“East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.”—Rudyard Kipling.
As we head into the next campaign, the truism of Kipling’s line as applied to Canada has never seemed more obvious. For the interests of the regions of Canada are different, as is the reactions we see in them to events.
The point (today, at least) is not that one is right and the other wrong. Rather, it is something far less considered by the average person: that both can be right at once.
It was Werner Patels’ comment on the daveberta:Scott Tribe exchange that sparked this thought. For, as an ex-Ontarian (and someone who has just returned to BC from spending time with friends and relatives in Ontario) and now un homme de l’ouest, I see the truth of both of their positions.
(In passing, let’s remember that Canada is more than a simple “East vs West” — the country contains at least eight well-defined regions that seldom map well to provincial boundaries. Still, since the original discussion was between an Albertan and an Ontarian, the “East is East” construct commended itself.)
As with daveberta and Werner Patels, I find myself in agreement that all of the attempts to paint the Harper Government with scandal — including the “scandal” of actually musing aloud about going to the polls before the “fixed election date” — are water off the duck’s back of the West. Whether it’s In-and-Out, Couillard, Mulroney, or any other sujet de l’indignation, these are not topics of conversation in Western Canada. The whole exercise gets summed up — by Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Green supporters alike — as so much “noise” meaning nothing. (Well, perhaps not for some of the more partisan Liberals, but, then, to be fair, their attempts to stir the pot are going nowhere here even when done locally.)
So, agreed: none of it will hurt Harper’s election chances. This is as true in British Columbia as it is on the Prairies: in other words, the evaluation has nothing to do with Alberta’s penchant for block support.
What Scott Tribe doesn’t realize is that, for those of us out West, Harper’s Government is anything but right-wing. I say this speaking as a social libertarian: he has been Liberal-light, not the pseudo-fascist entity Scott seems to think must be thrown from power for the salvation of the nation (or some such rot). (There are neo-conservative and social conservative types in the Conservative Party, and Harper himself may be, underneath all his pragmatism and tactics, one of the red meat brigade himself — but his Government has done nothing to earn the opprobrium heaped upon it by Tribe & his fellows.)
Where Tribe does get it right, however, is in two things: (1) Harper is a demonstrated “control freak” (which offends anyone who thinks they and theirs ought to be in control instead), and (2) that different parts of the country will evaluate recent events differently: Ontario remembers Walkerton.
I write about all of this because the politicians know — but the media often hide — how different their campaigns must be in different parts of the country to succeed. An issue can be a great tool for growth in one area, and something requiring adroit defence simply to stem erosion in another.
As always, one’s strength is often also one’s weakness. The Conservatives go into this campaign with boatloads of money, a war room strategy, etc., all designed to seize control of the headlines on a day by day basis. That’s fine: it’s what every party should strive to do. The weakness will be centralized message control — which will translate into one campaign for everyone.
A little local adaptation within a policy framework is needed. The party that best does that should expect to do better in marginal seats.