Saturday, February 17, 2007

Harper as he is

Harper hits out from the gutter
Feb 17, 2007 TheTorontoStar Editorial/Opinion

Was it only last week that Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated his Conservatives for "rebuilding public trust" in Ottawa, as they marked their first anniversary of taking office? For "doing the right thing" and for embracing "the values and aspirations of Canadians"?

Fine sentiments, to be sure. But they are more than a little undercut by the Conservative party's sleazy pre-election attack television ads on Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion and his team. It's hard to recall such a nasty campaign, outside the overheated climate of a federal election race.

While Harper took office promising "good, clean government," there is nothing good or clean about lashing out from the gutter to claw down the opposition even before the election writ is dropped.

Exactly what Canadian "values" are engaged by a French-language TV ad the Tories aired this week that links Dion to the highly-charged term "vendu," which means "sellout" or "traitor," a jab at his credentials as a staunch Quebec federalist? Or in another that slyly implies Dion and Jean Chrétien are criminals, picturing them behind yellow police tape labelled "centralization, pollution, sponsorships and fiscal imbalance"?

What value inspires an English-language ad, aired earlier this month, that links Dion to the sponsorship scandal, among other things, when the entire country knows he had no part in that particular fiasco?

Or one that links former Liberal finance minister Ralph Goodale to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police income-trust probe that hurt the Liberals in the last election? The RCMP cleared Goodale and his aides this week. Even so, a Tory spokesman insisted "the ads will continue to run." That speaks volumes about values in Harper's camp.

While some of the ads are amusing, they are also personal, vicious and misleading. They invite the public to look beyond Harper's soothing rhetoric, to the shabbier reality of his politics. There is a growing dissonance between what he says and what he does.

The ads also raise the question of whether Harper has a positive agenda of his own to put before the voters, or is just plain "running scared," in the words of Liberal Member of Parliament Michael Ignatieff.

Sadly, Canadians have become accustomed to over-the-top attack ads. They are an ugly feature of every campaign. But some go too far.

One of the most notorious was Kim Campbell's Conservative ad in the 1993 campaign mocking Chrétien's appearance, and suggesting that he would embarrass the nation on the world stage. Chrétien's face was partially paralyzed by a childhood illness. The ad was pulled after a firestorm of controversy. And Paul Martin's Liberals overdid things in last year's campaign with an ad that suggested Harper wanted to plant troops on every street corner in the nation. It was pulled before it aired.

All parties have critical issues to debate in the next election, including climate change, poverty, urban renewal, Afghanistan, health, welfare and higher education. Canadians want fresh, positive thinking on these files.

As Prime Minister, Harper has a responsibility to set a tone of civility and fairness for this nation. Tough attack ads during an election campaign are one thing. Stooping to gutter tactics as routine business is another; it violates that responsibility.

If Harper really is serious about rebuilding public trust and doing the right thing, he should order his party's sleazy attack ads off the air and start addressing issues people care about.


JimBobby said...

"If Harper really is serious about rebuilding public trust and doing the right thing..."

He ain't serious. That much is plain t' see.

Harpoon's all 'bout polyticks-as-usual, an' doin' whatever he can t' get a majority so's he can do whatever he wants fer 4 or 5 years. Anybuddy who believed all that accountability crappola is gonna hear all 'bout how unaccountable the HarpoonTossers are when the Grits start in on their own mud-slingin'.

If voters want sumbuddy who ain't gonna give 'em polyticks-as-usual, they gotta get a few more outsiders on the inside. I reckon the best one I know is the gal I adore, Earth Mother Lizzie May.


audacious said...

and do you know by chance who is the upcoming / potential candidate in this riding of Okanagan Shuswap

JimBobby said...

"and do you know..."
No, I sure don't. The GPC site isn't giving any hints --

audacious said...

thanks, i'll keep going over to the site and check ...