June 10, 2005


Would replacing Harper solve anything?

Mike Brock recently made this post on his blog:
Whether or not Stephen Harper is deserving of the negative perceptions he carries is immaterial. He is simply carrying too much baggage, and that is pulling the party down.

We need to bring a fresh face to the leadership of the party. We need somebody who can be given a reasonable and fair chance to sell his or her message to the Canadian people, without having to face deeply held preconceived notions of hidden agendas and radicalism.
The problem with this is that it's a fantasy to believe that that getting rid of Stephen Harper will solve the Conservative Party's image problem. Having a non-Western "moderate" won't accomplish anything, as we will never escape these "preconceived notions of hidden agendas and radicalism." Frankly, the press already does seem to view Harper as rather moderate; instead, they play up the idea that he is "beholden" to extremists.

We could have Jack Layton as our leader, and the Liberals and the media would still crucify him as being a tool of the scary Christian hard-right blah blah blah.

Almost nothing could make the CPC look less capable of governing in the eyes of Canadians than dumping its leader after the first bad poll. It's worth noting that since the Liberals took power, no conservative party has had the same leader for two elections in a row. The PCs had Kim Campbell (1993), Jean Charest (1997), and Joe Clark (2000); the Reform/Alliance side had Preston Manning (1997) and Stockwell Day (2000); and the merged parties had Stephen Harper (2004). (Manning was also the leader in 1993, but wasn't considered to have any chance of becoming Prime Minister until 1997.) These constant leadership changes allowed the Liberals to paint us as having a hidden agenda every single time. It also made the parties look unprofessional and unprepared to govern.

There's also the matter of how, if Harper steps down now, it would be very easy for the Liberals to deliberately lose a non-confidence vote so they could fight an election against a leaderless Conservative Party (who would still get blamed for causing "an election no one wants").

In the next election, it will be much harder for the Liberals to convince Canadians that Harper has a hidden agenda (especially if the CPC starts promoting the positive aspects of their platform well in advance) than it was last time, or than it would be for an unknown new leader.

Update: Bound by Gravity says it much more succinctly.

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The CPC needs support in Ontario and Quebec. A huge part of the Bloc voters used to be PC supporters, but they are not coming back anytime soon, so Quebec is basically a lost cause ( unless a strong French conservative is put in charge ), so that leaves Ontario.

Is giving more time to the platform in Ontario than shouting those damn Liberals are crooks going to work over the next few months?

I left a comment at Bound By Gravity regarding Paul Martin's next election campaign. Its going to consist of a picture of Harper and Duceppe together and a slogan that says " A vote for the CPC is a vote for the Bloc ". If not exactly that, its going to be something very very similar. Even telling Canadians if the CPC wins even a minority government, they are going to have to do everything the Bloc wants to stay in power.

What is Harper going to say? "No we wont do that? " Even I wouldn't fall for that, and I voted PC even in 1993. ( Please dont make that out to infer I would even consider voting another party in the next election, Harper or not )

You dont think that is going to have an absolutely devastating effect on the semi-undecided Ontario voter? You think the typical Ontario voter is scared of Harper right now? Just see how scared they are of the Bloc wielding REAL power in Parliament.

So what do we do? Will another leader change the current situation? I dont know, but I dont think now is the time to be taking small steps. We either make the decision right now, or we come up with a different radical plan to improve our standing with the Ontario and Quebec voters.

I do however think a strong Ontario or even Quebec CPC leader would win at least 10 more seats in the next election, and that would change our standing considerably. Would the West desert the CPC if that happened? They might, but it would make at least another decade of Liberal rule almost a certainty.

Pushing the platform and saying "See we told you so " about Medicare just isnt going to do it.
Paul Martin has already started the leaflet in the mail campaign of denouncing Harper as in cohoots with the Bloc to destroy Canada, just like you noted . There was no picture of Dceppe but they chose a blank stare blue eyes, ice flowing in his veins type of Harper picture to make him look scary ....
A small quibble - wasn't Manning leader of Reform for '93 and '97? Granted, Reform was virutally unknown before that, but I think they were around in '88 as well.
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