A leaflet landing in the mailbox of prairie households is the surest signal that Stephen Harper is worried about his base and is accepting the realization that his party will never form a majority government.
There are few tactics with higher consequences in Canadian politics than deciding to play politics with region. Of the articles of differentiation among Canadians, where you live is frequently tied up in identity, culture, economics as well as a sense of connectedness, or lack there of with power.
And no party knows this better than Conservatives. After all, no other party has been burnt more playing regional politics than the Conservatives and their predecessor parties. Fans will recall the disastrous “No More Quebec Politicians” ad the Reform Party ran in the 1997 election.
Now the Conservatives are at it again. This time with a publicly-paid-for flyer aimed at households in Manitoba and Saskatchewan suggesting that NDP leader Jack Layton is out of touch with them because … wait for it … he’s from Toronto.
The literature includes a photo of Layton and the CN Tower in the background with the message that he is out of touch with the issues in provinces west of Ontario.
New Democrat MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre) said yesterday it's clear the Conservative Party is pandering to western alienation and antipathy toward Ontario to shore up support in ridings where the Conservatives are vulnerable.
Martin is right. The Conservatives are clearly distressed by polls like the recent Angus Reid that shows Layton so out of touch with the prairie provinces that an incredible 46 percent of people there plan to vote NDP. And they aren’t just a little agitated. No, the anti-Toronto leaflet is the kind of decision that grows from panic.
Deciding to pit one region against the other is not a trifling decision. Just like the “No More Quebec Politicians” ad traded any hope of appealing to Quebeckers for hanging on to Reform’s western base, with this anti-Toronto flyer, Harper is projecting that pounding down the NDP’s growth in a region the Conservatives did very well in is more important than the illusion of growing in the GTA, a region they did poorly in.
Toronto and the GTA have over 50 seats – seats Conservatives need if they still hope to form a majority. Seeing them trade them away this soon with a “No More Toronto Politicians” flyer suggests Harper has turned his attention to saving what he came with.