“(You’re) hungry for the word, but God would never speak through such as these … They’ll tell your troubles to the lord for how ever much you can afford.”
— From “Bread and Circuses,” by 10,000 Maniacs
The most honest words to have come out of Stephen Harper’s election campaign so far are the ones that pop up when you click on the photos and videos he sends in his daily flurry of electronic news releases.
“This link might be a fraud,” it warns.
Sounds like an apt description of the leader of the only government in the Commonwealth to have ever been declared in contempt of Parliament.
On a campaign stop in rural Ontario Monday, Harper’s stage props consisted of a gaggle of young people leaning awkwardly on bales of hay on a farm in Wainfleet, Ont.
On his whistle-stop tour of St. John’s the week before, he propped up his desperate agenda with a gaggle of uncomfortable-looking young people and a handful of political has-beens and hypocrites who helped lead the charge against him during Danny Williams’ ABC Campaign of 2008.
I say it’s time for a new campaign, even if Williams isn’t leading it.
After all, what’s changed since then? The budget tabled just before Parliament dissolved contained cuts to three agencies that are key to this province: Marine Atlantic, ACOA and DFO.
You think that was a coincidence, or was Steve still punishing this province because of bad blood with Danny? Or was it because he figures if he was going to make cuts we’re one of the provinces that matters least in terms of the number of seats at stake?
Why not ask Fabian Manning, Trevor Taylor, Loyola Sullivan or John Ottenheimer — Harper’s new Newfoundland disciples. Presumably they would endorse Harper’s budget.
Lord knows he must have something going for him to draw those four out of the woodwork. Watching their shameless sycophancy as they offered themselves up to the federal Cons in recent days has been, as my father so sagely noted, like poking an ant’s nest with a stick and watching what scurried out.
Fabian, Trevor, Loyola and John — Williams stalwarts all, until the next gravy train comes along.
And Dunderdale, too, so quickly willing to align herself with the provincial government’s former foe, all for the wisp of a promise of something Harper might do down the road if the stars are aligned and we are cursed to find him leading a majority government.
“I don’t feel like I’ve thrown my political fortunes in with the federal Conservatives,” the premier told the media on Monday.
Perhaps someone should take her aside and quietly explain what a Faustian bargain is.
For anyone who may have missed some of the subtleties of this campaign so far, allow me to elucidate:
Dunderdale, realizing that the Muskrat Falls development cannot go ahead without federal help, cosied up to Harper in an attempt to win his support. (Too bad she didn’t get it in writing).
Fabian, Trevor, Loyola and John — some of whom had cut their provincial political careers short due to ill health or a new-found desire to put family first — sniffed change in the wind. Now that Williams is out of the picture and the provincial government has handed Harper an olive branch, what better time to try to settle in at the trough again. ABC Campaign? What ABC Campaign?
And for Loyola and Fabian, who sacrificed their financially cushy “situations” — a fish ambassadorship and a Senate seat, respectively — there’s the added benefit that Harper will owe them a debt for having offered themselves up, even if they lose the election.
Fabian was even foolish enough to point out publicly that the real decision-making is in Parliament rather than the Senate, which makes you wonder why he was content to remain in such an ineffectual position for so long and accept a big fat paycheque. Oh wait — I forgot. His Senate seat combined with a lack of Tory MPs in this province made him the perfect federal representative to be sent home now and again with the government chequebook.
Not a bad job if you aim to throw your hat back in the political ring.
When Harper finally deigned to speak publicly after his government was found in contempt of Parliament — that’s something for the old résumé, hey? — he lamented the fact that Canadians were being forced into an election they did not want.
Really? Some of us have been chomping at the bit to get rid of Harper, and I’m looking forward to marking my ballot for a candidate who will represent the people’s interests instead of someone who’s eager to represent Harper’s.
Because make no mistake, any Conservatives this province sends to Ottawa will be sent back here to shove Harper’s agenda down our throats; they won’t be up on Parliament Hill risking their political hides and lucrative paycheques and pensions to stand up for you and me.
Recent history has shown us that. John Efford, anybody? Loyola Hearn?
I urge everyone to get out and vote on May 2, regardless of your political affiliation.
Just remember, though. A vote for Harper is a vote in favour of someone who showed contempt for your Parliament.
Contempt for you.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.