Olympic daydreams from beautiful BC .. Michael Byers’ cease-fire proposal could still make Stephen Harper toast

Feb 14th, 2010 | By | Category: In Brief
Fiddler Ashley MacIsaac performs in suspended canoe during the opening ceremony of 2010 Winter Olympics in beautiful Vancouver, BC, Friday, February 12. Photograph by: John Mahoney/Canwest News Service.

Fiddler Ashley MacIsaac performs in suspended canoe during the opening ceremony of 2010 Winter Olympics in beautiful Vancouver, BC, Friday, February 12. Photograph by: John Mahoney/Canwest News Service.

So … it could be that minority Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s late winter 2010 Con game is working at last. The death of the Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was tragic. And the failure of the fourth indoor torch arm to rise was vaguely unfortunate. But otherwise the official opening of the Vancouver Winter Olympics was impressive, even in Toronto.

Just the day before the PM had recited a 10-and-a-half-page poem in praise of the home and native land — and Canada’s beautiful Pacific Coast — in the BC legislature (“We will ask the world/to forgive us/this uncharacteristic outburst/of patriotism/of our pride/to be part of a country/ that is strong, confident/and tall among the nations,” etc, etc, etc.)

Still more to the point, even before this “paen to patriotism”  the latest EKOS poll on the Canadian federal political scene, “coast to coast to coast,” had suggested that “Prorogation outrage is petering out … Stephen Harper’s Tories back on top.”)

And then, just one day later, on Friday, it was also reported that “Calgary-based Shaw Communications Inc. has agreed to buy Canada’s second largest television network and related specialty channels.” And the acquisition “provides the Calgary-based cable company with a bevy of media assets that will help it compete with rivals such as Rogers Communications Inc [in Ontario] … and Quebecor Inc” [in Quebec of course, but in other parts of Canada too].

Olympic rings illuminated, on a barge moored off Stanley Park, February 12, 2010. Photograph by: Chris Helgren, Reuters.

Olympic rings illuminated, on a barge moored off Stanley Park, February 12, 2010. Photograph by: Chris Helgren, Reuters.

And yet, on the other hand, there is always another hand lurking somewhere in Canada. By Saturday, February 13 even the Vancouver Sun was hastening to point out that yet another “Canadian poll gives Liberals lead over ruling party.” In a survey “conducted by Environics and released on its website late on Friday, the opposition Liberals picked up support from 37% of decided voters, compared with 33% for the Conservatives.”

Moreover, when you look closely even at the (slightly) more Tory-optimistic EKOS poll of last Thursday, it becomes unmistakably clear that it isn’t just east of the Manitoba/Ontario border (still home to almost 7 of every 10 Canadians), where Mr. Harper’s Conservatives remain much less than a majority voice.

There had to be Mounties of course. Here they carry the Canadian flag to be raised at the opening ceremony. Photograph by: Larry Wong, Canwest News Service.

There had to be Mounties of course. Here they carry the Canadian flag to be raised at the opening ceremony. Photograph by: Larry Wong, Canwest News Service.

In this particular survey the Conservatives had 31% of the cross-Canada vote, and the Liberals only 29%. Regionally, in Alberta the Conservatives still enjoyed a vigorous 57%, along with a healthy enough 46% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. If the three Prairie Provinces of Western Canada really were Canada writ large, Stephen Harper’s “Reformatories” (as Warren Kinsella from Alberta likes to call them) would be golden — or at least silver-lined.

Yet (following last Thursday’s EKOS poll again), the Reformatories had less than 34% in Atlantic Canada, only 16% in Quebec, 31% in Ontario and — get out your magic markers here — just over 30% in beautiful BC, home of the 2010 Winter Olympics whose opening ceremonies just made so many Canadians everywhere proud. No wonder Mr. Harper was so keen to recite even a somewhat bizarre patriotic poem to the BC legislature this past Thursday!

Performers representing diverse aboriginal peoples of Canada dance during the opening ceremony, welcoming guests to home and native land. Photograph by: ADRIAN DENNIS, AFP/Getty Images.

Performers representing diverse aboriginal peoples of Canada dance during the opening ceremony, welcoming guests to home and native land. Photograph by: ADRIAN DENNIS, AFP/Getty Images.

The poem may or may not have worked. But Mr. Harper’s Con game has another ace up its sleeve (or at any rate a one-eyed jack). It is true as well that, again in the latest EKOS poll, the New Democrats actually had a somewhat greater share of the BC vote than the Liberals (27% to 24%). And this leaves the Reformatories with the single largest share of the BC vote — which just might help them win more seats in Canada’s Pacific province than they democratically deserve, in the next Canadian federal election, whenever it may come along.

Singers Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado at opening ceremony. Photograph by: Ric Ernst, Canwest News Service.

Singers Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado at opening ceremony. Photograph by: Ric Ernst, Canwest News Service.

Moreover again, when you sum all this up, it lends some continuing poignancy to a column by BC New Democrat Michael Byers, that appeared in the Toronto Star early this past November: “Liberals and New Democrats together could unseat Harper … Electoral ceasefire would put nation’s centre-left majority in political control.” I.e., if only the Liberals and New Democrats could get their acts together, in some even just modest degree, Stephen Harper’s new Conservative Party would be toast in the next federal election — in large enough parts of both Eastern and Western Canada!

The wheels of the political gods grind ever so slowly in such matters, of course, of course, with or without Winter Olympics on a rainy coast. It could be that another current BC resident — former Brian Mulroney Conservative chief of staff Norman Spector — has had the last word on this front, for the time being at least. It may take yet another Stephen Harper Con game minority government (this time with as few as 114 seats?) for the forces of true northern progress to finally accept that “perhaps the time will have arrived for Liberals to do as Stephen Harper did after the parties of the centre-right suffered a third consecutive electoral loss, lest the Conservatives eventually replace them as Canada’s natural governing party.”

Athletes from host nation Canada march into BC Place at opening ceremony, with Clara Hughes carrying flag and wearing ancient Hudson ‘s Bay Company scarf. Photograph by Larry Wong / Canwest News Service.

Athletes from host nation Canada march into BC Place at opening ceremony, with Clara Hughes carrying flag and wearing ancient Hudson ‘s Bay Company scarf. Photograph by Larry Wong / Canwest News Service.

(Though someone should probably tell Mr. Spector that to become even a half-credible candidate for a “natural governing party,” in the eyes of we the more or less non-partisan great unwashed, you first have to win at least one majority government — even if you still don’t have anywhere near a majority of the cross-Canada popular vote!)

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