There is a very important aspect of the just-completed federal election campaign which I haven’t seen addressed honestly anywhere in the mainstream media: that is, the concerns raised about the “personal” nature of much of the election rhetoric – this despite the volume of commentary provided by pundits on the priority given to personal attacks over the discussion of issues during the campaign. The nature of the campaign gave us a good picture of the nature of the leaders and the campaigns. Overall, I think the opposition leaders demonstrated pretty solid integrity in this respect.
Mr. Chretien and the Liberals, however, launched a ruthless campaign of innuendo and deception. The fact that the Prime Minister approved such a campaign is sufficient evidence in itself that he lacks the integrity necessary to lead a modern country. The reason the election was primarily personal in nature was because Mr. Chretien intended it to be so. He said from the outset – and his people repeated this point numerous times – that he was calling the election because of the Stockwell Day Alliance party. It was to be a campaign on values, he said – his versus those of the Stockwell Day-led Alliance – and he made it personal from the start, welcoming additional opportunities for personal attacks as provided by the media. He will be judged by his own words.
Another point should be made regarding the issue of personal attacks. The average guy on the street, when talking about personal attacks, understands the term to mean attacks on a person’s character, or perhaps physical characteristics, or personal and private matters. It is not normal to consider attacks on a person that are related to his professional activity as “personal attacks.” Yet when Mr. Day and Mr. Clark attacked Mr. Chretien over concerns about his role in helping a constituent with a bank loan, the radically pro-Liberal media as well as the Liberal Party itself, billed these statements as “personal attacks.”
In what can hardly be understood as anything but intentional manipulation, these issue-based allegations were identified as “personal attacks.” Taking these falsely identified personal attacks out of the equation, it is readily evident that the number of accurately portrayed personal attacks by the Prime Minister and other Liberals during the election campaign far exceeded the total combined number of such attacks from the opposition parties. The responsibility for the muck-raking election campaign we just witnessed falls squarely at the feet of one of the most intolerant political leaders Canada has ever had: Jean Chretien. That he won, and did so with a larger majority and greater percentage of the popular vote, should lead moral Canadians to a sober analysis of the moral fabric of our population as a whole (I wouldn’t trust them in a referendum) as well as a deeper recognition of the significance of the media in conditioning the way many people think.
Death knell for the Progressive Conservatives
PC leader Joe Clark was spinning the election results so hard that I’m surprised he didn’t send them into orbit. The only good result for the party was his own victory in Alberta, yet he spoke confidently of the party being a national party that was rebuilding to be an ongoing viable force in Canadian politics.
But they lost seats, barely maintaining official party status; they saw the largest drop in the popular vote of all the major parties (to 12 per cent, from 19 per cent in the last election); they won no seats in Ontario (despite the fact that the Canadian Alliance picked up two and the NDP picked up one); they are represented in only six provinces; and in almost every Ontario riding the Alliance picked up more of the popular vote than they did, with vote splitting less of a problem than was the case in the last election.
Despite this electoral disaster, Mr. Clark managed to claim, during his “victory” speech: “The Conservative Party has shown that we are an essential force in Canadian politics.” Say what?
I don’t think the spin is going to survive for too long. Mr. Clark is not even likely to have an easy go of it in his own province, or even his Calgary riding. After all, the only reason he won was because the Liberals and the New Democrats largely abandoned their own campaigns to rally around him against the evangelical Christian Canadian Alliance candidate and champion of life and family values, Eric Lowther.
Alliance moves in right direction
Despite the anti-Alliance spin in the media commentary on the election results, the party clearly moved in the right direction, which should provide hope for the future. They and the Liberals were the only two parties to increase their seat count in Parliament. They were also the only two parties to show a real increase in the popular vote, with the Alliance coming out on top in that respect. The gap between them and the closest other opposition party, the Bloc, has been dramatically widened, giving the Alliance a non-contestable position as the Official Opposition. Also, for the second election in a row, they came out ahead of the Tories in almost every Ontario riding (80 ridings compared with 11 where the PCs came in second). Their share of the vote rose from 19 to 24 percent, while the Tories fell from 18 to 14. The Alliance even gained more of the popular vote in Quebec than did the Tories. The Alliance is also pleased with the image improvement the election has given the party, adding four new female MPs to a caucus which they say is “already the most ethnically diverse caucus in Parliament.” To be sure, they didn’t achieve the results they wanted, but most of the data seems to indicate that the party is moving in the right direction.