Gen X at 40

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James Bow -

I'm torn about whether or not the Conservatives should keep Harper or dump him for somebody who could appeal to the Canadian body politic. On one hand, I don't think Harper can do the job. He's been up against one of the weakest, most lacklustre Liberal leaders in a century, and he can't slam-dunk this election. Someone like Mulroney would have put the Conservatives into 40% territory by now. I also think Bernard Lord could do it. Or Joe Clark if he was ten years younger.

On the other hand, the Conservatives' propensity to go for flash-in-the-pan and choose the right leader to get them into 24 Sussex Drive _right_ _now_ has been part of the problem. Had the Alliance not turned against Preston Manning, he'd be prime minister by now. As extreme as the Reform Party was perceived to be, Preston had accumulated a lot of personal goodwill from eastern Canadians through dedication and hard work. He could have been prime minister in 2000. He would have been prime minister in 2004. But Conservative impatience did him in. Stockwell Day was supposed to be the saviour. He was a disaster. Stephen Harper is only marginally better.

Alan -

I'd love to hear Preston's voice again in a campaign - a losing one mind you but that guy is the last great Tory even if he is an extreme one.

Ben -

My folks need to stick with Harper. People will become comfortable with him -- just like with Preston Manning -- over time. There's no substitute for that.

Alan -

It was your people who ditched Preston. And how can you expect people to get comfortable with someone who looks like he is an itchy suit? I bet he went home last night and had a long thought about quitting - again. Maybe he really didn't but that is how he comes across.

Ben -

And you'd have been making fun of Manning, too, if he were still running the show. I know that quite well. But the main point that James made is true -- it takes time. And Harper is young -- we've got time.

ALan -

I could make fun of Manning for his "Corner Gas" voice but that would fail. I remember him coming to Dal law school in around '89 and many classmates gave him the gears but he stood up very well - honest as well as a good communicator for an idealist. Mulroney was the best, though. A bunch of Liberal students took him on and he ripped them to shreds. Those are qualities the itchy man lacks. <p>In first year Morganthaller spoke. I was ad hoc security for that event as there were worries people would try to get into the place to disrupt. That was one of the most amazing experiences I have had as he allowed people who vigorously opposed him to say whatever they wanted and it was quite civil, honest and real in the room - I had no idea until then he was a holocaust survivor but I suppose I should have. <p>BTW, I have now fallen in love with the phrase "itchy man" so I apologize up front for its impending overuse.

James Bow -

Preston Manning deflected most of the ridicule directed at him by his marvellous sense of humour. What enamoured me personally to him was his appearances on the "Royal Canadian Air Farce" and "This Hour Has 22 Minutes". His ability to laugh at himself showed him to be a basically decent guy, and a quick witted gent at that.

Can you imagine Harper doing this? No way. And I think that puts him at a serious disadvantage. And while you might be right to say that Harper is still young, the Conservatives still have time, I could argue that Canadians don't. Harper's not ready to become PM, but the Liberals are so past their Best Before date that it's not funny.

Ben -

James --

If you're going to let an irrational dislike of a basically very decent guy keep the country re-electing people like Paul Martin's Liberals, you'll deserve the country you get.

And yes, I can imagine Harper doing it. Did you see his performance at the press banquet?

jonforest -

I agree that part of a winning formula for the conservatives is to stick with a leader for three (?) election cycles.

Ed Broadbent brought the NDP to heights that they'd never reached in the 80s. Why? Partly because he'd been around long enough that people became comfortable with him. And I think that Alan's suggestion that the same thing might have happened with Preston if he'd been kept as leader.

But Parties have dynamics, too. Preston lost to Stockwell not only because the old members wanted a new leader, but also because of Stock's success in bringing in new members through organizing in churches.

James Bow -

I don't think criticism of Harper's performance or abilities is irrational, and it's certainly not dislike -- not from my end, at least.

