April 5, 2020

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Opinion

Tory trail littered with potholes

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/9/2015 (1671 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA -- Stephen Harper and the Conservative party have to wonder if their election campaign slogan really should have been the "Murphy's Law Campaign."

Because it seems in many ways for the incumbent government, if anything can go wrong it will.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper smiles during a speech to supporters during a campaign stop in Abbotsford.

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Conservative leader Stephen Harper smiles during a speech to supporters during a campaign stop in Abbotsford.

There were unwelcome revelations during the fraud trial of disgraced Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy that left most Canadians unwilling to believe the prime minister didn't know anything about the expense-repayment scheme.

There is an economic recession that couldn't have been more poorly timed, coupled with polls suggesting after a decade in power the Conservatives no longer own the economy as an issue.

There was the news a doctor who was featured prominently in a promotional video posted on Harper's website commending the government for extending the military mission in Iraq is now wanted by the RCMP for kidnapping his four children.

Things started to look so bad for the Conservatives in the first few weeks, Doug Ford -- brother of notorious former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, onetime Toronto councillor and supposed Harper friend -- suggested he'll try to seek Harper's chair as the Conservative party leader. It's never a good sign when people within the fold are already writing your political exit.

But probably most troubling for the Conservatives is the sudden global attention on the European refugee crisis after the photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, lying facedown on a beach, became the catalyst for demands that the world, including Canada, finally do something about it.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander's chippy performance on a national news show, deflecting blame to the media, didn't help. While initial claims Canada had rejected the refugee application of Alan's family proved to be false, by that point many people didn't care.

For the Conservatives, Alan could be their Jane Creba.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau addresses supporters during a rally.

CP

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau addresses supporters during a rally.

Jane was the 15-year-old bystander killed during a gang-style shoot out on Boxing Day in downtown Toronto.

Her death was one of the turning points of the 2006 election. The country had tired of the Liberals and was ready for change, but hadn't quite jumped off the fence yet. The Conservatives were pushing hard on stronger crime laws and pollsters noted a shift towards the party immediately after Jane's murder -- a shift that never turned back.

The opposition parties are now painting the Conservative government as heartless to refugees and shining light on changes to policies that make it more difficult to find refuge in Canada.

The Conservatives like to run disciplined campaigns, with clear, concise and easy to understand pledges. But it is ever harder to stay on message as the licks just keep coming. Alan's death last week off the coast of Turkey forced Harper to change course entirely, postponing an infrastructure announcement and speaking off the cuff about the impact the photo had on him.

On Monday, as Harper tried to get back on track and kick off the second half of this marathon election with a promise to increase the Canada Disability Savings Grant, he was answering questions instead about two Toronto-area Conservative candidates dropped from the ballot because of embarrassing incidents.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to supporters at a campaign rally in Penticton, B.C

CP

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to supporters at a campaign rally in Penticton, B.C

The message may be tough to get through again this week, as Harper's former senior aide Bruce Carson goes on trial for influence peddling and illegal lobbying -- further raising questions about ethics of the people the prime minister surrounded himself with.

It's certainly possible things can turn around for the Tories. There are still more than six weeks to go before election day, they have a ton of money in the bank and thanks to Harper's decision to make the election call more than a month early, they can spend more than twice what they did in 2011.

They are about to launch an advertising campaign attacking their opponents the likes of which Canadians have never seen.

That ads work is unquestionable -- even my nine-year-old niece has been heard to say she doesn't think Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is ready -- but attack ads aren't always the answer.

Ask the Paul Martin Liberals in 2005. Knowing Canadians were ready to show them the door, the Liberals ran some pretty nasty attack ads on the Conservatives and Harper to try and scare Canadians from taking a risk on someone else. Sound familiar?

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Tuesday, September 8, 2015 at 6:54 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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