Welcome, reader(s), to the Pain Campaign, your weekly recap of the longest and certainly ugliest election campaign in modern Canadian history.
First, a probably unnecessary warning. Don’t come here if you’re looking for reasoned, balanced analysis. I just can’t do that, because I loathe Stephen Harper, more than any other Canadian politician, ever. I think Harper is the worst thing to happen to Canada since the Spanish flu. He has done tremendous damage to Canada, and if we don’t get rid of him in October, the damage may be irreversible.
Now that you know where I stand, let’s look at the first week of the campaign.
For those of you keeping track (or with very, very long memories) there hasn’t been a campaign this long in Canada since 1872. Back then it was somewhat more difficult to campaign, in that there were no airplanes, phones, radios, TV, or internet. Back then, it might take days for a campaign promise or gaffe to travel the country. So, why are we having an 11-week campaign in the 21st century?
In explaining why we need an additional six weeks of electioneering, Harper came up with the complete fantasy that the longer campaign will ensure that the parties use their own money to campaign, and “not from the government resources, parliamentary resources or taxpayer resources.” In fact, the only party abusing public money is the Conservatives, with their hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars used to promote government giveways to “hard-working Canadian families”, and his ministers travelling the country giving away millions. In another fact, the parties get money from the taxpayers for the campaign, and one party stands to benefit hugely from the longer campaign. Can you guess which one? If the Conservatives spend the new maximum allowed, they will be reimbursed $26-million in public money. No other party has the resources to spend the new maximum, so the long campaign benefits only the Conservatives. It’s like the Eskimos deciding that they can have double the number of players on their roster, and playing 90 minute games. Harper made his laughable claim with a straight face, pretty much the only facial expression he has.
When the election was announced, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair gave his statement with the Parliament building as a backdrop. Remarkably, Mulcair — who is very quick on his feet — took no media questions, which raised some eyebrows. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was flying to Vancouver when the election was called, so he missed the opportunity for invaluable free airtime on the TV networks. He was on his way to Vancouver for a gay pride parade, which no doubt played right into the prejudices of starch conservatives who see him as a light-in-the-loafers friendly dilettante. Bad move, but when he finally made a statement, he answered all question from the media, until they finally collectively said “Can we go home now?”
Thursday was the first — and possibly last — all parties debate, shown on CITY TV, which gave the show the production values usually associated with cable access. Thanks to Harper’s refusal to participate in the traditional debate run by the networks, this may be the only debate featuring all leaders.
After the Conservatives attempted to set the stage by saying Trudeau only had to do well if he remembered to wear pants, Trudeau proceeded to not only remember to wear pants, but an entire suit. And he looked good in it, too.
Debates are usually judged on a winner/loser basis, but in this debate, there was only one clear winner — the voter. The leaders staked out their positions clearly. Harper was Harper, and aside from telling some half-truths (which is the most you can expect from him), he was his usual rock-like self. Mulcair was solid, although he has a weird speaking style that is just a little creepy when his eyes bug out of his head. And Trudeau performed well, too, although he always sounded like somebody who has so much to say that everythingjustgetsjumbledtogether. His closing statement was a real performance, painfully corny and rehearsed, but he didn’t stumble over it and require notes, the way Mulcair did. It’s too bad Elizabeth May is the leader of a fringe party; she’s a good speaker and a good debater.
Overall, no clear winner, and no clear loser. Trudeau probably gained the most by being aggressive and solid and remembering to wear pants, and Mulcair may have lost the most with a few weak spots. Overall, not a game changer this far from election day, but generally a plus for Trudeau. We can only hope that we have a few more debates.
BLUNDER OF THE WEEK: Surprisingly for a guy who is so buttoned-down his hair combs itself, Harper made the first blunder of the campaign. In an online promo, Harper, trying his best to look human (and failing), spoke with that painful looking smile and talked about how much he liked movies and TV. Behind him was the Netflix logo. Based on no facts whatsoever, Harper pledged never to tax Netflix. Nobody has ever discussed taxing Netflix. It was amateurish and baffling and Harper became an online laughing stock. Harper also inexplicably decided to take a shot at the Rachel Notley NDP government, calling it a “disaster”. Really? I’m no fan of the NDP, but to call a three-month old government a disaster is pure partisan BS from Harper that won’t endear him to anyone in Alberta except rabid conservatives.
RECOMMENDED READING: A scathing column by John Robson from the Conservative-supporting National Post.