Harper's performance at the press banquet was fun, but it was scripted. Manning is far more quick-witted and can think on his feet. He also conveys the sense that he can listen to dissent.

I'm sure that Harper is a decent man in person. I'm also pretty sure that Martin is a decent man in person. Politically, however, not much appears to separate the two in terms of their abilities, their interest in taking power, etc.

Alan -

I echo that. I do not think Harper is evil or bad. I think his principles are the wrong ones and I also think he is a poor advocate for those prinicples. I also think he is a poor politician. But I do believe he believes in the country, has faith in his principles and wants to work towards the best for it. I just do not think he is very good at achieving his ends. That is personal critical anyalysis that can be refuted. It is not "hate" and it is not "Liberal jingoism".<p>And he looks like his suit is itchy.

Ben -

In that case, you gents had your choice and made it. That's all there is to be said.

Alan -

Except I have no idea what that means.

David Janes -

James, in the first comment, is on to something. When the CPC elects a leader that can make people laugh at the Liberals (and with the CPC), the Liberal's reign will be over.

From a policy wonking point of view, it's not ideal, but politics are politics.

Alan -

David - that is exactly it. There is a short story by Gogol where the Devil arrives and obviously disrupts a Cossack wedding. There is something about people panicking and they try everything until an old soldier of pure faith takes a mirror walks up to the devil shouts the mirror at the devil and shouts "Begone! Poof! Satan disappears. <p>If the Liberals are what they are, it is shame and ridicule that is needed not self-important lecturing.

Jay Currie -

So the solution is to get Harper cashmere suits for winter and linen for summer...

David hits it out of the park: the most effective way of dealing with the oily men of the Liberal Party is ridicule. Make fun of their cash stuffed envelopes, laugh at the Martin "all cash promises" approach to politics.

I don't think Harper is the guy to do this but I do think Peter McKay seems to have a decent sense of humour and way better taste in suits.

SayNay? -

I think it's all in Harper's ties - if he wears one of those multi-coloured striped ties again that we all got rid of at least twenty years ago, I'll scream - he a needs "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" makeover.

Alan -

Uh-oh. When SayNay is making fun of him you know know Harper's shark has jumped.

Dave Olie -

A bit off topic, Alan, but that speech by Morgentaler in your first year; was that at Dal in (I think) 1985? I covered that for the Dal Gazette and got an interview. Impressive dude, in spite of the fact he's about 5-foot zip. He was willing to admit he didn't know as much about the Atlantic provinces as he should have, and in the end I think he interviewd me more than I interviewed him.

On Harper: One thing that has struck me is the number of times the word "humourless" has been used to describe him in the mainstream media. I don't see how voters are ever going to warm up to him if he can't seem to warm up to us.

Alan -

Hey Dave. I was at Dal law from 88 to 91 and I think that the speech was the fall of 89. It could well not have been his only one as that was the time he was in the courts to get the clinic open. I remember coming away thinking that this guy lives in an ethical world I will never know, driven like I will never be driven based on experiences I will never have.<p>On Harper - a politician must be able to take a joke and make a joke. How is this guy going to turn that around? It is even hard to place an adjective on him but I think it is telling that no one even mimics him.

SayNay? -

Harper strikes me as the "perfect" neighbour. You know: keeps his yard immaculate, watches your house when your away, recycles religiously -but seldom gets invited over to your house because he is an anal-retentive bore who kills any party he's invited to because he feels the need to go on and on about this policy or that policy, and feels the need to "correct" other guests' opinions about this or that. Maybe he's not like that at all - but I haven't seen any other side. I'm left with the feeling that any party he's invited to, only gets started after he leaves (probably around 10PM - his bedtime).

