Tough talk

There was a darkening in Stephen Harper’s rhetoric today. The line that popped in his speech to a rally in Winnipeg early this evening was this: “If you are worried about tough times then elect a government that can make tough decisions.”

So it’s tough times we’re worried about after all. That’s some distance from his suggestion a week ago that Canadians weren’t letting a mere stock market problem make them anxious about losing their jobs or homes.

In framing the situation as more dire, the Prime Minister also decided to hypothetically share his title with his main rival. By now many journalists have noted his repeated references this morning in Vancouver to how a “prime Minister Dion” would certainly drive up interest rates and bring on a recession.

Perhaps even more interesting, as a few reporters noticed, was Harper’s reference to exactly how Canada might end up with these calamities: “That is what will happen if you get prime minister Dion, either directly or by the opposition parties helping him to take power.”

That seems to be a reference to the prospect of the NDP joining forces with the Liberals to try to create a coalition government. Hard to know exactly what he had in mind—a close finish on Oct. 14, maybe, with the Tories only slightly in front, and then the Liberals and NDP trying to form a government without recourse to another election?

Speculative, but what other interpretation of “or by the opposition parties helping him to take power” is there? It will be interesting to listen for more of this notion as Harper tries to define the choice facing voters more starkly as he drives toward the finish.

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