Of course, Harper wants to keep his majority in the next election. But the odds of that happening are already reasonably high. The House of Commons will have an additional 30 seats in the next Parliament, all but three of which will be in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. Simple math suggests the Conservatives will win far more than half of these and Harper will keep his hold on the House.
But his goals are much grander than just another majority. First, he wants to bring about the permanent weakening — though perhaps not the complete collapse — of the Liberal party. Second, he wishes to establish the Conservatives as “the natural governing party,” for much of the 20th century the descriptive given to the Liberals.
Odds are longer that he will achieve both. But the odds are not small.
Harper’s hope to permanently weaken the Liberals is helped in large part by the Liberals’ own myths and misconceptions about the reasons for their success. Principal among these is the party’s mistaken beliefs that it is a party of the centre and that this is an electoral virtue.
Here is how Harper is going to carry out his sinister plan (insert evil laughter here)
The strategy is threefold. First, Harper will continue the appropriation of national symbols. Second, he will further establish his base of support among Canada’s immigrant communities. Third, he will remain focused on delivering a managerially competent, slow moving federal government.
On the first score, one needs to look no further than the government’s continued efforts to bolster Canada’s military in both its current and past engagements. There is little need for a strong connection between the actual facts of military endeavours and their glorification. If there were, our national image of an actively engaged peacekeeping force would have ceased by the 1980s.
The government’s celebration of the British triumph in the War of 1812 and its slow and dignified drawdown of troops in Afghanistan are both part and parcel of a re-establishment of military endeavour as central to Canadian identity. What is the response of the Liberal and New Democratic parties to this? Not much, except objections over the cost of fighter jets.
On the second score, the strategy to win the support of immigrants, the government has both demographics and electoral savvy on its side. The composition of Canada’s immigrant communities, their average levels of wealth, their mean social values, all of these tip them toward the Conservatives. This combines neatly with the entrance of more than two million immigrants into Canada since the Conservatives took power in 2006. Add in the Tories’ regular courting of these communities and you have a recipe for continued and growing success among a group composing an ever-larger portion of the population.
Finally, Harper will likely eschew grand bargains in exchange for managerial, deliberate government. There is no apparent need for a deal to reconcile Quebec to the constitution, in large measure because of the low odds of a referendum ever being held again.
There is also no need to fundamentally change the constitutionally mandated fiscal structure of the country. Harper can merely back farther away from meddling in provincial jurisdictions. He has something of partner in this in Mulcair, as it happens. And he can likely dispense of what seem like major problems — the aforementioned procurement of fighter jets and the ongoing investigation over electoral manipulation — through changes in personnel. It is not apparent that other scandals abound.
The Conservatives will rot out like every other (Liberal, NDP, PQ, and Liberal) government in this country. They will make mistakes, the public will grow tired of them, and we will support on mass another party. It is even happening right now in Alberta. In 2000 we had stories of a right wing permanent majority that Karl Rove was behind. How did that turn out? The same thing will happen here in Canada and the only question is if it is the Liberals or the NDP that bounce back.