Megapundit: Campaign day two—The vultures circle

Must-reads: Jeffrey Simpson on rebuilding the Mulroney coalition; John Ivison on Harper’s performance; Lorne Gunter on Dion’s much-derided airplane.

The Montreal Gazette‘s Don MacPherson attends the Liberal nomination meeting in Jeanne-Le Ber and finds very little enthusiasm for the eventual winner, Christian Feuillette, or for the party in general—despite what appeared to be an impressive turnout. “An attempt by a supporter to lead a cheer for the new candidate was soon abandoned, as the hall quickly emptied,” he reports. “Senior Liberals” tapped for optimistic sound bytes delivered hopeful noises about Justin Trudeau in Papineau, but little else. Meanwhile, MacPherson notes, Gilles Duceppe isn’t even bothering to mention the Liberals in his campaign appearances.

Abandon hope, all ye who yearn for an intelligent, issues-based election, Sun Media’s Greg Weston advises, based on Stéphane Dion’s performance yesterday. Calling the Prime Minister a liar is, apparently, the very height of election mudslinging regardless of whether he was lying or not, and doing it twice in a day the equivalent of a thousand GOP attack ads. The better evidence that the whole thing will soon become a “pissing match,” in our opinion, was Dion’s vulturine scavenging off the Dawson College shooting to declare that “Stephen Harper is soft on crime because he’s soft on assault weapons.”

Line of the day goes to the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin, who says “it’s far too early to even think of giving this tour the media-vulture treatment.” Had he not claimed otherwise, based on his descriptions of the “nose-stretcher” at Dawson College, the “now-infamous grounded Liberal plane, an ancient Air Inuit with a hefty carbon footprint” that’s “either a sign of organizational sloppiness or party poverty” and campaign buses “roaming around Ottawa and Montreal looking for something to do,” not to mention a “high road” campaign that’s “on a downhill drop into a muddy ditch”—that’s just one column!—we’d have guessed the thought had at least crossed his mind.

“It’s not the hypocrisy” that’s important about Dion’s campaign plane being a 29-year-old carbon-spewing relic or Al Gore’s mansion being an ecological hate crime, Lorne Gunter argues in the National Post, but “the way in which their actions undermine their rhetorical reassurances that the transformation of our economy from carbon-based to carbon-free will be simple and inexpensive.” That’s a pretty good point. It would have been a better point had he not christened the Air Inuit 737 “Hypocrite One” in just his second paragraph.

Stephen Harper’s “application of power is as legitimate an issue as Dion’s unproven ability,” James Travers writes in the Toronto Star, suggesting there are plenty of blemishes on the Prime Minister’s leadership record, including “second thoughts on… income trusts, the Atlantic Accord, accountability, and sharing power with Parliament,” not to mention “slimm[ing] a double-digit surplus into a rounding error.” When it comes to the economy, in other words, the Harper can’t just rest on his laurels. He has to explain, for example, whether “his second government will be more broadly activist and engaged, less laissez-faire and reliant on the market’s invisible hand, than the first.” Maybe Jim Prentice could super-duper kill the MDA takeover, for example.

“During their two full years in government, federal spending on programs rose by about $20 billon,” Thomas Walkom writes, also in the Star, which is exactly how much it rose during “the last two full years of the previous Liberal government.” True, much of that has gone to the military, but there’s little room between the Grits and Tories on Afghanistan either, he notes—nor on healthcare, paying down debt and any number of other departments where both parties would have you believe stark contradictions exist.

A vote for a majority-hungry Stephen Harper is a vote for “a re-imagined, conservative Canada,” Andrew Cohen warns in the Ottawa Citizen—one in which devolutionary moves like declaring Quebec a nation will continue apace and the national portrait gallery will open its doors in a Regina strip mall. Canadians in 2006 “shrewdly … engineered a change of government without a change in direction,” with a “robust opposition” and even seats for the Tories in Quebec, Cohen argues—apparently unaware that each of us only cast a single ballot—and we’d better think carefully about how we want it re-reengineered on October 14.

The setting for yesterday’s Prime Ministerial photo-op in Richmond, B.C. “was pure comedy,” says the Post‘s John Ivison: children’s toys strewn about a pristine, middle-class suburban lawn that reporters and cameramen were ruining. And the message—engaging babies, pointing to all he’s done for middle-class families and all the Liberals might do to threaten them—was pretty hackneyed. Nevertheless, says Ivison, Harper looks genuinely relaxed and confident thus far in the campaign—”a credible facsimile of someone with whom voters can identify” despite his many shortcomings and despite “earning $300,000 a year and living in a fully staffed limestone mansion overlooking the Ottawa River.”

The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson notes that Harper is essentially trying to recreate Brian Mulroney’s coalition between Quebec nationalists and conservative-minded folk in the rest of Canada, and employing tactics—recognizing Quebec as a nation, giving it more international representation, etc.— that “he would have railed against as a Reform MP.” Simpson suggests that the most historic element, should Harper be successful, would be that an Albertan managed to pull it off. “Never in Canadian history has a party led by a non-Quebecker won more seats in Quebec than one led by a Quebecker.”

“The Liberal and Conservative parties being as close as they are in public popularity can be seen as a rebuke to Tory leadership, which should be miles in front,” says the Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington. But he argues that while Harper hardly exudes warmth and cuddliness, he “is far more a ‘man of the people’ than Dion who, to put it bluntly, some people (like me) cannot imagine Canadians ever electing as PM.” The real threat to the Tories, Worthington concludes, will come when one of Bob Rae or Michael Ignatieff offers a more competent, more personable alternative.

The Citizen‘s Randall Denley encourages Ottawans “to press our area candidates on what they and their parties will really do for” the national capital when it comes to various transportation woes—a new bridge across the river, a light rail loop to Gatineau, etc.—and other issues to which the feds generally give short shrift. “Don’t hesitate to remind them that we are choosing them to represent us in the government, not to represent the government in the community,” he writes.

The Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe explains why American elections are so spicy and dramatic, and ours are so stodgy: presidential candidates tend to have military backgrounds, she notes, which gives flag-waving patriots something to sink their teeth into; religion plays a huge role south of the border, thus further inflaming opinions; people get to vote for President directly; and, of course, the American media “focus more on entertainment-style reporting, serving the interests of TV ratings competition”… unlike all the sober, wonkish policy analysis we’ve just summarized for y’all.

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