There has been much talk recently about the Conservatives hiring of the Australian strategist, Lynton Crosby. Known for his dirty and divisive campaigns, the news sent, if not shock waves, at least ripples; throughout the rival teams and their supporters.
However, we have since learned that Crosby has been working on Stephen Harper's campaign since March, and in fact has been guiding him since 2006.
Why are we just hearing of this now?
Lynton's reputation for creating wedge issues, or what he calls "wedge strategy", is well known, as is his use of simplistic political idioms that become ingrained in the minds of the electorate. Things like "not a leader", "just visiting", "proven leadership" and "not ready", certainly come to mind.
However, his real skill is in dividing the opposition by deliberately focusing on a debate, destined to become a hot button issue.
Normally, with something as important as Harper's omnibus anti-terror legislation, opposition parties would unite, as they did against the abuse of prorogation, the Afghan detainee issue, and the closing of the prison farms. But by introducing the bill just before an election, this presented a problem. The opposition would have to find a way to work this bill, C-51, into their election strategies.
The Liberals decided to support the Bill, to avoid being labelled "soft on terror"', but were going to use their proposed amendments, as part of their platform. They had already succeeded in changing the wording so that the bill did not prevent protests, despite what the law's detractors would like you to believe.
The NDP hedged a bit, not sure what to do. Thomas Mulcair publicly stated that if elected, he would not scrap the bill, but simply amend it. That made sense, since it does contain some important measures. We also had to respect the two soldiers who were killed, and not let their deaths be forgotten.
However, NDP supporters were outraged. Michael Laxer, Roy Romanow and Ed Broadbent all weighed in, essentially calling Mulcair a coward if he didn't step up. So he did. I don't need to tell you what happened next, but with the help of the media, Justin Trudeau became the fall guy for Stephen Harper's bill.
Lyton Crosby couldn't have done better if he'd scripted the entire thing himself. Of course, he probably did, or at least wrote some of the lines.
Where the NDP Went Wrong
After David Cameron's surprising victory in the UK, Lynton Crosby explained to the International Business News, how that was accomplished. Cameron was as unpopular as Harper is now, and like Harper, he gave the opposition a lot of things to oppose. Said Crosby:
"One of the reasons why Labour did not succeed in the UK in the last election was that they never did the work as an opposition to prepare themselves again for government, and they were very opportunistic in all of what they did in the five years that they were in opposition. So they jumped on various issues, but they never had a story to tell."Mulcair painted himself as the great debater and great opposer, but never really told the NDP story. In fact, at times he contradicted his party's positions, and even his own. You can't just be against things, but have to be for something.
Their platform was all over the place, promising the moon, while aligning the stars. CTV has learned recently from some leaked documentation, that they have not even costed out their spending proposals. They have no idea how they're going to pay for all this stuff, only that they will magically balance the books. Like anyone cares.
They went too far with C-51, and have created a void. The last poll conducted on the issue was at the end of May, and showed that 72% of Canadians support the measures, despite the perceived loss of privacy. Besides, the common belief is that if you are not engaged in terrorist activities, you have nothing to worry about.
But since Crosby's main goal is to cause vitriolic debate within the opposing parties, he certainly accomplished that. If any good came of it, I was pushed to research Mulcair, to counter some of the attacks on Justin Trudeau.
After learning what I did, I then said "hell no". We've got another Stephen Harper waiting in the wings, and felt compelled to do what I could to prevent that from happening.
However, for all those who think that Thomas Mulcair and the NDP will repeal C-51, think again. Even if they could, which they can't without the Senate, they will not want to. It's a very easy thing to say during an election campaign, but something all together different when you're in government.
Pressure from the right wing media, who loved Mulcair's stance on Palestine and Margaret Thatcher, would kick in, and the security forces, who pushed for more power, would advise him that they need those laws.
Mulcair, like Trudeau, is smart enough to know that being "soft on terror" is not a label he would like to wear, especially if we lose any more soldiers at home. After the actual French terrorist attacks, they adopted strict anti-terrorist laws and their leader's ratings soared.
When George Bush brought in the Patriot Act, the same thing happened. Fear is a strong motivator and we often look for a parent to protect us, whether it is our family's leader or our country's. It's simple human nature. Harper has won this debate, and he can sit back, hold steady, and allow the NDP to do his dirty work for him.
Lynton Crosby is smart and tough, and not afraid to get his hands dirty, but he is not infallible. We need to take comfort in the fact that he has been working with Stephen Harper since 2006, and Canadians still don't like him.
All political parties need to campaign their hearts outs, and now that they know who Crosby is, and what he represents, refuse to get caught up in the nonsense. Debate policies and platforms and put in the work necessary to win. That's how Stephen Harper will be defeated.