Oh, Kanadar!

By: Rachel Marsden

Here’s a fun little game. See if you can correctly identify the following country: Government cronies looting the public treasury. A de facto one-party state without any viable opposition, and a government that fancies itself the ‘natural governing party’ as a result. A party that stays in power because one region of the country keeps it there, to the overwhelming opposition of all others. A state-run media that operates to the tune of over a billion dollars annually in public money and spews out pro-Palestinian and anti-American propaganda that makes Al Jazeera look fair and balanced. Judges appointed directly by the government in power, without any confirmation process or real scrutiny.

Did you guess that it was pre-Saddam Iraq? Cuba? One of those other third-world dumps that tells the USA what to do as a member of the illustrious United Nations Security Council? (Hey, maybe those tsunamis are just God flushing...and flushing...and...?) Nope. It’s Canada: America’s largest trading partner, one of its top sources of oil, and the country with which it shares the world's largest undefended border at a time of hyper-security.

This past week, Canada made headlines with CNN, Yahoo! News and other American media outlets as a result of its rampant government corruption. It’s a shocker because Canada usually only makes headlines in the “Jackass of the Day” section of the American media, like when some jerk Canadian goes off his meds and gets arrested for streaking the Olympic diving competition in a tutu, or a Liberal Party politician calls Americans “idiots” or George W. Bush a “moron”.

The columns I submit to my American editors dealing with Canada usually get returned with a note saying, “Too much Canada. No one here really cares.” But in the past week, my e-mail box has been flooded with questions from American media and political elites wanting to know, “What the hell is going on up there?” My answer: Nothing new. Just the same old corruption that none of you cared about until today.

Maybe it’s time for America to actually start giving a damn about the political direction of the mammoth country right next door, at least as much as it cares about what’s happening in the Middle East? Just a thought.

The last time a Canadian Prime Minister took to the airwaves to address the nation, it was during the 1995 referendum that threatened to split off Quebec from the rest of the country. Last week, it apparently constituted a ‘crisis’ because the ‘natural governing party’ was losing a public relations war after it was revealed at an inquiry that millions of tax dollars were being funneled into the pockets of Liberal party cronies in exchange for zip-all.

Now the opposition conservatives, lead by a C3PO doppelganger by the name of Stephen Harper, are threatening to pull the plug on the minority Liberal government. This means that Canadians could head to the polls as early as June for the second federal election in less than a year.

In his national address, Prime Minister Paul Martin maintained that he knew nothing of the fiscal scandal that took place under his watch as Finance Minister, even though the very first thing he did as Prime Minister was cancel the program. Martin begged the nation not to rush to judgment, but rather to wait until all the evidence was in from the damning inquiry. He promised an election within thirty days of the final report on the affair, expected sometime late this year.

Yeah, well sorry pal, but politics doesn’t work that way. What happens is that Joe and Jane Canucklehead get to play judge, jury and executioner over their morning coffee and muffin while reading stuff about you in the newspaper--true or not. If the political arena was a court of law, then the House of Commons wouldn’t be the only place in the country where you can defame your opponent and accuse him of all sorts of crimes, with total impunity--and all on national television.

Just ask former US Rep. Gary Condit (D-CA) -- falsely implicated by his opponents and by the media in the murder of Capitol Hill intern, Chandra Levy, and now busy settling multi-million dollar defamation suits against media members while running an ice cream stand -- what it’s like to get the “cutoff wave” from the electorate after they’ve cut your career short as a result of leaping to premature conclusions. It’s just like when you drive like a jerk and cut some poor guy off, nearly killing him, and then figure that it’s all good because you gave him that cute little wave in the rear view as you sped away. It’s like, “Whoops! My bad, dude. But oh well. See ya!”

This is what the bloodsport of politics has always been about: perception. Just because the rules don’t currently suit the Prime Minister, doesn’t mean that he can now start re-writing them and shifting the goal posts around to suit his purposes. If your spin-doctors suck, then that’s your problem.

If there’s actually a good reason not to have an election call, it’s that the Canadian public very clearly doesn’t want one, according to the polls. Given this fact, Harper will pull the plug at his own personal peril.

