“[Attack literature is] not something I would ever do to you [Don Meredith] or do to your leader [Stephen Harper] or do to you in an election campaign. You look at my literature, you will not see a note of denunciation of you or your leader and you will not see it because we are running a positive campaign on our ideas and what we stand for and I think it’s shameful.” – Bob Rae, Thursday February 28th, 2008
“The Harperite farm team is an offspring of the Republican Party of the United States. These guys will do whatever it takes to win themselves, and do whatever it takes to help their friends in the United States…they will do what is necessary to help Republicans. They’re a nasty, unprincipled bunch, who are incompetent to boot.” – Bob Rae, March 4th, 2008
Those of you who have been following my writing know that I’m not a big fan of Stephen Harper or his party (particularly in its current incarnation), but the above shift in Bob’s rhetoric concerns me. Yesterday I gave him credit (and exposure) on this website for rightly advocating positive campaigning and condemning ad hominem attacks. Since Bob spoke those words last week, however, he has shifted to a discourse of fear. Just as our Conservative opponent has tried to exploit fear of crime for votes, Bob is increasingly trying to frighten people with the spectre of those “nasty” American Republicans and their “Harperite farm team.” Further, he has suggested that people should essentially settle for the Liberal party (mirroring the way the Liberals “settled” for a mediocre budget), and that if they vote NDP or Green they aren’t doing their part to stop this scary evil force.
There are two problems with this. One, using fear for votes is cynical and lowers the level of discourse, just as the Conservative attack literature does. Two, it’s completely irrelevant to this by-election. The Alliance/Conservative party is not a factor in Toronto Centre. In the last election they received only 18% of the vote, and in the election before that only 14%. One could reasonably conclude that their decision to fire their duly nominated candidate and parachute in someone who doesn’t live in the riding (or the city for that matter) will hurt them even more this time around. Even the Conservative candidate has said repeatedly that his election would be a “miracle.” So, barring divine intervention, everyone including Bob knows that in the context of this by-election his fear mongering is, well, just that.
The people I’ve talked to are tired of this kind of politics, and rightly so. They know that our political leaders should never tell Canadians to settle for less than what’s possible, or to act out of fear. And they know how to send that message with their vote.
Umm, how do you propose we wait Bob? I mean, everything else you and the caucus nervous nellies are saying makes sense. I’d love to get those by-elections done first too, get some momentum from hopefully having Bob and some other new Liberal MPs in the house. I’d love to wait until the economy has worsened. I’d love to wait until the Liberals are at 100 per cent in the polls, and Stephane Dion is more popular than The Beatles.
There’s a few roadblacks in the way though, besides Stephane’s lack of musical ability. First one: the budget. The first votes are going to be in a few weeks, well before the byelections. What does Bob propose we do on the budget. Does he want us to vote in favour of what’s going to be a minimalist budget that does nothing to address the worsening economic situation, and prop-up this government that stands for everything we don’t? Or would Bob rather we prop-up this government by abstaining, and look the laughing-stocks again?
…So, while I like Bob’s theory, it’s the practice I have some issues with. If he has some brilliant plan for getting us past the budget vote without looking like complete tools, I’d love to hear it. Maybe the leaker forgot to tell Jane Taber that part.
Nervous nellies, buck up. Find your cojones. The election train is moving out of the station. Get on board or get out of the way. We cannot prop-up this government any more.
Much has been made this week of an election call. If you believe the media, Liberals reacted by forming a coherent and fierce battle group around the leader. Then fired inwards.
True enough, some, a few, of my caucus colleagues just love to talk about how they fear going to the voters. I should know the refrain by heart, since Iâ€™ve heard it from a half-dozen of them for an entire year. Lately the Lib Pacifist Movement has even become a little organized, and found a champion in a former leadership contender. Miraculously, his words in our inner-most sessions have ended up on the front page of the next dayâ€™s daily.
Well, for us poor farm boys from Halton, this is all a little hard to understand. Seems to us youâ€™re in politics for reasons of principle and passion, not just for partisanship. You know why youâ€™re here. If you believe Stephen Harper is screwing up Canada, then you fight the guy. You take up arms for overtaxed middle class minivan moms, for laid-off auto workers, for aboriginals, for the suffering environment, for income trust investors, for those in poverty and those who thought by electing this guy theyâ€™d get a leader who would keep his promises.
You fight for those who believed his pledge of 125,000 new child care spaces a year. That he would honour the Atlantic Accord. That heâ€™d treat First Nations with respect. That he cared about the environment. That heâ€™d never tax income trusts. That heâ€™d bring a new spirit of openness and accountability to Ottawa. That heâ€™d treat everyone with equality. That voters mattered, and heâ€™d bring them change.
Jane Taber reports in today’s Globe and Mail that Bob Rae is urging Dion not to force an election until after Rae is done with our March 17th by-election.
Listen, I get that Bob wants to get to Parliament as soon as possible. And I understand, as previously discussed, that having our by-election cancelled to make way for a general election would be a huge administrative pain, and also an extremely tiring and exhausting experience. My legs and my knuckles are sore too, and my family isn’t getting nearly the attention it deserves either.
But this is bigger than us. Stephen Harper is a dangerous prime minister, and his government is causing more and more damage by the day. There is no reason to believe that the House can continue to have confidence in this government. Meanwhile, our economy and our environment are in desperate need of new leadership. This isn’t about convenience, it’s about integrity and doing what’s right. We need to take a principled stand: if not now, then when?