Political Perspectives is produced by the students and faculty of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication, Canada's oldest journalism school.


The Conservative campaign

Posted by cwaddell under Election 2008, Election 2008 Campaign strategy

Christopher Waddell

Two thoughts about the Conservative campaign to date as things slow down for the leaders’ debates tomorrow and Thursday evenings.

First, Stephen Harper’s goal is to realign fundamentally politics in Canada so that the Conservatives replace the Liberals as Canada’s naturally governing party. He’s well on his way to doing that in remarkably short time. Within the space of five years he has displaced the Liberals in making the Conservatives the only political party competitive in every region of the country. Whether he gets a majority or not, if he can make the realignment underway in this campaign stick, he will have altered the political dynamics of Canada for years to come.

Second, in this campaign Mr. Harper got there by relying on the politics of polarization and some of those who practiced it successfully for the Mike Harris Conservatives in Ontario in the late 1990s. Attacks on culture as the subsidized preserve of an elite and calls for long prison sentences for 14 year olds who commit serious crimes are designed to separate Conservative supporters from everyone else. That worked in Ontario but the ex-Harris group in the Harper campaign didn’t understand that Canada is more than Ontario.  What polarizes voters there to Conservative benefit, offends voters in Quebec to the advantage of the Bloc Quebecois. Two weeks from tonight that misreading of the complex nature of the country may be what prevents Mr. Harper from getting his majority.

Christopher Waddell is associate director of the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University and a former Globe and Mail Ottawa bureau chief, former CBC-TV parliamentary bureau chief and election night executive producer for CBC TV News.