Is Harper spooked?

Tuesday, May 12 2015 @ 06:49 MDT

Contributed by: evilscientist

It hit the news today that Stephen Harper has decided that he will not participate in a nationally televised debate but only in a few select debates with what can be described as "Conservative friendly" media outlets. Given the timing of this announcement one wonders if the recent election of the NDP in what has generally been an overwhelmingly Conservative province of Alberta has spooked Dear Leader.

It's not that Harper's likely to lose Alberta. Other than in Edmonton the Alberta NDP picked up seats in ridings that had heavy right-wing vote splitting. So apart from a couple of seats in Edmonton, Harper is still set to take pretty much the rest of the province. The same can be said for both Saskatchewan and Manitoba where outside of the cities Harper has things pretty much in the bag.

This leaves the rest of Canada. Harper's Conservatives are pretty much a wash east of Ontario. He'll be lucky to hold the seats he has there. This leave Ontario and BC where things are shaping up to be a tight three way race between the Harper Conservatives, the Liberals, and the NDP. It is because of these battlegrounds that Harper wants to avoid a national debate where he a) has no control over the format and b) lots of people are likely to be watching.

The reason for this is what has spooked him. Alberta was a tight three way race until the leaders' debate. This debate basically sidelined the Liberals and the Wildrose and ended up a debate between the Progressive Conservative's Jim Prentice and the NDP's Rachel Notley who are both generally charismatic people who were able to sideline the rather wooden performance of Wildrose's Brian Jean and the reservedness of the Liberal's David Swan.

Herein lines Harper's problem with a national debate. Compared to both Justin Trudeau and Tom Mulclair, Stephen Harper has all the charisma of a 2x4. Harper is likely worried that he's going to be coming across as Jim Prentice against Muclair and Trudeau's Notley. What Harper should really be worried about is being sidelined by two people with much more stage presence than he does and being turned in to Brian Jean.

At the end of the day a nationally televised debate that is not under Harper's control isn't in his best interest. It's telling that one of the "debates" that he has agreed to is being organized by Macleans Magazine, the editor of which if not having deep ties to the Conservative party is very sympathetic to it (witness the hard right shift in the magazine's editorial policy after the current editor took over). At the least Harper is hoping for an easy ride at the hands of the very sympathetic Macleans staff at at best hoping for them to make Harper look good vis-a-vis his opponents. In short, Harper wants to have the debate on his terms and ground and not a neutral debate where Canadians can all see him and the others in an equal light.

This goes to show Harper's fundamental cowardice. If there's any chance he won't be seen as our Grand and Glorious Leader, he wants no part of it. The Alberta results have spooked him and he wants to avoid a repeat at the federal level in Ontario and BC, both of which he has to win to stay in power. Harper has, rightfully so, no confidence in himself at winning a fair and open debate that anyone can see. So he sets up some debates that few will see and that are likely to be set up in a way to guarantee a Harper victory. That way Harper can give a Brian Jean like performance and hopefully no one will notice.

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