I recently finished reading Harperland, Lawrence Martin’s controversial analysis of the leadership style of Canada’s 27th prime minister. Though the book is a bit of a liberal hatchet-job, it does nevertheless provide some keen insights into our leader’s strategic mindset, particularly the intensely focused degree of distrust and loathing he is capable of unleashing upon anyone suspected of being an enemy.
It’s this spirited hatefulness that gives way to Harper’s aggressively ruthless campaign style, a style we’ve already seen out in full force during this first shaky week of a snap federal election.
As I mentioned in the article accompanying my previous toon, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff entered the 2011 race bearing an enormous about of baggage relating to the schemes of his predecessor, Stephane Dion, who had lobbied unsuccessfully for the governor-general to fire Harper, and replace him with a three-party NDP-Liberal-Bloc Quebecois coalition government. Because the plan placed a previously unknown backdoor route to power on the table, many left-wing voters remained enamoured with the idea long after its first failed attempt, and both the Liberals and NDPs stayed cool and coy on their intent to try it again someday.
Facing endless media pressure to come clean with his intentions, however, late last week Michael Ignatieff released a definitive statement declaring clearly that for whatever his past actions, he now had absolutely, positively, 100% no intention whatsoever of forming a coalition government with any of Canada’s other parties, no matter how big their combined plurality of seats. The only legitimate way to become prime minister is to win the most seats in the House of Commons, period, he said.
Despite this, Harper’s attack strategy — which has previously been based almost entirely around coalition fearmongering — does not seem to have changed one iota. Since the release of the Ignatieff statement on Saturday, the Prime Minister has given numerous partisan speeches in which he has continued to refer to the three oppositon parties as a “coalition,” warning sternly that this election posits voters with a straight-up choice between his calm, stable Conservatives and some crazed, reckless, three-headed monstrosity.
I admit I’m tad unclear if this is a deliberate strategy of indifferent deception on Harper’s part, or merely a sort of confused stubbornness resulting from Iggy’s unexpected nipping in the bud of his favorite talking-point. Either seems entirely possible, seeing as how Harper is the sort of politician who generally only has one thing to say at a time, and will say it as much as humanly possible until his rhetoric becomes synonymous with reality, and victory is achieved.