Stephen Harper

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Let’s call an early election! What could possibly go wrong?

Anyway, we’re not calling an early election…we’re just calling an election early. There’s a difference, ya know!

And I’m gonna campaign…on the economy! Yeah! That’s it! On the economy! Just like I was always gonna campaign on the economy.

And on terrorists! Terrorists? You don’t want to have terrorists? I’m the only one with the experience to get rid of the terrorists.

And speaking of experience…Justin Trudeau hasn’t got any. He’s just not ready. And Thomas Mulcair has too much! He’s a career politician. Have you seen my TV ads? They explain everything. It’s like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I haven’t got as much experience as Mulcair and I’ve got more than that kid with the great hair. I’m just right!

Anyway, things are going good. Seriously, people! Look at the economy…or, actually, don’t look at the economy! Whatever, it’s time to maintain the direction. To stay the course. That’s the plan, and I’m stickin’ to it!

I’ll see you all at Tim Hortons (sic)…well, all of you who have an invitation and have never been spotted on Facebook in an Orange shirt or anywhere near a STOP sign. …

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OK, enough channeling Stephen Harper. Or the short-panted advisors who came up with his 2015 strategy, anyway. They’ve got more money than the other guys, and now they’ve found away to spend it all. Of course, it’ll cost you and me an extra $125 million too, but, I’m guessing the way the Harperistas look at it is, “Cheap at the price!”

And if that doesn’t work, they can just scare the bejesus out of us with TerrorTalk™. Like they say, “What could possibly go wrong?”

Does anybody out there remember a guy named Jim Prentice? He was the person who was supposed to save the Alberta Conservatives and ended up being premier of Alberta for 22 fewer days than Joe Clark, the Conservative prime minister of Canada who held onto the job for only 273 days back in ’79 and ’80.

Prentice went out and called an election early too, even though everyone told him not to. So what? Well, I know for a fact that what he and his advisors were thinking was, “What could possibly go wrong?”

OK, Harper isn’t calling an early election. He’s calling an election early. We got that already. But Albertans didn’t like the early election because it seemed cynical, and like cheating. Even the National Post said so! So how’s an election called early any different?

Well, this much is different — for one thing, there’s no way the National Post will say any such thing this time! Leastways, they sure as hell won’t say it before Oct. 19.

Plus, it must be admitted, Harper hasn’t just taken over from Alison Redford, who managed to cheese off everybody.

Redford was the premier of Alberta who managed to cheese off her angry base by appealing to a bunch of squishy tax-and-spend progressives and civil servants to keep from being beaten by the party her angry base had all gone and joined. Then she managed to cheese off the squishy tax-and-spend progressives and civil servants by trying to get her angry base back. Then Prentice cheesed off anybody who wasn’t already cheesed off by getting Preston Manning to order the biggest opposition party to quit and join his party. That’s another thing the National Post thought was cheating, as, apparently, did a lot of Albertans.

So, it’s true, if there’s one thing about Harper it’s that he’s unlikely to do anything to cheese off his angry base — and, man, are they angry!

However, almost everyone else in the country seems to be pretty cheesed off at him. Outside the country too. Even the White House is jerking the guy around with that Trans Pacific Partnership thing…over cheese! That may be because he wouldn’t take no for an answer on the pipeline the president doesn’t want, or smiled a little too warmly at Mitt Romney back in the day.

Prentice also ignored the polls, of course, because they just couldn’t be right. This is Alberta, for heaven’s sake, where Conservatives always win, and he’d just squashed the Opposition like a bug. So he went ahead with the early election nobody wanted, maybe because voters saw it as cynical, dishonest and expensive.

I asked a PC cabinet minister’s aide as he was packing up his stuff five days after the Alberta election when the Tories realized they were going to lose. “Never!” he said bitterly. “They still haven’t figured it out!”

Come to think of it, Harper’s polls aren’t all that good either right now, and he’s going ahead with his early election call too. But this is different, right? For one thing, he’s kind of stuck with his dumb fixed-election date law, having broken it once already. And nobody’s going to get away with calling this cynical, dishonest and expensive because…if they do, the terrorists will come!

And if the terrorists don’t scare them, Harper has something even bigger up his sleeve to put the fear of God in ’em! A coalition! (Polls show Canadians are warming up to coalitions? Never mind that just now.) Coalitions are undemocratic! Canadians don’t want coalitions!

Harper will prorogue Parliament before he’ll stand for a coalition. Oh, wait. Parliament’s not just been prorogued, it’s been dissolved! Well, whatever. Won’t be needed. Have you seen the ads? Canadians don’t want a leader who’s just not ready. And they don’t want a leader who’s just too ready. They want a leader who’s just right. And that, the Conservatives are telling us, is Harper. How could anything go wrong with that pitch?

And what if somebody mentions Mike Duffy? Pamela Wallin? Fuggedaboudit … the PM just won’t appoint any more Senators. Now move along, please, Canadians…

Prentice also campaigned on his party’s competence, even though it was increasingly obvious they weren’t very competent. And when that didn’t work, he talked about the remaining opposition parties’ inexperience and how now is not the time to think about change.

Other than the bit about Mulcair having too much experience, you’d almost think the same people were coming up with this stuff.

Actually, come to think of it, it was an advertising agency associated with the NDP that came up with the idea for the job application ad — and the boys in short pants just stole it. But what the hey, eh? All’s fair in love and elections.

I used to think that if a politician attacked one of his opponents in an advertisement, voters would accept that as reasonable, even necessary. But that if he attacked two in the same campaign, he’d just look crazy. Now Harper has attacked Trudeau and Mulcair with the same ad. Who’s next for the tired little “job interview” drama? Elizabeth May? (“Yeah, but a nice garden…”) Gilles Duceppe? (“Yeah, but cute accent…”)

Obviously, nobody’s going to call Harper crazy. They wouldn’t dare! Seriously, you know how his supporters get if a journalist says anything like “dead sociopathic eyes.” That happens and there’s going to be fund-raising emails!

These are smart guys, right? Top political strategists. This must all be part of a smart plan that makes sense, a clever strategy that just can’t be beaten, even if we don’t quite understand it yet.

Come to think of it, I used to think that about Jim Prentice too. I wrote it right here in this blog. Smart guys … deep bench strength … top advisors … more money than anyone else … hard to imagine them losing … yadda-yadda.

And look what happened!

So, this time could Harper be asking just a little too much of an electorate he treats like a bunch of dummies? Naw… What could possibly go wrong?

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog,

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...