But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Sadly, in a first past the post system, you don’t have to. It is quite possible in Canada to win a majority government with as little as 38% of the vote; recently in England, the Conservatives did so with barely 35%.
That’s why you can expect Stephen Harper to go all in this election campaign. Without winning a clear majority or getting so close it is the same thing, his Prime Ministership will be over. He has sown such distaste among his opponents that it would be virtually impossible for either the Liberals to the NDP to support another Harper minority. I suspect it would cost either Trudeau or Mulcair their leaderships if they tried.
Which explains the reason we have an 11 week campaign. While the Conservatives have always had the ability to outspend their opponents in a regular campaign, in an extended one they are likely to have as much money as both of their opponents combined. And they can prevent third parties from playing a significant role. The limitation on 3rd party advertising during a campaign essentially silences them. It was worth losing the ability to (illegitimately) use government ads to mute their critics on the left.
Now we will see an onslaught of negative advertisements, trying desperately to get Canadians afraid of the alternatives. Too experienced they will cry, too dangerous they will whine. Heavy ponderous voices warning that any change will destroy the country.
But why so glum chum? Because the Conservatives have nothing positive to offer – beyond bribing people with their own money. At least they have nothing to offer that anyone beyond their base will actually believe. That is the weight of 10 years in government – you no longer have the ability to surprise or to change people’s opinion of you. And generally speaking, Canadians know exactly who and what Mr. Harper is and, for the most part, they don’t like what they see.
But Mr. Harper has a long road to run. With an assured base of only 25%, he is already straining the limits of this support to poll in the very low thirties. How will he possibly get to the 38 or 39% h desperately needs to survive.
With trickery of course. He will do everything he can to raise doubts about his opponents. And if you think he will rely on direct statements – let alone the truth – then you are one of the few people who don’t know the man. It will be innuendo and half-truths, plus a few outright lies.
Do I sound cynical? Not in the least. I’ve observed Harper close up for a dozen years and I have no doubt whatsoever about his tactics. I’ve seen them over and over. It would be cynical to assume that is not the real man. He is now exactly what he appears to be so don’t be fooled by rock songs or kittens.
So, my advice to you is keep calm and carry on. Enjoy the rest of the summer. Try to talk reason to those you think might be fooled. And ignore the ravings of the true believers. They are hopelessly enamoured and will only give you a sour stomach.
Oh, and give money to the party of your choice. Unless it’s the conservatives; they have plenty already.
And that’s ten minutes.