The election strategy of the Conservative Party of Canada and that of Stephen Harper is becoming more and more evident to the electorate and to his competition. During the first week of the campaign, Stephen Harper laid low; he traveled from city to city giving his stump speech (some of the same, some modified for the locale). Indeed, the Conservative Party played it safe and let Paul Martin dance the awkward dance. While Martin mumbled about without direction, something unexpected happened: Jack Layton self-destructed, with his blame of Paul Martin for homeless deaths and his baffling quest to repeal the Clarity Act. If a minority government does indeed occur, Andrew Coyne points out that the NDP may handicap itself below an adequate number of seats to hold the balance of power.
During the first week, Stephen Harper was able to stay newsworthy. While not an exciting kickoff to the campaign, the media had to tell the story of who may replace Paul Martin. And there was Harper, the calm and cool PM in waiting.
This week, however, is policy week. Yesterday and today, Stephen Harper has released two main planks of the Conservative platform for discussion and analysis by the media and the public. The entire platform is due out this week. The Conservative Party of Canada is using each announcement as a newsworthy event; Peter Mansbridge, Lloyd Robertson et al. will likely lead with the Conservative Party justice platform tonight as they did with the Defense platform last night.
What about Paul Martin? Well, I heard he visited some synchrotron (3 results in Google News: 2 news, 1 from the Liberal Party) in Saskatchewan yesterday and gave reporters insight into the first step of the Liberal’s twelve step election strategy: denial. “We will form a majority government” he uttered as a reporter asked him about the decline in popularity of his party. Martin also tried to recruit some Chrétienites, the very group he purged, to help his find his lost base of support.
At first, I was a little frustrated that the platform of the Conservative Party of Canada had not been released in its entirety. The Bloc was the first to release its full platform (over 150 pages), then the NDP (about 65 pages). The Conservative parties had released their platforms early before, why the delay now?
Now it is clear.
As each platform announcement gives the Stephen Harper top spot in the news, all that we hear from Paul Martin is that he is fumbling around trying to find his direction.