Wednesday, December 3, 2008

An appeal to baser instincts

The historic goings-on in our government are most certainly divisve - especially here in Alberta, where the tired 'western alienation' arguement is being bolstered with words like "coup," "take-over," and "coalition of seperatists." And that's exactly how Mr. Harper likes it.

Regardless of your stance on the proposed coalition - and for the record, although I think it's less than ideal, I am for it - it's hard to deny that the blame for this whole brouhaha lies at Harper's feet. A number of staunch Conservitave supporters with whom I have spoken have gone off on tirades about his gigantic misstep, the poisoning of what was supposed to be a 'new era of cooperation' in Parlement with the first bill put forward.

And yet, rather than try to regain the confidence of the House, Harper and his team immediately embarked on a campaign of sound bites, twisting the facts and ignoring recent history. Just over three years ago, Harper was in negotiations with the Bloc to form a coalition and take down the Liberal government, and the Conservatives 2006 budget passed only because of support from the BQ, yet the main talking point is to charicterize the current coalition as one threatening national unity because of the Bloc's involvement. Clearly, the Conservatives had no problem accepting Bloc support in the past, and anyone who follows politics knows this - but Harper's targeting those who aren't paying attention, looking to rouse the ire of those who take his words at face value. He knows his supporters won't be turned off by the misrepresentation, so it's all upside from a partisan perspective.

Harper is a master of the soundbite, and chooses his words carefully - there's a reason we don't have quotes from him explaining why he violated the spirit of his own fixed-election date law, why he criticized the Martin Liberals for postponing a confidence vote when defeat was imminent yet is doing the same thing himself, why a coalition that was a good idea when his party was in opposition becomes undemocratic when the tables have turned. It's because there's no upside to being on record addressing these things; better to keep plowing forward, consitency and accountability be damned. It frustrates his opponents and stirs up the base.

I'm sure some who are reading this are aginst the idea of a coalition, and hope Harper finds a way to hold onto power. Fine - the beauty of our country is that we can disagree, and there are doubtless many valid arguements against a coalition govenrment at this time with these players. But please, before you settle, immovably, on a position, read some of the generally well done journalism being practiced over the past few days. As opposed to the shamefully shallow coverage of the election campaign, that accepted every premise the Conservatives put forward ("Not a leader") with little scruitiny (uh, the Conservatives didn't even have a platform), there are reams of intellegent articles being written on both sides of the current debate. Take some time, have a look, and make up your own mind.