THE BACK PAGES

Our biggest election EVER of this fallhurray!

Forget the Harper we know. This guy is so open, so vulnerable, so at peace with nature!

SCOTT FESCHUK September 22 2008
THE BACK PAGES

Our biggest election EVER of this fallhurray!

Forget the Harper we know. This guy is so open, so vulnerable, so at peace with nature!

SCOTT FESCHUK September 22 2008

Our biggest election EVER of this fallhurray!

COMMENT

SCOTT FESCHUK

We're into a federal campaign and Canada has election fever! At least I think it's election fever. Hang on a minute and let me check for sure at Web MD. Leth argy, irritability, a pounding headache-uh oh, turns out

we’ve got election meningitis.

While we wait for a dose of election antibiotics, let’s review what the national parties were up to in Week One of the Most Important Election Ever to Be Held This Fall.

Conservatives: The blue sweater vest worn by Stephen Harper in a series of campaignlaunching TV commercials may go down in political history as being every bit as iconic as Trudeau’s buckskin jacket or Diefenbaker’s French maid costume.

The Harper we all know and... well, know anyway... is a ruthless political tactician devoid of conscience, charisma and the capacity to feel. But the Harper in the blue sweater vest! That guy is so open and vulnerable, so at one with his emotions, so at peace with nature that he can’t go into a rural riding without all the animals of the forest instinctively flocking to him, nuzzling his legs and gently lowering a wreath of wildflowers atop his head. Across the land, aunts have been crashing through security barriers just to pinch his cheek.

The credit for this emotional makeover goes neither to Harper nor the coming together of polyester and cotton—but to a team of scientists down at Conservative Labs. They’ve toiled for years on the vest, sheathing within its fibres a complex network of behaviour-altering technologies. It took a while to work out the bugs. When Harper first put it on, the vest’s proprietary Love of Country Enhancer was so strong that the Prime Minister immediately starting making out with a canoe.

Then there was the difficult process of calibrating which aspects of humanity the Con-

servative leader would be alleged to possess— an affinity for his family (check), for his country (check), for veterans (sure), for immigrants (okay), for the rights of women (uh, let’s not stretch it), for homosexuals (whoa, whoa—we don’t want to drain the batteries!) and so on.

Best of all, once Conservative operatives got him into the vest, Harper lost interest in pursuing his own idea for an election adI

Forget the Harper we know. This guy is so open, so vulnerable, so at peace with nature!

campaign—a series of vignettes of him chasing children off his lawn while brandishing a rake.

The challenge facing party scientists is now clear. They made a sweater vest that transformed Stephen Harper into the very opposite of himself, seeming to take a weakness and make it a strength. Can they build one that fits our entire economy?

Liberals: As the campaign dawned, the morning newspapers brought to Stéphane Dion the twin blows that a) his party stood well behind the Conservatives in public support, and b) Marmaduke had yet again got himself into a spot of mischief. Will that dog ever learn?

The Liberal leader has tried to reintroduce himself to Canadians as an optimist, a patriot and a decisive leader. But his political instincts continue to cause anxiety (maybe it’s just me, but he seems forever of the verge of hollering something like, “Vote Liberal and we’ll stop metric—who’s with me??”), and his skills at speech-making remain weak, leading to rumours he may henceforth express his vision for the country exclusively through semaphore, the language of flags.

In the meantime, I’m not saying Dion seems especially desperate to grow his base

by connecting with young people, but he keeps ending his argument in favour of combating climate change with the words .. because the Degrassi kids deserve no less of us.”

New Democrats: In his opening speech, Jack Layton swiftly established himself as the only leader determined to act on “the priorities of your kitchen table.” At long last— Canadians finally have a federal party willing

to go to bat for a nice floral centrepiece.

More broadly, Layton’s campaign strategy appears to have been devised by someone who caught a few clips of Barack Obama on CNN. Layton is all about change. But not just any change—the “good” kind of change. And not just any kind of the good kind of change— the good kind of change that “moves us forward, not backward.” And not just not backward. Also ruled out by New Democrats as potential directions of change are sideways, diagonal, circular, lateral, parallel, northwest and back-assward. To sum up then: vote NDP unless you want a Canada dedicated to hunting mastodon. (Although to be fair, if we do vote for backward change, New Democrats will rise as one in the House to demand a spiked club registry.)

Greens: Leader Elizabeth May has established herself as the campaign’s best natural orator—a leader capable of connecting with and inspiring her audience, speaking persuasively of the urgent need for action to fight global warming and restoring our collective faith in the political process. Naturally, she’s got no shot. Nl

ON THE WEB: To read Feschuk on the famous, visit his blog, www.macleans.ca/feschuk