So why has Stephen Harper imposed a 77-day election campaign on us? (It’s 78 days if you count the day he announced it, but let’s forget that for the moment.)
Well, maybe he thinks seven is his lucky number — but that’s stretching things even for an oddball politician like Harper. He can’t be that superstitious. So let’s speculate about other possibilities, as some pundits are already doing. Two come easily to mind.
The first is that Harper hopes to bore Canadians to the point that droves of them will lose interest and boycott the polls come election day.
The other is that the opposition parties will run short of funds so that they are unable to sustain effective campaigns. Harper, remember, has changed the law so that each party is allowed to spend more, while at the same time reducing the amount of election funding the parties get from the public purse — thus giving the well-heeled Tories a double advantage.
My guess is that both these motives were involved in his thinking.
In any event, his decision to subject us to such a long campaign strikes me as a sign of desperation. I fervently hope I’m right about that because I believe Canada has had more than enough of Stephen Harper’s rule. Just look at the record.
It’s true (or maybe just nearly true) that he has balanced the books — but only after eating up the surplus left to him by his predecessor. At the same time, he has given us a stagnant economy with high unemployment. Meanwhile, federal spending on social services and education has been cut back, to the detriment of provincial governments and those individuals and families with low-paying jobs or none.
As well, he has beefed up Canada’s security against terrorist activity — but far beyond the level that many impartial judges consider necessary and, in fact, giving his government legal powers that those judges regard as unjustifiable potential threats to Canadians’ freedom.
Most disgraceful, most repugnant of all, however, is Harper’s response to the current refugee crisis, especially as it has involved Syrian refugees. From the start, it has been negative, small-minded and, well, un-Canadian.
While European countries have flung their doors wide open to these refugees, Harper’s attitude has been negative and suspicious. Does he really think that every Syrian is a potential terrorist or is he using that as an excuse to limit the number Canada admits? Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
In any case, his performance — or lack of it — in this area should really convince Canadians that it is time for Harper to go.
With more than a month to go until election day, no party has a clear lead in the polls. If that persists when the votes are finally counted, we must hope for two things: that Harper’s Conservative have the fewest seats among the three major parties, and that the NDP and Liberals will join forces in one way or another to permit the formation of a national stable government that is committed to and capable of undoing as much as possible the harm that Harper has done these past dozen years — including, of course, the handling of the Syrian refugee issue.
Peter Hepher is a retired journalist who lives in Creston.