Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Why won't Canadians trust Harper with a majority?

The latest poll numbers are in, and once again Harper's Conservatives are tantalizingly close to that elusive majority. Looking at the Canadian political landscape from a Tory perspective, its hard to believe that Harper has thus far been unable to crack that elusive 40 per cent barrier. One that would put his party solidly into majority territory.

Back when Jean Chr├ętien was romping to back to back to back majority governments, the right wing vote was split between just two parties: Reform and Progressive Conservative. Ever since the merger of those two aforementioned parties, the left has splintered into three different camps in English speaking Canada. With the Liberals having to battle with the NDP and nascent Greens for support among the majority of Canadians who typically vote left of centre.

So why won't just 4 out of 10 Canadian voters support Stephen Harper and his Conservative party?

I think there are a number of reasons.

While our collective attention span may be short, it is not totally bereft of the ability to recall Mr. Harper in his former role with the National Citizens Coalition (NCC). Many are aware that the NCC was formed to battle against the attempt to bring in state run Health Care in this country back in the sixties. And Harper's future political aspirations were not helped with his speech to a Neo-Conservative think tank called 'The Council for National Policy" in Montreal back when he was Vice President of the NCC.

For many in the Anti-Harper camp, THAT SPEECH is used as a sign post when talking about 'The Real Stephen Harper' and the so called secret agenda. In it were many quotes which will be familiar to keen political observers. Among them was this little bromide about the former Progressive Conservative Party:

They were in favour of gay rights officially, officially for abortion on demand. Officially -- what else can I say about them? Officially for the entrenchment of our universal, collectivized, health-care system and multicultural policies in the constitution of the country.

Of course that speech is now over 10 years old, so I don't think it represents a primary reason why Canadians haven't seen fit to reward Harper with majority rule.

Other reasons likely have to do with his numerous broken promises, among them to protect the nest eggs of retirees by leaving Income Trusts tax exempt. Then there was his promise not to stack the senate, before becoming the all time patronage king by obliterating the single day record for appointments to the red chamber.

And of course there's the economy. When the last election was on, and the US economy was first showing signs of going into a severe recession, our economist PM was forecasting balanced budgets and continued growth. Even after being elected to yet another minority, the government's first budget of the new session didn't even acknowledge the threat of a weakening economy. Only under threat of being voted out of power in the house did the PM and his party agree to stimulus measures.

A majority may yet come to pass for Harper. The Conservative machine seems to be constantly searching for any wedge that will push them into that magic 39-40% area code. Many pundits see them working hard to convince the suburban voter to support them on law and order issues while shoring up their rural base over issues like the long gun registry.

The Liberals are listing under Michael Ignatieff's leadership, the NDP seems incapable of broadening their appeal into the mainstream, and the Greens look like they've fallen off the map. With the board stacked heavily in Harper's favour yet again, it likely will come down to a matter of trust in my opinion.

Will just four out of every ten Canadian voters trust Harper when the next election rolls around?

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