A thorough recitation of the "Worst of Stephen Harper" would fill this column several times over and quite probably leave me bleeding from open wrists. Suffice to say, an incomplete list would include such lowlights as: being the only British Commonwealth prime minister to have ever been found in contempt of his own Parliament; his Nixonian enemies list, populated as it is by environmentalists — terrorists in his eyes — independent journalists and scientists, opposition MPs, unions, First Nations and anyone who opposes him in any perceived way; his paranoid fascination with security that has cost taxpayers one billion loonies for the G-8 and G-20 summits and ballooned his personal RCMP security detail to $20 million annually; omnibus bills C-38 and C-45 and, of course, C-10, the justice bill designed to fight imaginary crime; his contempt for the Supreme Court which unanimously struck down parts of that bill; the "environmentally friendly ethical oil" PR campaign to greenwash tar sands bitumen; demise of the long-form census; demise of the National Roundtable on the Economy and Environment who has the temerity to come out with facts in opposition to his policies... and the list goes on and on and on.
When the votes were counted in May, 2011, the Conservatives took a majority of chips off the parliamentary table with less than 40 per cent of the popular vote. The NDP, with Jack Layton leading the way like a rock star, unseated the woeful Ignatieff Liberals as official opposition. Their shares of the vote were 30.3 per cent and 18.9 per cent, respectively. Ironically, pulling only slightly more than half the percentage of votes cast than in the previous election — 3.9 per cent versus 6.8 per cent — Elizabeth May finally became the first Green MP.
Commenting on the unfettered power his majority government would enjoy, a beaming Harper predicted fundamental changes that would make the country unrecognizable. As ominous as it sounded, few imagined the all out assault that was about to be unleashed against what most Canadians thought of as their basic, democratic institutions in favour of the ascendancy of raw, corporate power.
But the wheel keeps spinning and next May Canadians will have another kick at the election cat. There are three threats to another Conservative majority. The known known, to employ Rumsfeldian logic, is Justin Trudeau's charisma as leader of the Liberals, a trait sorely lacking in any recent leader of the party. Working against his seemingly bottomless pool of charisma is his youth, lack of experience and reputation as a lightweight everywhere outside the boxing ring. Nonetheless, it far outweighs the double blow suffered by the NDP — the loss of Jack Layton and the high disregard in which Thomas Mulcair is held both inside and outside his party.
The unknown known threat to the Conservatives is the extent to which Mr. Harper's heavy-handedness has alienated moderate, small-c conservatives. His pique against Beverly McLaughlin, his blind, ramrod support of Northern Gateway, his disdain for anyone and anything outside his most ardent base, and his negative charisma have turned off many who voted for him in the past.
The unknown unknown threat is whatever's about to hit the fan when Mike Duffy defends himself against the charges laid last week by the RCMP. Given the pace of justice in Canada, that case is likely to lead the nightly news between the time it begins this autumn and the time the writ is dropped next spring. It would be a smarter bet to wager on Duffy's untimely death than to bet against the evidence leading to Mr. Harper's doorstep.
But the single biggest ace up Mr. Harper's sleeve is the continuing fracture of the anti-Harper vote. Once again, the NDP and Liberal power brokers seem powerless to see what the leaders of Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties saw in 2003 — that they can continue to hew to their separate ideological views of liberalism at the cost of continuing to lose elections or they can come together and perhaps change their destiny. Or, as Warren Kinsella wrote in "The Biggest Losers" in the July/August 2011 issue of The Walrus, "... you know, win a fucking election."
But maybe it'll take another electoral loss, or three, before the NDP and Liberals grow up and face reality. Most certainly it's a better bet they'll see the light long before any of us ever see any form of proportional representation in this country.
Which is why, at a local level, voting strategically, voting with our heads next May will continue to be more important and meaningful than voting with our hearts.
A couple of letter writers in Pique — and a whole bunch more in my email inbox — have taken me to task for berating their Green votes. I love letters from people who disagree with me. It's been a long-standing request with both Pique editors that they run those rather than any, however few, who agree. But in this case, dear letter writers, you're wrong; I'm right.
If you vote for the Green candidate next May in this riding, consider yourself having voted for John Weston by proxy. Pat yourself on the back for voting to continue the reign of terror unleashed by Mad Dog Harper. Count yourself among the personal persecutors of your patron saint, David Suzuki. Smell the bitumen in the early morning air and know it is your legacy.
For the first time in three federal elections, the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding finally has a serious and attractive Liberal candidate in Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, the crime of hyphenation notwithstanding. And having had ample opportunity to witness the buffoonery of Mr. Weston firsthand, there is a very good chance the voters of West Vancouver will return to their Liberal ways and vote for their former mayor this time around. After all, they're not Alberta Conservatives; they're west coast, closet whale-hugging, liberal conservatives, more Volvo crossover than Chevy SUV.
I have no doubt that in his nightly prayers, Mr. Weston petitions the lord for a strong NDP opponent and an army of righteous Green voters who believe in their heart of hearts it is better to lose an election than compromise their principles.
At least one letter writer bemoaned the energy-intensive initiatives of Christy Clark's provincial Liberals that threaten the environmental beauty of this riding. While I'm first to point out the manifold failings of the provincial NDP in the last election, there is no doubt that the Liberals won 12 ridings in which the combined NDP and Green vote outweighed theirs. It would only have taken a swing of nine of those ridings to change the government. While the NDP may have had less pure environmental platforms than Greens, it takes a certain, how should I put this, head-in-the-sand stand to suggest the environment is better off with Christy's LNG dreams.
So it's up to you, Greenies. You can vote with your hearts or, you know, "win a fucking election" by defeating your biggest enemy. Your choice.