By BRIAN LAGHI
OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF
Friday, December 2, 2005, Page A4
Canadian voters like Stephen Harper's message. They're just not so sure they like him.
A new survey conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV shows that the Conservatives appear to have hit a nerve with voters by pushing the need for a new broom to clean out the Liberals. However, those same voters are leery about Mr. Harper leading the party that would act as that broom.
This is news? I've finally given up on Mr. Harper. To date, I've always wanted to like the guy and I've given him a large benefit of the doubt. Until a few days ago, that is. Until when he launched his Quebec campaign. He crossed the Ottawa river to Gatineau, where he got up on stage, surrounded by 7-8 Quebec candidates (most of which had travelled for hours to be there). He announced something or other (probably that he was proud of his candidates or some such, but I don't recall). Then he said that an assistant would give a list of candidate names, he turned around and walked out a side door. You could see the jaws drop when the candidates were left stranded on stage without having been presented. Josee Verner, who had come with five points (she got 31% of the vote, three times the average in Quebec!) of winning in her Quebec City riding, tried to recover by talking directly to the journalists present but the damage was done.
Conclusion: the message was loud and clear. Mr. Harper thinks about "things" but not about "people", INCLUDING THOSE WHO MAY BECOME MEMBERS OF HIS CAUCUS. And that is a serious character flaw in a man who aspires to become PM. I wish him well and sincerely hope that the Tories do well in the upcoming election. But he's squandered my reserve of human sympathy.
Along the same line, there's grumbling in the Tory who's-who in Quebec. Basically, they get a sense that Mr. Harper not only doesn't care about them but also that he doesn't like them, period. In particular, one of his principal Quebec leadership-campaign organizers in Quebec has alluded to (while still remaining a Tory) not voting CPC this time. When all's said and done, Tories here tend to think "aahhh, shaddap!" when they're told that winning over Quebec is a priority. If it is one, it's a long-term one.
And no, all this has nothing to do with Mr. Harper having a hidden agenda ... he's just a , that's all.