Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Five Years with Stephen

On January 23 it was the fifth anniversary of the election of Stephen Harper as Prime Minister of Canada. I had not originally planned to make any special note of Prime Minister Harper’s half-decade as the leader of the government, but then I saw a commercial on television that changed my mind.

Over the last few weeks the Conservative Party of Canada has released a number of political attack ads targeting leader of the opposition, Michael Ignatieff. Harper also recently concluded an interview with Peter Mansbridge, and then came this ad:

I’m all for speculating for how elections will turn out, I’m less interested in when they will be called. That being said, it looks like this spring might be another election season, and since I’m in the business of predicting elections, this might be Stephen Harper’s best shot at a majority in a long time.

I should first make something abundantly clear, despite having “Tory” as the second part of my blog’s name I am not a member of the Conservative Party and I am not a partisan for them. In fact, I’ve only ever been a member of the NDP. That being said, I believe Harper is making a highly measured and effective pitch to “middle Canada.” Harper has cultivated a certain hockey dad mystique about him, I don’t know if it’s all an act, he does like hockey and he is a dad. Harper has increasingly put himself in a position where a large number of Canadians would likely nod along with him.

During his interview with Peter Mansbridge, viewable here, Mansbridge asked Harper if he intended to bring the death penalty back to Canada. Harper said that no, he didn’t have any plans to bring it back, but (and here’s where he gets a whole lot of Canadians nodding) there are times when he thinks it may be appropriate, and thought it could be used in extraordinary circumstances. The next day Ignatieff and the Liberals took the bait, they jumped on it criticizing Harper for a secret agenda. I frankly view this as a mistake. For the Conservatives to make their opponents look foolish next election all they have to do is say, “We don’t plan to bring back the death penalty, we just sometimes this, like many Canadians, that it should be used on our most vile criminals.” And there you have it.

Probably hundreds of times in my life I’ve heard people’s reactions to crime news items and muttered how a person should be put to death if they get caught, if not worse. The rapists, pedophiles, and those who break all the social norms. It’s the type of argument that would work on the vast majority of the suburban family types I know and grew up with, those that don’t think the death penalty should come back, but believe that perhaps there are those who deserve death for what they’ve done.

The second think I’d like to point out is that ad that I started the blog with, that I embedded above (I just learned how to do that!). The ad is cheesy, like all Canadian political ads, but there are two features I want to point out. The first, because I think it’s funny, is that if you go to the 38 second mark and watch you’ll see the Prime Minister drinking from a coffee cup. Pause at 39 seconds. It’s a Beetles coffee mug, the subtle reminder that our P.M. has shown a sense of humour lately and some musical talent. The second thing, is that from the narration, to the imagery and the messaging, the commercial reminds me of an accounting ad. That’s what Harper is selling Canada, he’s a competent, effective manager, and you should trust him to manage your biggest investment, your country.

I’m not a Harper fan, though I do respect our Prime Minister. I see the politics here, like using E.I. benefits that opposition forced into the budget to run on yourself, but I also see a good appeal to voters. Five years under Harper has not been that bad, and in general he has been a pretty good P.M., not perfect, but good. I have my complaints, and I don’t know if I ever want to see a Harper majority, but with moves like these we may see one within the next 12 months.

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