Here’s the deal with “C3PO” Harper: If Canadians actually saw him and his party as a credible alternative to the Liberals, they’d already be in government. Why? Because before the last election, Canadians already assumed the worst about the sponsorship scandal. Canadians basically figured that the Liberals were a crooked bunch of mobsters--and still voted for them over Harper’s Conservatives. Unless the inquiry finds that the Prime Minister was snorting lines of coke off his desk, or that a dead hooker rolled out of his closet, it’s going to be an uphill haul for Harper.

C3PO does not make a good leader. I've heard that he’s a policy wonk, and a smart guy. Great. That means he should be wonking off in a backroom somewhere--not heading up a party whose job is to sell itself and its ideas to Canadians. Canadians like to see some sort of humanity in their Prime Ministerial candidates. I’m not saying that he should go guts-out and choke a homeless guy like former Liberal PM Jean Chretien did, but for Harper, blinking during press conferences would be a good start.

Memo to the Conservative backroom boys: If you’re still beta testing the Harpertron 3000, it needs some major adjustments before it’s ready for prime time.

Harper isn’t a good communicator, either. If he was, he would have been able to explain any policy differences between his party and the Liberals to Canadians. But the man can’t explain anything. He should be working as an assembly guide writer for Ikea.

In the lead-up to the last election, I attended a Conservative Party strategy meeting during which Harper’s current political operations director, Doug Finley, explained that the party’s strategy was going to consist of matching the Liberals on every one of their policies, and arguing that the only difference between the Liberals and Harper’s Conservatives was that Conservatives weren’t corrupt.

Imagine George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Maggie Thatcher, Winston Churchill, or any other great conservatives throughout history actually saying, “Okay, we’re close to these other guys in the polls, so let’s just say we’re exactly like them in every way, except not quite as shifty!”

I have long argued that the Liberal party has been taking Canada in the wrong direction. A 50% income tax rate, an embarrassing foreign policy, a health care system in crisis, a decimated military, pro-pot and pro-gay marriage agendas, and funding of a biased, state-controlled media are just a few examples of things that need to be fixed or nixed.

But Stephen Harper hasn’t proven himself to be the guy who is capable of leading this country in a new direction. He also has a chronic case of John Kerry Flipflopitis. Canadians don't know what the heck they'd be getting if they voted this guy into office.

He threw his support behind the Liberal government’s budget two months ago, but is now threatening to defeat it and force an election.

Once vehemently opposed to the Kyoto Accord, Harper now embraces it, despite the fact that the science behind it has officially been refuted by more than 18,000 scientists worldwide.

His party recently supported increased funding for the CBC--an organization that oh-so-objectively labels Palestinian terrorists freedom fighters; considers a ‘documentary’ by the daughter of House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, to be a ‘pro-Bush’ piece; and whose idea of ‘fair and balanced’ programming is left vs. far-left.

C3P0 initially supported the US Ballistic Missile Defense program, but then caved on the issue right in front of George W. Bush during a state visit to Canada.

Harper knows full well that public health care can’t be sustained in this country, and that private clinics are not only operational, but have been used by provinces as a way of clearing their waiting list backlogs; however, when two conservative leaders (former Ontario Premier Mike Harris and Reform Party founder Preston Manning) spoke out recently on the importance of re-evaluating the current system, Harper publicly disowned them.

Canadians like to punish the Liberals, but only fictitiously. In other words, “Hey, Paulie Canuck! Look how pissed off I am at you here on this call-in radio show! Lookie lookie, Paulie! Look how bad I’m telling you off on the phone with this pollster guy! And in this letter to the editor, too!”

After the last election, people were scratching their heads and wondering how the Conservatives could have been doing so well in the polls, and in the letters to the editor, but then end up getting royally hammered on voting day. The answer is that no matter how much they distrust and dislike the Liberals, they distrust and dislike C3PO even more.

Until Harper adopts an issue -- any damn issue, just pick one and stick with it for more than ten seconds, Stevie -- that resonates with Canadians (particularly those in Ontario whose votes actually matter in a Canadian federal election), Harper will be warming the opposition benches with that robotic butt of his. “We’re them, just better” isn’t a winning election slogan. It’s the perfect recipe for perpetual defeat.

But the sooner an election can take place, the better, because no one this time around is going to win a majority. And another minority government means that neither of these two clowns -- Harper or Martin -- will be around much longer before their party turfs them. Both men have chronic problems with their polls. Neither of these two guys can get it up. The sooner both of them are gone, the better off Canada will be.