#6 Help from your friends you can do without.
It would be as though George H. Bush, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the late Ronald Reagan are sitting around after a duck shoot, bragging about their kills, and someone asks what they can do to help good old John McCain win the presidency. All good old John McCain can hope is that they open another bottle of Old Turkey and forget what they were talking about. It is like that for Prime Minister Stephen Harper in these dying days of the Canadian federal election: Michael Harris has come to help Harper.
Not all Canadians know Michael Harris. Mike is the conservative ideologue who served as Premier of Ontario from 1995 until 2002. He and his conservatives in power were the ones who decided that Ontario was spending too much money on social objectives. His first act as Premier was to cut all welfare payments by 22 per cent to the most needy people in the province while implementing an income tax cut of 30 per cent to those earning money. To reduce health care spending, his government had hundreds of nurses fired and then, later, closed hospitals.
The Harris government’s severe cuts to provincial spending were blamed for the Walkerton, Ontario E. coli outbreak that killed seven people and made another 2300 sick in May of 2000. Conservative cutbacks had left the province’s Environment Ministry incapable of protecting Ontario’s local water supplies. Harris was also accused of paraphrasing Henry II of England by saying something along the lines of “Who will rid me of these troublesome Indians?” It was later ruled that while he made no secret of wanting the aboriginal protesters out of Ipperwash Provincial Park, he did not direct nor interfere with the Ontario Provincial Police killing one of the Indians.
The same ideological approach is what enabled Stephen Harper’s government to introduce Canadians to Listeriosis. There have been 17 confirmed deaths across the country from this very dangerous disease that was rare when the federal government was still inspecting meat processing plants. When the Harper Conservatives told the meat processors to do their own inspection, it certainly saved taxpayers money but not in health care costs and death benefits. Whether Canadians will ever again trust processed meats remains to be seen.
While Stephen Harper would not be likely to quote a long-dead English king without attribution, he was gleefully accused recently by the Liberals of quoting a living Australian Prime Minister back when he was opposition leader. It was in a speech in the House of Commons in support of George W. Bush’s war against Iraq. Someone forgot to give the Aussie credit. Luckily Harper still had a speechwriter to fire over that fiasco.
And it hardly hurt Harper’s opponents to remind Canadians that he wanted to go to war along with Bush just five years ago. Canadians are very unhappy with their soldiers’ role in Afghanistan but it is only Green Party leader Elizabeth May who is effectively attacking Harper on that front.
More recently it has been pointed out that a number of sentences in a speech Mike Harris gave to the Montreal Economic Institute in 2002 were repeated three months later by Harper in a speech to the House of Commons. It is all part of Harper’s distain for the House of Commons. The most telling line he plagiarized was the sentence: “Genuine leaders are the ones who do the right thing.”
Harper strayed from the Harris’ playbook for ideologues when he made the campaign promise to get tough on crime by treating certain young offenders as adults in court. Harris only wanted to send young offenders to privately run camps for youth offenders. Harper would rather send them to jail for at least 25 years.
Compared to that, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s complaint that Senator Obama is a pal of a one-time dissident because he served on a board with him is a bit puerile. And one would have thought that Senator John McCain would use more intelligent attacks on Obama. It makes no sense for him to be constantly reminding people of his age while attacking Obama for being younger and less experienced. It is beginning to look like the American presidential campaign needs a better brand of mud to sling around.
The thing about mud slinging in campaigns is that it only gets slung effectively if the people are taken in by it. It is like the candidate many years ago that claimed in shocked tones on the platform that his opponent’s mother was a known thespian. The opponent soon realized that he was the only other person in the hall who knew that ‘thespian’ was just another word for actress.
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