Frances Russell transcends reality
In a recent column in the Winnipeg Free Press, Frances Russell has found a unique partner for her periodic spleen-venting at Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Frank Graves.
That's Frank Graves of EKOS and "envoke a culture war" fame.
Russell seems rather puzzled that what she seems to believe is a progressive majority can't overcome Harper and his Conservative government.
The amusing thing is that she's tantalizingly close to the answers, even if she can't quite get over herself long enough to get there.
At one point, Russell seems to admit -- if one should indeed take this as a matter for admission -- that "Canada's progressive majority has fragmented". She cites a four-way split between the Liberal Party, NDP, Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois.
In other words: Russell seems to confuse the Liberals and Bloc for progressive political parties.
For the particularly intellectually-lazy denizens of the far left, it's an easy mistake for them to make. The laziness helps.
Certainly, there's a large progressive wing of the Liberal Party. But there's also a strong conservative wing of the party as well; one powerful enough to keep the party stable everytime it's pulled back to the right (more on this briefly).
The suggestion that the Bloc Quebecois is a progressive party at all is actually rather laughable. Although they frequently drape themselves in the trappings of left-wing politics, it's important to remember that the BQ is founded on racial politics, not welfare politics. If they believed that Quebec could be won accordingly, they could just as easily be the Quebecois equivalent of the British National Party.
People like Russell don't like to acknowledge this: the idea that the votes cast for the Bloc are cast in favour of a progressive ideology as opposed to one form or another of Quebecois parochialism is ideologically soothing to them, regardless of how ficticious it is.
But as John Ibbitson points out in The Polite Revolution, both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party are built out of two factions.
For the Conservative Party, it's a western wing built as the Reform Party and founded on the values of libertarianism and social conservatism, and an eastern wing built as the Progressive Conservative Party and founded on fiscal conservatism and social liberalism.
For the Liberal Party, it's a Mitchell Sharp/John Turner/Paul Martin wing of the party, founded on fiscal conservatism and decentralism, and a Walter Gordon/Pierre Trudeau/Jean Chretien wing of the party founded on social liberalism and centralism.
The Liberal Party is the party of Paul Szabo every bit as much as it's the party of Bob Rae.
If the Liberal Party were to fragment -- as Ibbitson suggests that both the Grits and Tories would under proportional representation -- the emerging coalition would clearly slide toward conservatism, provided that they could reach a detente over social issues. Perhaps the kind of detente that's been reached within the modern Conservative Party.
For Frances Russell, it should be an alarming prospect. But she seems to think she's found an answer: Frank Graves and cultural warfare. His weapons of choice seem to be the long-form census and the long-gun registry.
Of course, he doesn't want to seem like he's promoting cultural warfare, like he did to the Liberal Party. Instead, he wants it to seem like he's just trying to help Stephen Harper find the extra 1% or so of public support that he needs to win a majority government.
"I can't for the life of me figure out why a guy who needs two points, or one point, would start shoring up an already tenacious base with this red meat," Graves explains. "that doesn't appeal even to the six or seven per cent of new voters he captured in 2008."
"When he gets into a comfortable position and even when he's not, he and some of his closest advisers can't seem to transcend their core values," Graves continues. "How could anyone in his camp explain to him how doing the various things from prorogation to eliminating the long-form census, to launching a huge war to get rid of the long-gun registry to removing abortion from maternal and child health (would work). It doesn't make any sense."
Apparently, it doesn't occur to Graves that there are entire ridings -- such as NDP MP Peter Stoffer's -- that could quite easily swing over the long-gun registry. While the Liberal Party almost certainly plans to campaign on that topic in a future election -- using sophistry, fear mongering and emotional blackmail -- the ridings they will win on this issue are the ridings they already have. Canadiands could expect to see several Liberal rural ridings swing to the Tories.
The long-form census issue is a much more debatable topic. Unless the opposition finds the wherewithall to bring down the government before the next census is conducted, Canadians may well find the voluntary long-form to be far less painful than the so-called experts insist it will.
And it will certainly remind Canada's far left precisely how far Canadians really support their agenda. If they can't be convinced to provide their data voluntarily on the basis of their need for that information to justify vast portions of government programming, it will be hard to the statements Canadians will be making on the size and role of Canadian government.
For her own part, Russell seems to be acting on an impetus to help Graves turn the "culture war" narrative that he himself brought up on the conservatives by suggesting that it's Harper and the Tories who are waging a culture war.
It's laughable. The far left has literally begun to think of their ideology as definitive of Canadian culture. It's a shameful and selfish notion, but not one that Canada's far left has proven particularly resistant to.
Russell also wishes to pass Graves' advice to the Liberals along: he suggests that the Liberals, if in government, should cancel the construction of new prison space and the purchase of new fighter jets. He suggests that the Conservatives should produce environmental policy amicable to the left.
It's typical of a Liberal Party strategist: suggest that the Tories should acquiesce to their agenda, and advise the Liberal Party to govern irresponsibly.
Never mind that policies like the disgraceful 2-for-1 credit were deemed necessary due to poor conditions and over-crowding in Canadian prisons. Never mind that Canada's fleet of CF-18 fighter jets is currently reaching the end of their operating lifetime and need to be replaced.
One thing Canadians should remember is that the last time the Liberal Party came to government, oen of their first act was an irresponsible cancellation of a contract for new military helicopters -- and should remember that the lives of Canadian pilots were lost because of it.
Another thing Canadians should remember is that any proper statiscal analysis of reductions in Canada's crime rate is nearly erased in its entirety by decreases in the reporting of crime.
What Frank Graves recommends to the Liberal Party is political irresponsibility for partisan gain. Apparently, to Graves, this kind of irresponsibility isn't something that needs to be transcended, but conservative values are.