On May 23rd, 2004, Paul Martin challenged Canada to a stare-down.
On June 28th, 2004, Ontario blinked.
The wave of anger focused on the Liberals over the provincial budget, AdScam and other issues died in the face of fear. Fear of change, fear of hidden agendas. Martin and the Liberals ran a campaign based on telling Canadians why they should fear the new Conservatives, and it worked. We can expect more American-style attack ads in future campaigns.
Make no mistake, I had no desire to see a Conservative majority. Or a Conservative minority, or a Liberal majority or minority, or the NDP, etc., etc. Frankly, I’m completely fed up with all of them. Nor am I pleased with the results we did get; hold on to your wallets, Smilin’ Jack’s calling the shots now!
This was Harper’s campaign to win. Voters coast-to-coast were fed up enough with the Liberals to kick them out. But that’s only half of the equation.
Ousting Liberal governments in Canada requires two things:
- Voters must be fed up enough with the ruling Liberals to want to get rid of them. Check.
- The Conservatives (whatever they’re calling themselves at the moment) must present themselves as a moderate, centrist option that will sit house and not change the decor while the Liberals are regrouping. D’oh!
Harper lost the election because Ontarians feared the Conservative’s “hidden agenda.” Whether or not there was one is irrelevant. Thanks to Ralph Klein (picked a bad time to hint he would be making changes to health care in Alberta that would violate the Canada Health Act), Cheryl Gallant (compared abortion to the Iraqui beheading of American contractor Nicholas Berg, and said “sexual orientation” should be removed from hate crime laws), Randy White (said the Conservatives would use the “notwithstanding clause” to amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to prevent legalization of gay marriage), Frank Luellau (said that homosexuality “is not a natural kind of relationship”), Scott Reid (said bilingual services would be reduced if the Conservatives won) and whatever idiot wrote the “Paul Martin supports child porn” headline, he couldn’t convince Ontario that there wasn’t one, and that was what cost him.
Fear trumps anger. Every time.
P.S.: Who did I vote for? None of your business. But I will tell you that, whichever one I voted for, I held my nose while doing it.