Another “So who’d he beat?” election

Posted on September 29, 2008
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            World boxing champions are ranked in history by the opponents they beat. Marciano fought guys like Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott. Ali beat Sonny Liston, Joltin’ Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

            Prime Minister Jean Chretien won three consecutive majorities as leader of the Liberals.

            A boxing fan would ask “Who’d he beat?”

            In fact, he didn’t beat anybody. The Progressive Conservative party had split apart over western alienation. Chretien might have beaten the PC’s but he didn’t have to. They consistently and co-operatively beat themselves.

            Now Prime Minister Stephen Harper, having apprenticed with a minority government, is applying for our certification as the captain of a majority.

            At long last the Conservatives seem to have learned the Liberal policy of lying. The Liberals have a long and successful record of lying to get elected. Trudeau castigated Stanfield’s plan to institute wage and price controls for 90 days. Once elected, he put them into effect for several years.

            Chretien railed again the GST and North American Free Trade and then wallowed in the benefits with truly porcine pleasure.

            Harper has acted somewhat reasonable as the leader of a minority government although he did set a permanent fixed election schedule and then ignore it. If the polls are at all accurate, and nothing dramatic happens, it looks as though ignoring the promise will work well for him.

            I suppose it is a little different. Trudeau and Chretien reneged on campaign promises to win government. Harper reneged on a government promise to get an election campaign.

            Harper, who was supposed to be a policy wonk, has certainly exhibited surprising political skill. He has kept the freakier elements of his party quiet to earn the trust of the Canadian public that he will be a responsible Prime Minister with a majority government. His iron control of his own cabinet and caucus reminds me of Frank McKenna’s.

            Dion, who was supposed to be a policy wonk but a pit bull in the trenches seems to have developed no political skills at all. He was my choice during the leadership race. I thought he was the guy who would be the fighter who could convince Quebec that they are fortunate to be part of Canada. He does not seem to be able to set any fires among the electorate.

            I saw him at a newspaper association dinner in Toronto in May. There were several hundred media influences from all over Canada there but he did not work the room. He may have spoken to a couple of dozen people in the time a Hatfield or a McKenna would have greeted everyone there with a winning smile and firm handshake.

So, it looks as though Harper will win. We may soon know what he will do with a majority government. That makes me nervous. I just don’t feel he likes us. I always thought Louis, Richard, Frank, Camille, Bernard and Shawn liked us. I thought  John Diefenbaker, Lester B. Pearson, Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin liked us. Hell, I even thought René Levesque liked us. He wanted to leave home but he wanted to come back on holidays for dinner and drinks.

            I think Dion would have been wiser to defeat the government months ago on principle, take his beating, clean house, and rebuild. Now he looks like a weak leader with compromised principles and no more ready to fight than he was then.

            His chief platform item, the carbon tax, is far too nebulous to inspire any enthusiasm. A promise to reward good behaviour would have been far easier to sell than a promise to punish bad and kiss the boo boo.

            His party, divided by veterans of the Chretien-Martin feud and courtiers in waiting for Ignatieff and Rae, seem to be parked in the alley waiting for the parade to go by so they can begin the next battle to lead.

            For New Brunswickers, and many of the nation’s power brokers, of course, there is another faint question.

            Might there still be time for Frank McKenna and might he be interested?

            The Liberals express no allegiance to the idea of alternating between Francophone and Anglophone leaders but they always do. St. Laurent, Pearson, Trudeau, Turner, Chretien, Martin, Dion, ?.

            It is late. History moves fast in politics and Frank’s soldiers and protégés are graying themselves.

            So, if Harper wins, who’d he beat?

            Anyone up for a Harper, McKenna match?

            We never got to see Teofilo Stevenson ( ) fight Ali or Frazier. Many of us would like to see McKenna in the big ring.

            McKenna, like Marciano, remains unbeaten.



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