Fear the main factor in Harper's stump speeches
Published Sunday, March 27, 2011 6:40PM PDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speeches in the early days of the federal election campaign could give Canadians the shivers.
Harper paints a dire picture of war and financial calamity around the world, a teetering Canadian economy, and what he says is the "terrible price to pay" if the three opposition parties band together to usurp a Conservative minority.
Harper spent the second day of his campaign Sunday once again sounding the alarm that his rivals were bent on overthrowing a future Conservative minority.
Aside from a description of measures his party introduced in the rejected federal budget, Harper has not yet mentioned new party policies.
"The global recovery, remember friends, is fragile. Yes Canada is doing relatively well, very well, but a sea of troubles is lapping at our shores. Disaster in the Pacific, chaos in the Middle East, debt problems in Europe, and of course some very serious challenges South of the border," he told a crowd of about 350 at a Japanese cultural centre.
"Canada is the closest thing in the world that this world has to an island of stability and security. What would the world think if we were to suddenly now head off on some whole new, high tax economic direction, led by a reckless coalition without a coherent program, or even basic national principles?"
He had delivered nearly the same speech earlier in the day in Brampton, Ont., but in the evening eschewed the stationary microphone and roamed around the stage preacher-style. With one hand in his pocket, he led the crowd positioned all around him in a call and answer round.
Harper said: "The coalition said No to continuing to reduce the deficit by reducing the cost of government ... eliminating the deficit by not raising taxes, Conservatives say...," "Yes!" chimed in the crowd.
Striking fear in the hearts of voters about rivals is a tried and true tactic. The Liberals used it successfully in 2004, suggesting Harper had a hidden agenda that included taking away a woman's right to choose an abortion.
But the move backfired for Paul Martin in the 2006 election, when his party warned voters in an ad that Harper would put "soldiers on the streets" of Canadian cities. In the 2008 American presidential election, the Republicans used "socialist" as the dirty word against Democrat Barack Obama, warning of a scenario where the country would become a welfare state.
The Conservatives have chosen a supposed coalition as the centre of their doom-and-gloom scenarios, stoking fears that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff will try to recreate the wildly unpopular 2008 coalition spearheaded by his predecessor, Stephane Dion. The Conservatives spiked in the polls shortly after Dion signed a document of co-operation with his NDP and Bloc Quebecois counterparts.
"If we don't win a stable majority, (Ignatieff) believes he can get a mandate from the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois to govern even if he didn't win the election," Harper said.
"That's not right, that's not democracy, and Canada will pay a terrible price if that happens. That's what we've got to stop. We've got to have a strong, stable national Conservative government in this country."
Harper's stops on the outskirts of Toronto, and in B.C.'s lower mainland were designed to zero in on ridings that the party is hoping to flip this election. The riding of Burnaby-Douglas was won by the NDP in 2008 by only 800 votes. In Brampton West, Liberal Andrew Kania won by only 231 votes over his Tory rival.
Harper's focus on the theme of stability resonated with Nisha Pandey.
"It's always good to have a majority government and given the reins to a person who is stable and who can show us the way," said Pandey. "The coalition with all these people with different ideas will never bring stability to the government."
Insurance agency owner John Wong hoisted a "No Coalition" sign at the Burnaby event.
"My customers tend to have more faith in the current government, the way the economic conditions are going, and we don't want to pay any more taxes," Wong explained.
The crowds at both events were diverse, with heavy representation from Asian communities.
The Conservatives have been aggressively trying to court different cultural groups since before they came to power in 2006, and have been slowly moving toward the Liberal and NDP bastion of Toronto itself. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who was in the crowd in Brampton Sunday, recently wrote to colleagues asking for their support in an advertising campaign designed to sway "very ethnic" ridings.
"We want to win everywhere, we want to represent all Canadians, we want to represent Canadians of all cultural backgrounds, and we have a ways to go, but now more than ever Canada needs a strong, stable national government and only the Conservative party is within range of forming that government," Harper said earlier in the day.
Harper was scheduled to stop in Saanich, B.C. and Edmonton on Monday.