by Warren Kinsella
Once upon a time, the Conservative government believed in the daily campaign.
That is, it believed in continual election readiness. So it maintained an impressive team of political warriors to do opposition research and quick response.
Among Liberals, there isn’t much dispute that the cabal of staffers who did the work, the Conservative Research Group (CRG), did their jobs very well. CRG helped remove Paul Martin from power, and made mincemeat of Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. They folded, spindled, and mutilated successive Liberal leaders — and policies — with brutal efficiency.
Since obtaining a parliamentary majority, the CRG kill machine has gone napping. They have barely taken note of the selection of Angry Tom Mulcair as leader of the New Democrats. They have done nothing to maul Mulcair in the way that they mauled Martin, Dion and Ignatieff. As a result, successive polls have shown the NDP at, or near, Conservative Party support levels.
A very senior Harper-circle thinker recently acknowledged that the Conservatives have, indeed, cooled it on the daily campaign stuff. The reason? Finally securing a parliamentary majority. That, and staffer fatigue. “It was exhausting,” said this fellow, who would know. “But they’ll be back.”
Indeed they will. This week, Ottawa-based media were in a frenzy over the prospect of a Justin Trudeau Liberal leadership bid. It was a revelation that really wasn’t one. But it portends a return of the CRG assassins, and soon.
Stephen Harper, as some of his former aides have publicly acknowledged, has long been obsessed with destroying the Liberal Party of Canada. He wants to grind the once-great party’s bones into dust, and cast it to the winds. As such, Harper sees the Grits continued existence as unfinished business.
That’s not all. Many Conservatives are wary about the prospect of a rejuvenated Liberal party. Justin Trudeau (who possesses charisma, charm, fisticuffs and a storied political name) and Marc Garneau (who possesses the best CV on the Hill, military honours, and was a national hero when he became the first Canadian in space) are a real and present danger to Conservative hegemony. With discipline and drive, either likely leadership contender could wrest Official Opposition status away from Mulcair — and power, four years after that, from Harper.
That is why it is in the collective interest of both the Conservatives and the New Democrats to commence muddying Trudeau and Garneau’s reputations and records. Much is on the line.
In the coming months, then, you will be told — over and over — that Justin Trudeau is a lightweight (he isn’t), that he lacks maturity to be a national leader (he doesn’t), that he is all sizzle, and no steak (the jury’s still out on that one).
If Garneau takes the plunge — and many Liberals pray that he does — the Con and Dipper opposition research apparatchiks will have a far tougher time mining for dirt. Garneau is not merely a fine Parliamentarian — he is one of the finest Canadians of his generation.
Had he been born in the United States, Garneau could easily be a Democrat contender for the presidency. He is that impressive.
So, will the CRG rouse itself from its hibernation, and start striking out from the Harper Death Star? Will New Democrats — knowing their support in Quebec is a mile wide, but less than an inch deep — now hurl slings and arrows at Trudeau and Garneau, both native Quebec sons?
In the coming months, we shall see. It is in Harper’s interest to see a continued divide on the left side of the spectrum. Perhaps he will let the Grits and Dippers keep on splitting the progressive vote, and sail up the middle.
One thing is for certain: Canadian politics, which has been dreary and boring for months, is about to get interesting again.
Let the daily campaign re-commence!
Categories: Contributor Columns