Is Stephen Harper too clever by half .. and/or will that be good enough for Canada in 2015?

Nov 15th, 2014 | By | Category: In Brief

Rose in Stratford, Ontario, dusted by snow on morning of Friday, November 14, 2014 – does this mean winter is coming early this season, and staying late?

As it starts to seem that this just may be another long, cold winter, various bits of early snow in the air are telling confusing tales of the much anticipated Canadian federal election of 2015. In the latest journalistic style, here are five things on this subject that may or may not interest the Canadian people – most of whom are not yet thinking about anything in 2015 :

(1) This Monday, November 17 will see federal by-elections in Yellowhead in Alberta and Whitby-Oshawa in Southern Ontario. Both have been safe Conservative seats for some time. And there seems no doubt that PM Harper’s party will win yet again in Yellowhead.

My guess is that Stephern Harper Tories will finally win again in the late Jim Flaherty’s old riding of Whitby-Oshawa too.  But polling data suggest the Liberals have a possibly even serious chance here, buoyed by the fresh face of their candidate Celina Caesar-Chavannes.

See the great polling guru Éric Grenier’s take on the numbers in “Whitby—Oshawa, Yellowhead byelections to test Stephen Harper” and “Will Conservatives drop, Liberals gain in Monday’s by-elections?”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper performs the hongi with a Maori lady as he is greeted at Government House in Auckland, New Zealand. The hongi is a traditional Maori greeting involving the clasping of hands and pressing of noses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.

If the Liberals did happen to win in Whitby—Oshawa, it could throw a small  monkey-wrench into the complex 2015 electoral machinery the Harper Conservatives have already set in motion.

(2) PM Harper and his lovely wife Laureen are travelling to this weekend’s G20 meeting in Australia, via New Zealand with its ancient noble Maori past. Will the recent US-China climate change deal have any impact here? And does that have implications for the Harper government’s lack of any serious Canadian climate change policy? Which could make Harper look bad?

Or will all this be upstaged by such truly bizarre headlines as “Vladimir Putin stations Russian warships off Australia’s coast ahead of G20”? Which could make Harper (who has long been telling us that Putin really is crazy) look good. Only the hairdressers know for sure at this point.

* * * *

PM Harper performs the hongi with another Maori! (The Canadian Press).

(3) A number of recent events – media-instigated and otherwise – have been suggesting that Stephen Harper and his party are gaining back some of the support they have for a while now been bleeding to Trudeaumania II, and the long thick history of the Liberal Party of Canada. To take just a few examples :

* Virtually all recent surveys show that the polling lead of the Justin Trudeau Liberals is shrinking. Now, the “latest weekly tracking” from Nik Nanos is reporting that “32% of Canadians say Harper is their preferred choice for PM followed by Trudeau at 30%, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair at 20% and Green Leader Elizabeth May at four per cent (14% were unsure).”

God Save Justin Trudeau: The Art of Politics in the 21st Century, a movie by two Quebec documentary filmmakers, is making its debut in Montreal on Nov. 18. It will also air on Canal D in December. And will be available on DVD in time for Christmas. (Productions de la ruelle inc.) It does appear that there is no English language version, however – which will no doubt reduce its impact outside Quebec!

* Documentary filmmakers Éric Ruel and Guylaine Maroist have a new film called God Save Justin Trudeau : The Art of Politics in the 21st Century, premiering in Montreal on November 18. From a limited report on the CBC News site, it seems that while the young Mr. Trudeau “co-operated with the filmmakers,” he is not exactly pleased with the results. And this “French-language movie” could do him some further harm in Quebec. (Which may also be about to show it remains a key voting block in Canadian federal politics in the 2015 election.)

* When you see such headlines as “Keystone XL bill easily passes US House vote,” you may smile, and think “Stephen Harper and his Keystone no-brainer has been on the right side of history all along.” And who knows? In the current global political universe, you may be right. (But President Obama may veto it anyway?)

(4) There is always an “on the other hand” in Canada. (And our most long-serving prime minister was half-famously said to “ never let his on the one hand / Know what his on the other hand was doing.”) The rise of the new Harper Conservative 2015 election juggernaut is no exception :

* “Controversial former newspaper owner [and US jailbird] Conrad Black says he fears Stephen Harper has ‘run out of steam’ …  Speaking on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Black praised the prime minister for his competence, but said ‘I don’t see anything original… it’s starting to look like a government that likes to be the government but isn’t really animated by what it wants to do’ … Black warned this may make the Conservative party vulnerable to the ‘it’s time for a change’ argument.”

Laureen Harper performs the hongi with Maori warrior. (The Canadian Press).

* “Trudeau’s handling of protesters a sharp contrast with Harper … many voters now think a government he led would be the best at creating jobs, growing the economy, ensuring health care and protecting the environment … This is no mere accident of good looks or a famous name. It’s about an attitude that voters like … The Liberal leader will need to provide and debate policy in the months ahead. But those who imagine this will be the end of him may be indulging in wishful rather than rational thinking.”

* “Tory anti-pot ad mocked and condemned by YouTube viewers … ‘Not a fan of pot, but this ad is just stupid?,’ a viewer writes as Health Canada ad gets panned.”

“Tom” Mulcair embraces wife at NDP convention.

(5) The Harper government’s financial update this past week – and accompanying alleged good news on income splitting and daycare allowances – have arguably done them some good. And they have also added to the speculation that PM Harper won’t wait until his legislated fixed-term election date of October 19, 2015.  See, eg, “Positive poll numbers for the Harper Conservatives could mean an early election” ; and “EDITORIAL: Tory uptick, early vote?”

I remain an agnostic on this question myself. But the most interesting thing about Canadian federal politics in 2015 may be that we still don’t have much of an idea at all about what is really going to happen!

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  1. About God Save Justin Trudeau. The original film is bilingual and there will be an english version available soon. Some parts of the film will be shown on CTV at the end of december.

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