Monday, February 28, 2011

Only 26% of Canadians Comfortable With Harper Majority. Now is the Time to Write the Narrative

The UN checkpoint was a sand-bagged portakabin manned by two Canadian infantrymen guarding a road barrier between the Croat- and Serb-held sections of Pakrac in central Croatia. The road to the checkpoint wound its way between pulverized bungalows, upended cars in the ditches, waist-high grass in abandoned gardens. Just visible in the grass, as we approached the checkpoint, were
teenage Croatian spotters, with their binoculars trained on the Serbian side.

The UN had just waved us through into Serb-held territory when fifteen armed Serbian paramilitaries surrounded our van. They had been drinking at a wedding in their village.

The drunkest one, with dead eyes and glassy, sweat-beaded skin, forced the van door open and clambered in. 'We watching you,' he said, making binocular gestures with his hands. 'You talk to Ustashe,' and he pointed back at the Croatians hiding in the grass. Then he took the pistol out of his belt. 'You fucking spies,' he said. He ordered the driver out at gunpoint, took the wheel and began revving the engine. Why can't I shoot this?' groaned the cameraman in the seat behind. 'Because he'll shoot you,' someone in the back of the van muttered.

The Serb put the van into gear and it was moving off when one of the UN soldiers yanked open the door, grabbed the keys and shut off the ignition. 'We'll do this my way,'the UN soldier said, breathing heavily, half pulling, half cajoling the Serb out of the driver's seat. Another young Serb in combat gear pushed his way into the van and shook his head. 'I am police. You are under arrest. Follow me.' (1)

That might sound like a scene from a Tom Clancy film, but it is not. It is part of the narrative of the life of Michael Ignatieff. A true story from his days as a war correspondent when he went into places few journalists would dare.

Those paragraphs are the opening to his book, Blood and Belonging: Journeys Into the New Nationalism, that won the Gordon Montador Award for Best Canadian Book on Social Issues and the University of Toronto's Lionel Gelber Prize. He would later create a documentary based on Blood and Belonging, which won him a Gemini in 1993.

All Canadian awards. Not bad for someone who is "just visiting".

A recent poll conducted by Nanos research, shows that only 26% of those questioned would support a Harper majority, his lowest score yet. This is not based on the old "secret agenda" ads, that Harper supporters claimed scared us off.

This is instead based on five years of Harper rule, and it is opinion based on fact.

What Canadians have been subjected to is a government with far too many secrets. A government that vilifies their opponents, intimidates public servants, and engages in guerrilla warfare, throughout what are supposed to be arms length government agencies.

And Stephen Harper is a man who refuses to answer questions. Who hides behind our troops, and our police forces. Who believes that the beating up of Canadian civilians is "good" police work and public dissent, an important civic duty, makes us enemies of the state. Hence the need for such "good" police work.

He is a man so enamoured with a foreign country (Israel) that he is willing to put our own safety in jeopardy, so as to always take Israel's side. He has marginalized Muslims, Arabs, gays and women.

And while suggesting that Michael Ignatieff is not Canadian enough, because his illustrious career took him outside the country, Stephen Harper has allowed the American Religious Right to dictate our morality. The American National Rifle Association to draft our gun policies. He allowed an American firm to build the Canadian pavilion at the CANADIAN Olympics, and another American firm to make the CANADA Action plan signs.

He is erasing our borders, and has created arbitrary trade deals, that will only benefit multinational corporations, while costing Canadians good jobs. With the help of Jim Flaherty and Goldman Sachs, he has deregulated our once sound banking industry, so that we will not weather another economic downturn, as well as we did the last.

He has cut funding to scientific research and called Global Warming a "socialist plot". His aggressive foreign policies and one-sided approach to the Middle East, cost us a seat on the UN Security Council, and under him, Canada has dropped in terms of one of the best places to live.

So his recent dip in trustworthiness, can be blamed on him and him alone. Canadians don't trust him because he has given us reason not to trust him.

But the Nanos research also reveals something else, when it comes to Michael Ignatieff.

When asked whether each of the party leaders would help, hinder or have no impact on the fortunes of their local candidate during an election, only 18 per cent thought Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff would boost their fortunes; 30 per cent thought his leadership would do more harm than good. That gives him a net impact score of minus 12 per cent, compared with the plus 19 per cent score he enjoyed when he became leader in April, 2009. It is a precipitous drop.

... “It speaks to the missed opportunity to write the narrative on Michael Ignatieff,” Mr. Nanos believes. When the Liberals failed to construct that narrative, the Conservatives seized the opportunity and decided to tell the story their way. “Just visiting.” “He didn’t come back for you.” It worked.

However, I believe it only worked in the short term. Yes the Conservatives have a lot of corporate money behind them and can afford to run expensive attack ads, so we've been subjected to two years of non-stop character assassination.

However, they have also given Michael Ignatieff an opportunity to flaunt his resume. What may have at one time looked like bragging, will now be simply defending himself. And Liberal supporters must do the same.

So consider this me, seizing the opportunity, and beginning to write the narrative that is Michael Ignatieff.

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