In the lead up to the Liberal convention conservative pundits are ratcheting up their rhetoric against Ignatieff in an effort, one supposes, to stem the growing tide of his perceived popularity. Thus far, however, with few obvious targets on which to centre their negative rhetoric, the reoccurring theme of Conservative talking points has been the simple claim that Mr. Ignatieff doesn’t seem to stand for anything. “Sure, he’s smart,” they concede, “but what does he actually stand for?” They ask. And then comes the inevitable reply that he doesn’t stand for anything and that he is all show. Now here is a monumental irony in action. In the lead up to the 2006 election the cornerstone of the Conservatives campaign added up to little more that “We aren’t the Liberals!” On the heels of the Sponsorship scandal the Conservatives estimated that this is all they had to do to get elected. In the next election they stood for so little that they even tried to avoid publishing a platform and only did so a few days before the actual voting day under the pressure of media scrutiny. The platform, by the way said little of any substance. In the end the Conservative Party under Harper’s tutelage has centered almost all of their electoral efforts on attacking the Liberals rather than defining themselves. This has led to the continual display of irony in which whenever they are embroiled in a problem or scandal their only defense seems to be the refrain that “The Liberals used to do that, and usually worse than we.” The only issues that the Conservative have consistently pursued have been ‘Crime’ and ‘Taxes.’ In the case of crime, this is a typical right-wing scare tactic. The system of law enforcement in Canada, the one that is so woefully lax according to the rhetoric of the Conservatives, has ushered in a gradual decline in Crime over the last thirty years. In this case the media helps to inadvertently promote the Conservative rhetoric that the country is about to fall into chaos of gang-violence and murderous rampages. However, given the decline in crime, we must conclude that overall the system is working more or less the way it is supposed to. (One could, of course, make a more profound critique of the system’s emphasis on incarceration and lack of preventative social policies. But the point here is simply that the Conservative critique is based on an entirely false premise that crime is rampant and on the increase. ) Somewhat ironically, one of their only actual legislative efforts on crime is to eliminate the long-gun registry, a move that is strongly opposed by police forces across the country. The other issue that the Conservatives have tried to make theirs is taxes. They have tried to represent themselves as the party that has and will decrease your taxes, trying to benefit from the widespread perception that Canadians pay an exceptionally high rate of tax. The main part of their tax policy has been to lower the GST by two points. This is a move that most economists disregard as, at best, totally irrelevant to most people, and at worst, entirely wrongheaded. Even a number of Conservative Party insiders have admitted that the decision to lower the GST was not based on sound economic policy but on a public relations effort. The Conservative also attempted to portray themselves as tax fighters in other sectors like personal and income taxes. Anyone who has filed taxes over the past couple of years knows that in most income brackets taxes have stayed the same or even increased.
All of this leads me to the conclusion that while the Conservatives are trying to portray Mr. Ignatieff as little more than a tweed blazer with no genuine political ideas, the Conservative are even worse than bereft of ideas and that their only idea is to misrepresent themselves, their opponents, and the state of the country. Harper himself cannot even rise to the level of being a tweed blazer; he is only a sweater-vest with a disturbing grin. Next time someone asks what their political opponent stands for, whether Liberal, Conservative, or otherwise, ask them what they really stand for.