Nobody seems to be able to match Canada’s Stephen Harper. He has been perfecting his ability to use the big lie for years. He has turned it into a doctrine.
It was the English-language leaders’ debate in the 2008 federal election that showcased Stephen Harper’s ability to use the big lie without the slightest unease or hesitation. During the debate, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, repeatedly attacked him on the concerns about the economy. By then, most knowledgeable observers knew that there were serious economic problems. The American housing market was collapsing and the auto manufacturers were in trouble. Deep fissures were starting to tear apart Wall Street’s banking system. With both the American and Canadian governments in the latter stages of election campaigns, the lack of controls or leadership over the North American economy were becoming apparent.
Yet in the televised debate to English-speaking Canadians, not a strand of Harper’s carefully coifed hair twitched. He ignored Ms. May. He ignored Jack Layton. He smirked at Stéphane Dion. Harper was in the zone. He knew he had to stay away from any discussion of the economy. It was easy when the strongest attack on the subject was from the Green Party. He went back to Ottawa with a small increase in seats but still a minority. And he went back to economic chaos.
But as any accountant, consultant or lawyer can tell you, your client’s chaos is your opportunity.
Harper had the opportunity to spend our money lavishly in buying future votes. He soon had his elected Conservative yes-men running around the country with oversized pasteboard cheques, taking the credit for the Harper government’s supposed generosity. And the beauty of it was that many of those cheques, even if they were real, would never be cashed. The public was never told all the conditions and limitations and restrictions on the municipal politicians posing with Harper’s minions and those cheques for the local media. The joke was that Harper’s people never considered the announcement to be real unless it was announced several times—with new cheques. People started to catch on when it was noted that many of those pasteboard cheques had the Conservative Party logo instead of the Canadian maple leaf symbol.
For the last two and a half years, Harper has been pushing the agenda of the big lie. He shut down the House of Commons to block MPs from questioning his government over issues with Afghanistan, Conservative election spending and provincial equalization payments. He told Canadians a different story.
There is no reason for a Governor General not to allow the proroguing of parliament for legitimate reasons but Mr. Harper abused it. He raised the ire of many Canadians when he again prorogued parliament at the end of 2009 to stop the parliamentary enquiry into Afghan detainees.
But there was nothing he could do when the combined opposition found his government guilty of contempt of parliament. There was no way around the confidence vote that forced the governor general to call this current election.
Once again, he went back to the big lie. He had all his minions and yes men join him in claiming that Michael Ignatieff was trying to put together a coalition with the Bloc and NDP to keep him out of his Prime Minister’s office. This caught Michael Ignatieff by surprise as he had refuted the idea of such a coalition back when he replaced Stéphane Dion as Liberal leader in 2009. Harper had himself proposed just such a coalition back in 2004—that was supposed to make him Prime Minister instead of Paul Martin.
And that is the problem with the big lie doctrine—you have to keep track of your lies.
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