Marian -

I think the real problem is that people in Canada want the Tories as an alternative to the Liberals. That is, Canadians want the Conservatives to hold the fort while the Liberals freshen up a bit. It's not that we don't like your leaders, or if we do dislike them it's because they take their role as conservatives too seriously (This may be Harper's problem). It's not because the party hasn't tried to sell their message with enough verve. And it's certainly not spin. The fact is, most Canadians are left wing. We want a government that is left wing. It's not personal. We don't care if Harper is nice or if he likes a good joke. We care about the policies. If the Conservatives want to win they have to 1) sell themselves as liberals and 2) act like liberals when in power (otherwise, Canadians will never vote them back in). The old Tories did that well. The new Tories? Ehh, not so much.

SayNay? -

And just when you thought it might be safe to go back into the water, that I might blame the woodeness of Harper for the CPC fortunes, I learn of the Toronto Star's Liberal "spin", blaming Harper for all of Martin's and the Liberal failings (Editorial, May 20): "The time has come to ease the pressure on Martin to resort to seedy vote buying...and while Martin's manoeuvring to retain power wasn't a pretty sight, it was Harper who triggered the unsavoury bidding war. He pushed for a non-confidence vote the moment his party edged up in the polls. And he rejected Martin's offer to buy peace in Parliament by promising an election once Gomery reports"

...ah, yes, Harper that greedy, cloying bastard...he's a fricking evil genius, pretending to do his, and his party's, job as the government-in-waiting by demonstrating the non-confidence of the House and pushing poor Martin into "seediness" ...as Coyne says, it wasn't enough that the CPC was prepared to support the original budget, now they just shut the *%$# UP and let the Libranos do whatever they want for the next 11 months or so? or longer as we'll probably see (if Maritn and the Libranos keep up their track record on honouring promises)

Thanks, Toronto Star, you mouth-piece for seediness and corruption, I needed that - Harper's my man, baby! (Now, if we could just lose the ties, loosen the collar, have a couple of brewskies, and talk some sports...)

Jean -

How can anyone possibly have sympathy for Peter MacKay after the way he lied to David Orchard? Before the ink was dry on the Orchard/MacKay agreement to never merge with the Reform Party, MacKay did the dirty and joined forces with Steven Harper. MacKay is a hypocrite who neither deserves our trust or sympathy.
MacKay went on National televison to complain about the knives Belinda Stronach stuck in his back. I am sure that is how David Orchard felt the day after the Progressive Conservative/Alliance betrayal. And, I am sure it is how his fiancé of many years felt when Peter left her for Ms. Stronach. This is definitely a case of what goes around comes around.

Marian -

SayNay: Any spin in the Toronto city paper the Star has been more than made up for I'm sure by counterspin in our two conservative NATIONAL PAPERS The Globe and The Post (though I have to say The Globe has made an attempt at balance lately which is really very laudable) if not in the Sun chain or the other conservative chains. Besides, this latest critical reading of Harper is bi-partisan. I think even Rex Murphy (Bush supporter) and Jeffrey Simpson (old fashioned Tory) made a similar call. Murphy believes the Liberals saved Harper from himself (cf May 18). Simpson thinks Harper's ideas are creating enough negativity for the moderates that they are fleeing from him (cf. May 21).

You know, you Tories would be doing a lot better if you didn't think being liberal meant being some kind of bastard.

Jean -

SayNay wrote: "You know, you Tories would be doing a lot better if you didn't think being liberal meant being some kind of bastard."

Well said, SayNay...and it is so very true. With your kind permission, I shall be using your quote. Priceless.

Alan -

I believe the proper phrase is "chislin' bastard" when you think about it.

Marian -

Forgive me, but I must protest, Jean. I'm the one who said: "You Tories would be doing a lot better if you didn't think being liberal meant being some kind of a bastard..."

Oh well, never mind.

Jean -

Sorry Marion. I was just so excited to congratulate the author of that fine remark that I didn't check out your name properly. As they would say here in the Island " Foin piece of Wroiting, that was."

Jean -

Right you are too, Alan. Depending on what company I am keeping, I shall also offer up the line with your adjective thrown in for effect! ;-)

Marian -

Well thanks muchly in any case. Can I pay you to do PR for me?