Silly me, I just returned from a "Debate Watch" event with some Democrats Abroad in Yorkville, where I expressed the view to a fellow political junkie that there's greater comity in Canadian politics than the character assassination so often on display to the south.
Now that was obviously before I saw Stephen Harper's assertion that the Grits are "quite frankly sitting on the sidelines virtually cheering for there to be a recession."
Nice one, Steve, that qualifier "virtually." But you made your point. Which is Harper's keen observation of the "Leader of the Opposition and his leading critics going around and trying to tell Canadians the opposite [to the fact of Canada's economic health as shown by the $1.7-billion budget surplus for July reported recently by Ottawa], trying to drive down confidence in the Canadian economy without foundation."
We'll see if Kinsella calls this one of today's winners or losers. Harper certainly got under Dion's skin. "Do you want more of this?" an angry Grit leader said at a southwestern Ontario campaign stop Friday. "Do you think it's the way in a democracy to debate and to try to find the best solutions in a country? Can we debate this thing as adults?"
Maybe like Rip Van Winkle I'm just waking up and missed the calls for an economic downturn expressed by Iggy, Dryden, McCallum, Brison, Rae and so on, although I suppose the pom-poms and uniforms with the big "R" for recession should have been a giveaway.
He's a mean one, Mr. Harper, and this time just flat-out wrong. Saying the Green Shift was a threat to national unity was borderline; calling Dion "pro-Taliban" for daring to question our Afghan policy was over the line. And now this.
Why does Harper do this? The cuddly-sweater-guy thing was working. It may have been fake as all get out, but we at least appreciated the effort.
Dion's right about this much: Do we want a four-year majority of a paranoid Harper treating adversaries as enemies, scaring the children and making the leaves turn colour a month early?
In the spirit of Kim Campbell (a campaign is no time to discuss serious issues), I won't use this space to mention that we could use a national industrial policy to cope with the more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs lost in Central Canada these past two years; something better than the diluted version of the Kelowna Accord that Harper harpooned on taking office; a global warming strategy that isn't a global embarrassment; a serious attack on the pine-beetle infestation that's jeopardizing the livelihoods of forestry workers across Western Canada; a private-sector investment in R&D and new-product development that isn't also, once you subtract Research in Motion Inc. from the mix, another of our world-class shortcomings; and electronic record-keeping and other healthcare innovations yielding efficiencies and better health outcomes elsewhere in the world that could use a try-out here.
There's other stuff like the above that have an economic dimension. Raising them doesn't mean you want the economy to sewer. But I guess I'm an Enemy of the People for mentioning them, one more burden to live with.
Harper's running on leadership. That's pretty much his entire platform. So since it's the weekend, here's a reading list on that topic for the Leaside native: Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin's masterpiece on how Lincoln co-opted his adversaries by bringing them into his cabinet; Dale Carnegie's Power of Positive Thinking; and anything by Steven Covey.
One day, Lyndon Johnson, then a U.S. senator, happened into the office of his mentor, Sam Rayburn, House speaker, and the older man was transfixed by an image on the television. It was then-vice president Richard Nixon. "Look at that face," Rayburn said, shaking his head in disgust. "That hateful face."
Harper has never appeared to me to be enjoying his job. Is this man who used to lecture U.S. audiences on the inferiority of Canada destined to become downright hateful? It's not a fate I'd wish on anyone, obviously. But I do sometimes worry.