Monday, October 06, 2008

Mr Experience?

While I was writing about Stephen Harper's history of plagiarism, it dawned on me that - other than his other well-known character flaws (propensity for dirty tricks, willingness to do anything to win) - the probable reason that Harper stole other people's speeches was that he was out of his depth as a newly-minted Leader of the Opposition.

To recap, Harper was primarily known as a backroom player until 2002, when he became leader of the Canadian Reform Alliance party. (He had been on the national stage before, as a Reform MP from 1993-97, but his party wasn't even number 2.) In May 2002 Harper was elected leader and then won a seat in a by-election, and suddenly he was leader of the opposition.

It was in that period and over the next year that Harper is known to have plagiarized at least two speeches. The John Howard speech, which he lifted whole sections of in 2003, was particularly important to his fledgling career. He also used the plagiarized speech as the basis of several editorials that were published in the National Post, Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen and Wall Street Journal.

This line of thought made me realize that Harper was a rookie party leader just six years ago. He has no cabinet experience and just two and a half years experience as prime minister. It's not nothing, but it's hardly the seasoned old leader that his fireside ads portray.

It shows the effectiveness of political propaganda: even I had started to unconsciously buy into the image of Harper as an experienced old war horse.

As to Harper's portrayal of himself as an economist, I've already refuted that. His party does not even have a good record as ecnoomic stewards - despite cuts to social spending, Brian Mulroney sent the deficit into the stratosphere, and left it to Chretien/Martin to clean up. The reason Canadians elect Liberal governments so often is that Liberals have the best record on economic management.

In their latest ads, Conservatives try to portray Harper as the safe choice, calling the Liberal Green Shift proposal untested and concluding, "It's just not worth the risk." That's all part of the web of lies. Carbon taxes have been successfully used for years, in the UK, Sweden, Finland, Holland, and elsewhere. In fact, almost all countries, including Canada, already have consumption taxes on fuel, which are carbon taxes. Even former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker said that "it would be wiser to impose a tax on oil than to wait for the market to drive up oil prices."

The Green Shift untested? Just another lie.

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