Sunday, August 9, 2015

Election 2015: Harper Scares Up His Base

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today that he is going to push forward legislation to make travel to certain areas of the world illegal for Canadians. He made reassurances that foreign dignitaries, aid workers, and the like would be allowed exceptions. What he did not make clear was whether or not one would be allowed to visit a dying family member in these areas, or enter these areas to try and ensure the safety of loved ones. It also looks like the kind of law that would probably not stand up to a court challenge, not unlike so much of the legislation passed by this government of late.  The government can issue warnings and recall Canadians from certain places, but to make it illegal to travel somewhere would violate our freedom of movement as guaranteed to us in Section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This law is a non-starter for that reason alone, but this isn't about the law itself, as it rarely is with the Conservatives. It's about getting their base riled up about terrorism.

Harper knows that he is not going to pick up many new voters this election, so he is trying to motivate his base, that 30% or so of loyal voters, to get out en mass to support him on election day. He thinks he can accomplish this by pushing the tough on terrorists pledges, even if they are on shaky ground legally.  He can also point at the opposition parties and say, "hey. what are those guys doing about terrorists?" This announcement, coincidentally or not, comes at a time when he would much rather be talking about terrorism than talking about the Mike Duffy trial and Nigel Wight's testimony, set to start on Tuesday. He doesn't want to have to answer more questions about that, so he is trying to shift the conversation.

What is somewhat troubling about all of this is that the Prime Minister is more concerned about the day's headlines and his next political move than actually proposing legislation that might help Canadians, or that could actually pass a court challenge. This government has never cared much for the courts, or for any kind of discussion or scrutiny of their legislation. They pass legislation only with their political agenda in mind. They put no thought to actually passing good legislation, and that is why they have had to spend millions defending their laws in court. They wouldn't have to do this if they passed good laws to begin with, and actually allowed discussion and committee hearings to do their job to make a better law.

What is clear is that Harper wants to make this election about terrorism and the economy, and to try to avoid talking about all that damaging stuff like 90.000 dollar bribes, and the growing number of his former besties being put in jail or awaiting trial. And it makes sense politically, but at the same time, you have to wonder how long this tactic will work?  This is where an 11 week campaign is going to hurt the Conservatives. It will extend the period of time that Canadians will be paying attention to all this stuff, and the longer Canadians are paying attention, the less likely they are to vote for Harper.

Harper is hoping for another 2011, or a UK style surprise victory, but the polls suggest that far more Canadians would support a coalition than did last time, and the Conservative "stay the course everything is great isn't it?" campaign may not resonate so much with a faltering economy. The truth is that terrorism just isn't a top priority for Canadians who aren't already voting Conservative. This latest move just shows that Harper is out of ideas.

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