Conservative radio ads pander to western talk-show prejudices

This morning, I heard the Conservative radio ads trying to discredit the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition government.

It was the usual negative stuff from the Conservatives: the voice of Stephane Dion with his heavy French accent and the implication that he went back on a promise not to form a coalition with the NDP.

I was left with the uncomfortable feeling that the Conservatives are again pandering to western private-radio talk-show listeners' prejudices  by playing up Dion’s accent at every opportunity.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, by hammering away at the deal with the “separatists”, is sending a not-so-subtle message in the House of Commons that Quebec is taking over the country.

The message seems to be working. Last night on one newscast, I saw  an Alberta resident complain that Harper is being pushed out of office because he's not a Quebecker. I'm guessing that this is a regular refrain on the Alberta call-in shows.

This week, Canwest  reinforced  anti-Quebec attitudes  by suggesting on the front-page of the Province newspaper in Vancouver that Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe is a devil.

I suspect that  these tactics  will lead to a backlash within Quebec, where there is a high sensitivity to anything that smacks of racism against francophones.

Harper has tried to suggest that he’s the voice of national unity, going so far as to claim that Dion didn't want the flag behind him while he sat beside the leader of the Bloc.

The Conservative spin doctors  are framing this  as a "Stand Up for Canada" kind of story. But I fear  Harper's party’s approach will have the opposite effect, creating greater divisions within the country.

Some commentators have suggested that the Liberals are playing with fire by making a deal with the Bloc and the NDP. But what’s equally likely is that the Conservatives are playing with fire by pandering to western prejudices against Quebec.

That could have troubling ramifications for the Conservatives’ federal electoral prospects for years to come.




Dec 5, 2008 at 5:55pm

You may be correct that in the years to come the Conservatives may have really hurt themselves by these attacks on Quebec but I would respectfully disagree and offer a counter analysis. In contrast to most pundits who think this has been a grievous error by Harper I would argue that this may be an effective strategy and this was one of the many scenarios that he came up with when he put forward the Economic Statement that precipitated this crisis. Right now their polling numbers are in the mid forties. This will break down over time but he may have a strategy to keep in majority territory. His game plan, I suspect, is to play on the divisions in the country and bait English Canada against French Canada and Western/rural Canada against everyone else may be a way to play American style politics like George Bush with Karl Rove or the way Richard Nixon did it. Many of the intellectuals that support this party are from the University of Calgary and members of that school have written about how much better Canada would be off without Quebec. Perhaps we are seeing a very unorthodox campaign for power that does not operate within the normal framework within which Canadian politics are traditionally understood. The timing for this is particularly good because of the internal divisions within the Liberal Party and the ineffective leadership of Stephan Dion. I hope that the above has no merit in substance and the received wisdom of the pundits is correct and Harper made a horrible mistake for his political aims. I would like to wish Bob Rae good luck in getting his message out and that the coalition sticks together and fends off the machinations of Harper and the Conservative Party.