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July 27th, 2015

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[Originally published on July 15, 2015 at]

The morning after he had won the last federal election, Stephen Harper was asked how people fearing a Conservative majority government could be re-assured.

"One of the things I've learned is that surprises are not generally well received by the public," he replied.*

That's why the Prime Minister sought a mandate during the last election to eliminate the per-vote subsidies for registered federal political parties who met the vote-share threshold. He won a majority government in that election, and therein obtained a mandate to proceed with that policy.

As had been recommended by Tom Flanagan several years earlier, the PM and his Finance Minister Jim Flaherty proposed that the measure be phased in over three years, in order to give the other political parties time to adjust.

"That's what elections are all about. We made it very clear in the platform that we would do this. But we would do it phased in over the next several years, and that's what the amended budget will provide. Exactly as we had it set out in the platform. There will be no surprises," Flaherty told the CBC in a pre-budget interview in May of 2011.

So, the parties have had four years to plan, fundraise and save the money required to wage a five-week election campaign, based on a five-week spending limit, taking into account the declining value of the now-eliminated per-vote subsidy.

But here, at the last minute, you want to surprise the parties with a doubly-long election campaign, that will cost them double the money to run? Based on a hidden provision in a humongous bill, that was dropped as a surprise on the opposition, with little time for advanced study, detailed consideration, or reasoned debate?

And you want to call yourselves "cunning", in a trial-balloon so obviously floated in the National Post?

How about "cowardly"?

That's what you'd call someone who could only win by tying their opponents' hands behind their backs.

Who would be prepared to so sully the public interest of our democracy and its citizens to have a real choice, that no basic sense of fair play were too sacrosanct to violate, nor base partisan interest too small to elevate above the greater good.

An election is the highest form of expression of our citizenship, not a sneak attack where you surprise your opponents while they're sleeping and slaughter them all before dawn.

That is not the way a wise and brave leader is called on to behave.

Prime Minister, you and I worked down the hall from one another decades ago, so I say this to you directly: You are capable of winning an election on the merits of your ideas, the strength of your intellect and your ability to persuade. And yes, through the superior organization the party you built has assembled through its admirable work ethic and obvious dedication.

What you don't need to do is cheapen that victory by nuking your opponents into the stone age. That's the coward's way, not the warrior's way.

And moreover, it might backfire. Because, as you once observed, Canadians don't like surprises.


Alice Funke is the publisher of cá độ bóng đá trên điện thoại She first reported on the implications of the new pro-rated election campaign spending limits on her blog, and later on for She worked on 7th floor Confed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, at the same time as Stephen Harper.

* as transcribed in Paul Wells’s The Longer I'm Prime Minister (p.349)

9 Responses to “Last-minute, longer election campaign: “Cunning” or just cowardly?”

  1. Doug P says:

    Well said! Let’s hope that Mr Harper, for once, takes the high road.

  2. Purple Library Guy says:

    I’m with you about every point in this article except the merits of his ideas. He could win an election based on all that other stuff, but the merits of his ideas not so much.

    Not sure why you’re acting all shocked though. Stephen Harper, whatever the merits of his ideas about how to govern, has always made it clear that he has no respect whatsoever for the institutions of that government or the methods and principles by which we choose how to be governed. Whether it’s parliament and its committees and question periods, the civil service, the courts, watchdogs, diplomats, or free and fair elections, Stephen Harper’s position is that whatever it takes to place and keep himself completely in control is the only thing that matters to him. If the man was in a position to mount a military coup, he would not hesitate.

  3. Jordan says:

    “That’s the coward’s way, not the warrior’s way.”

    Well, if the reports are to be believed, we should know soon enough what way Harper is taking.

  4. David Young says:

    Did I hear correctly that the Prime Minister stated that this election wouldn’t cost the taxpayers anything more than if he’d called it when it normally would have been?

    Oh, really?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, Mr. Harper, but since Returning Officers will have to open their offices and hire staff for the month of August instead of waiting until September, an additional month’s expenses of Returning Offices and staffs will cost us taxpayers millions more, won’t they?

  5. Shadow says:

    I thought we were in a recession that required the government to open the stimulus spending taps ?

    Ooops was that yesterday’s narrative, now we’re concerned about a hundred million or so in gov’t spending ? (studies have shown elections provide a GDP boost.)

    Honestly hard to keep up with phony outrage as it tends to contradict itself. My advice would be to construct a narrative about why your party needs to be in power and repeat it endlessly. Avoid shiny objects …

  6. To the commenter Mike whose vulgar comment I didn’t approve: grow up.

    One party had six nominations today, so that’s what I tweeted about. Six months ago I was tweeting about other parties’ nominations. The party nominating now was getting criticized for not having all its candidates back then. Now it’s being criticized for getting all the attention?

    You may be letting yourself get spooked. Get some sleep, and then get back out canvassing for your own favourite party.

  7. Mike says:

    Your bias is sickening. You feign impartiality but your language obviously favours the NDP. If you’re rooting for the NDP, go for it –good on ya! Just spare us the BS of pretending like your not incredibly biased towards one party and be clear about your favouritism. You can’t possibly believe anyone would read your Tweets as anything other than “the NDP is better than ___”. It severely compromises any confidence in the data you try to present.

    Pardon my vulgarity, but I’m just sick of self-righteous NDP partisans and their arrogant attitude towards other party supporters.

  8. To Mike who has written back to insult me yet again, with a fake email address, I don’t understand how you can be so sickened by a blog that you don’t have to read or a twitter feed you don’t have to subscribe to. People who support all parties are welcome here, not least because commenters are careful not to get personal. Your mileage may vary.

  9. Paul McKivett says:

    Well, as a President of a Liberal Riding Association in SGI and I do not find any of the information on Pundit’s Guide to be biased. In fact, it has been very useful to us in planning our campaign against both the NDP and the Green Incumbent in our riding. I guess the old Simon & Garfunkle song lyric is true ” A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest’!

    But Alice doesn’t need me to defend her. She has countless supporters including commentators on CTV, CBC and the rest, not to mention all the folks of every political stripe that follow Pundits’ Guide.

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