I don’t sense an abundance of excitement about the federal elections. The most I can say is, at least we’ll be done before the US. It feels as though their election has been going on for decades rather than years. Look away for a moment and we’ll either have a new Prime Minister or we’ll be stuck with Stephen Harper for another 2 – 5 years.
If Harper gets a majority, we’re in deep doo. If he comes up with another minority government, it’s doubtful that much will change until the Liberals get a new leader who’s up to challenging the Conserve. That is, unless the NDP come up with a larger share of the seats and can work out a coalition with the Libs that actually works the way coalition politics ought to work. But, if the Liberals are all caught up in a leadership campaign, it’s unlikely they’ll have time for governing. Sigh.
Of course, there’s the possibility that Dion comes up with a minority, but only the campaign will tell us something about the chances of that. It’s not looking good just now. Dion just hasn’t acted like a leader. As well, he has the “problems” of his francophone background, his unskilled English and his hearing difficulties to overcome. Rather large hurdles, unfortunately.
For the moment, it would appear that Harper and, to a certain extent, Jack Layton are trying to push Canadians into an American style election, based on personality and “values”, with Harper coming out as the “family man” and Layton as the Canadian version of Barack Obama. I don’t think it’s gonna work and frankly, I hope it’s not gonna work. We’re not in quite the hole the US is in, but these are important and dangerous times everywhere.
I just don’t think the “politician as ‘family man'” meme works in Canada because people with families aren’t identified solely with the conservative electorate, as has been pointed out in the Globe and Mail:
Yesterday, Mr. Dion appeared surprised to hear that Mr. Harper had been somewhat dismissive of his family. Mr. Dion and his wife, Janine Krieber, have a daughter, whom they adopted from Peru in 1989 after they were unable to conceive. “Did he say that?” Mr. Dion asked.
But instead of taking the opportunity to present his own compelling family narrative, Mr. Dion stressed the importance of privacy.
“Well, we’ll speak about me. I’m a Liberal … and we believe in this beautiful word we don’t have in French, which is privacy, which is more than private life. It’s the distinction between public and private life,” he said, before finally allowing, “But I’m a family man. I love my mother, I love my wife. I love my daughter and my brothers, even my brothers.”
The role of the family in Canadian politics is starkly different than in the United States, where when conservative politicians start talking about family, it’s a safe bet they are trying to fire up their base and undermine the competition.
Christopher Waddell, associate director of Carleton University’s School of Journalism, said he believes the Conservatives are making family a campaign issue as a way to define Mr. Harper against Mr. Dion. But he does not think they intended to insult the Liberal Leader.
Most Canadians know Mr. Dion is a staunch environmentalist, Mr. Waddell said, an issue that the Liberals are likely to make central to their campaign.
Mr. Harper, by contrast, is understood as a proponent of tax cuts and smaller government, topics that do not exactly translate into sexy fodder for a general election campaign. Instead, he is being painted as a father and a patriot.
“It’s giving him some kind of personality and saying this is an issue that defines him like the environment defines Dion,” Mr. Waddell said.
Playing up his image as a dad will also play well in suburban areas where Mr. Harper needs to make electoral gains if he is to win a majority government.
But the problem with the strategy, Mr. Waddell said, is that having a family is not Mr. Harper’s exclusive domain, which Mr. Dion could have easily pointed out.
“He couldn’t say that Mr. Dion isn’t a family man,” Mr. Waddell said of Mr. Harper’s comments yesterday. “But if he said he was, that undercuts the whole image he’s trying to establish for himself.”
Ah Canada, where that “privacy” word still seems to mean something. Being a dad will play well in the suburbs? Yeah, right, city and rural people don’t have children. If this works I’ll eat my dad’s frosted socks! I think it’s just as well that Dion continue to ignore Harper’s attempt to play politics American style, just as he laughs at Layton doing an Obama. Come on Jack, keep us on the issues! Canadians are in a different political situation than Americans. If we think we’re boring, perhaps that’s something to celebrate. See how Waddell points out how Harper can’t play family man because Dion’s a dad too? Well, guess what? So is Barack Obama, as was plainly hyped up at the DNC. But it doesn’t seem to be working for the guy, now that Sarah Palin’s on the scene. And thank gawd that Elizabeth May is not our Sarah Palin:
Elizabeth has one daughter, Victoria Cate May Burton, born in July 1991. As well, she remains close to her three older stepchildren from Victoria Cate’s dad, their spouses, and loves spending time with her six step-grandchildren! Although she is a single mother, Elizabeth has worked hard to keep all the family links intact.
Woops! They’d have a field day with this bio in the States!
The race in Canada is not that much different. We can compete.
Sure, Stephen Harper wasn’t tortured for six years in a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp the way John McCain was, but he’s angry enough that he could have been. In fact, on a good day the Prime Minister seems way more angry than Mr. McCain ever does. Like the Republican candidate, he, too, has pain and anguish in his eyes.
Mr. McCain suffered at the hands of a hostile enemy bent on breaking his body and soul, and he survived and triumphed. Mr. Harper, the story goes, suffered from adolescent-onset asthma and so was often picked last for team sports. This helps to explain his dislike for people in general. He also was startled quite badly by a clown at the age of 6, which explains his lifetime commitment to destroying arts organizations.
In America, presidential candidates spend a lot of time boring voters by telling them what they will do to improve their lives. Mr. Harper’s message will be far more exciting. He will spend his time telling people, “Don’t worry – no matter what happens, I can’t win a majority, so I won’t be able to do all the things I want to do that clearly scare you.”
This is an “only-in-Canada” scenario.