Why Harper won
By Beryl Wajsman
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
"Paul Martin claimed during the campaign that Stephen Harper would change the face of Canada as we knew it. Canadians were finally ready for that change. It could only be for the better. For in this campaign the true face of Paul Martin's Canada was unmasked. And it proved to be nothing more than a debased and degraded portrait of privilege and preference having perverted the public trust."
The Natural Governing Party finally stopped being able to fool all the people all the time.
Canadians finally got tired of being bamboozled. The first kink in the Liberal armor actually resulted from what Martin thought would protect him. The narrow mandate of the Gomery Inquiry. Nobody bought into his "exoneration". In the face of $167,000,000 in contracts to CSL and the off-shore tax havens and the mound of evidence that Martin operatives asked for sponsorship money, Canadians finally got it. If Martin knew nothing, then he had planned to know nothing. He planned his own "credible" deniability. He planned to push the RCMP aside because it was getting too close to his centre. He planned guilt by innuendo and insinuation against the Chrétien wing of the party to save his own skin. Canadians finally saw the Gomery Inquiry for the transparent deflection from Martin's own conflicts of interest and party settling of accounts that it was. Martin's earnest false piety just didn't sell anymore.
Finance Minister Goodale's mishandling of the income trust file spotlighted Martin's own arrogant culture of "entitlement". Canadians finally saw that Martinites talked to only some of the people, some of the time. The release by the RCMP of the letter to NDP MP Judy Wasylieca-Leis confirming a criminal investigation, was payback for Jean Lapierre's bullying of them before the last election when he used it as an agency of the party demanding that charges be laid quickly to help the Liberals in the campaign and then pushed them aside to protect the Martin centre.
Stephen Harper did a great job focusing Canadians minds on the fact that a man who made retroactive changes to tax-haven rules as Finance Minister, and benefited from them to the tune of $300,000,000 in avoided Canadian taxes, had no business dictating Canadian "values". It was Harry Truman 1948 resonating through the decades. "One per cent of the population has the means to reach an elected representative. The job of a chief executive of a nation is to represent the 99% who can't."
The blowback against the Liberals from the disastrous attack ads was bad enough. But it was made all the worse through Paul Martin's pushing the hysteria button in the last week of the campaign charging Harper with everything short of the Lizzie Borden murders.
Martin claimed the mantle of champion of Canadian federalism saying a vote for Harper would weaken Ottawa's powers and aid Quebec sovereignists. But the nearly flawless Tory campaign made it clear to voters that it was Martin who signed an unconditional health-care accord with the provinces allowing them to spend federal health-care dollars as they wished with no accountability. That it was Martin who brought Bloc Québecois co-founder Jean Lapierre into the federal Liberals and made him his Québec lieutenant. And the Tories got even more ammunition when Martin's new-found buddy, CAW President Buzz Hargrove, told voters that the separatists were a preferable option in Quebec than the Tories at the same time that the Liberal candidate in Jonquière was conceding to defeat and urging supporters to vote for Conservative Jean-Pierre Blackburn and deny the Bloc another seat. Canadians saw all that and more.
Martin claimed that Harper was a regressive social conservative who would compromise anti-abortion laws, prejudice Charter rights and politicize the judiciary.
Yet Harper had been clear on abortion. His government would not touch existing laws. In fact the only MP in the past ten years who had called for legislation rolling back a woman's right to choose was Liberal junior defense Minister Albina Guarnieri. The Tories drove that message home too.
On Charter rights Harper succeeded in making the Tory image resonate. He successfully portrayed the new Tories for what they were. Populists who want to roll back big government and protect the sovereignty of individual choice and privacy. And he reminded voters that it was Martin who had pushed through several pieces of legislation, just before this election, that would overturn the presumption of innocence in certain cases; allow for random search and seizure of private property without probable cause; demand that personal e-mail and internet telephony records be handed over to state security authorities on simple demand; and mark uncharged and unindicted individuals as enemies of the state subject to "preventive control measures" such as electronic security anklets on simple Ministerial dictate. He succeeded in making Canadians see that this was business as usual for an administration that ordered the ransacking of reporter Juliet O'Neill's home when she refused to give up a source.
Martin attacked Harper for a statement of the obvious, that the Canadian judiciary is overwhelmingly filled with Liberal appointees. He claimed that this statement was evidence that Harper would politicize the courts in order to get "absolute power". Harper's calm and reasoned response was that the only administration in 20 years that had appointed judges to the Supreme Court of the land for a political purpose was Martin's when he brought Justices Abella and Charron to the bench to assure success in the same-sex marriage reference. Canadians were listening.
Martin tried to be all things to all people as usual. But at the same time that he was calling on all "progressives" to rally to his banner, he agreed with Harper on a free debate on same-sex marriage in the House. What could he have been thinking? He was fighting the last election because he had no real vision, agenda or focus.
Martin droned on about "good government and accountability". But Canadians were finally beginning to "get it". Thanks to a media elite that stopped being the Liberal party at prayer, they finally learned that during his tenure as Finance Minister, 90% of the tax cuts he made benefited the top 7% of the population. They saw the placards of organized labour condemning Martin for ripping the UIC surpluses out of the hands of working men and women and into the general accounts. They heard that Democracy Watch filed dozens of ethics complaints involving his PMO's breaches of the Ethics Code and its incestuous interference with the Office of the Ethics Commissioner. They listened to that same Ethics Commissioner, appointed by Martin, openly admitting that he either would not, or could not, apply the Ethics Code to elected officials. So much for "good government and accountability."
And finally it was the Liberals who blundered in the waning moments of this election. Unlike the Tory Randy White debacle of 2004, the last ten days of this campaign saw dirty tricks by Liberal candidates that smacked of what Nixon's White House Counsel Charles Colson once called "rat-fuc----". From attempting to bribe an NDP candidate to pull out of a race in B.C.; to false charges of sexual aggression against a Tory candidate in Saskatchewan; to rigging voters lists in Alberta, the Liberals spent the last week of the campaign apologizing and backtracking again and again. The rats were finally fuc--- themselves.
Paul Martin claimed during the campaign that Stephen Harper would change the face of Canada as we knew it. Canadians were finally ready for that change. It could only be for the better. For in this campaign the true face of Paul Martin's Canada was unmasked. And it proved to be nothing more than a debased and degraded portrait of privilege and preference having perverted the public trust.
Beryl Wajsman is president of theInstitute for Public Affairs of Montreal; publisher of BARRICADES Magazine; and host of 940AMs "The Last Angry Man". Beryl can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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