We don't call them Harpocrites for nothing.
Dateline: Tuesday, January 23, 2007
by Ish Theilheimer
Maybe it isn't easy being green. But it's easy for Canada's governing party to splash on a bit of paint and hope for the best.
This week Canadians were treated to a series of government announcements and photo-ops as Cabinet ministers re-announced half-measures introduced previously by their Liberal predecessors and then cancelled by the Conservatives themselves. It's reminiscent of the classic illustration of chutzpah — the man who kills his mother and father and asks for leniency on account of being an orphan.
Newly anointed environment minister John Baird made it out to Vancouver Island for an on-board photo op that only lacked Stock Day in a wetsuit. Thank goodness they didn't put Baird in one.
There are bits of merit in this week's recycling of Liberal programs. Recycling in itself is good. But after all the sneering about Kyoto, the cuts to domestic programs and the breakage of important international commitments, their enthusiastic support for nuclear energy, their scuttling international agreement on bottom trawling, etc. etc. — as detailed in my January 9 editorial (external - login to view) — they deserve no cred.
This is a chameleon party with a chameleon leader. Harper's game plan since last year's election campaign has been to burnish his reputation as a moderate. An accommodating national media help Canadians forget their Prime Minister is a former president of the arch-right wing, anti-government, anti-union National Citizens Coalition, as documented in these pages by Murray Dobbin (external - login to view).
Currently, Harper is widely distrusted by Canadians. With enough green wash, this distrust is subject to change.
This is a chameleon party with a chameleon leader.
The public relations acumen, if not brilliance, of the Harpocrats is striking. Human rights in China. Income trusts. Quebecois as a nation. These guys are great at covering their flanks. Someone smart is at work, telling them that if they just can keep their real agenda under wraps for a few short months, the keys to the kingdom will be theirs.
In similar fashion, their recent recruitment of two ethnic Toronto-area Liberal MPs sent powerful messages. Since Pearson and Trudeau, the Liberals have commanded ethnic support because they encouraged immigration and delivered patronage through old-fashioned corrupt local politics. As the Liberals lost focus, through the years Paul Martin ran to oust his rival Jean Chrétien, a series of stupid policies, especially an onerous new head tax, alienated their ethnic base. Mix in gay-marriage-bashing and the Harpocrites appear poised to step into this breach. Many new Canadians, working at the lowest rung of the ladder, may fall for gay bashing. Few will be helped, though, by Harper's anti-child care, anti-union policies and actions, much less the service cuts they will receive in order to pay for Harper's agenda of upper-income and corporate tax cuts. Someone like the NDP should point this out. The party's roots have a lot to do with working-class immigrants. It would be too bad if the Harpocrites, not the Dippers, replaced the Grits as the default choice of ethnic voters.