunities it presents that the hard-right circle around Mr. Harper have wanted all along.
In the event of another Conservative minority, however, it is time for all three of our opposition parties to work together for the good of the country.
In the Bizarro World of Canadian politics and media in the Harper era it is considered the purest form of democracy for our country to be run by a minority of bigots and an outrage for our Parliament to work as it was intended, as the democratic voice of our democratically elected representatives.
But that is precisely what needs to happen. After another divided election outcome, the Liberals, the New Democrats and the Bloc may for the sake of the country have to revive the idea of a democratic coalition to prevent another minute of Harper’s ugly policy of polarization.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.