Stumbling before the starting blocks

By Ryan Pike

It’s not easy being Stephen Harper.

The embattled Canadian prime minister recently took time off from readying his Conservative troops for an ever-looming election to tend to his workload, including attending a score of events. The results were less than stellar: Harper attacked Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff for comments he never actually made, was late for the traditional G8 summit group photo, the second such incident this year, and caused a minor uproar by not immediately eating the communion wafer offered to him at former governor general Romeo LeBlanc’s funeral.

These Harper bungles are confounding on a few levels. Facing a tenuous minority government and growing support for the opposition parties, particularly Ignatieff’s Liberals, the Tories have been scrambling to get ready for a potential fall election. With fiscal conservatives frothing at the mouth at the prospect of years of government deficits, ongoing media coverage of Harper missteps isn’t the best way to entice much-needed party donations or gather public support.

The Conservative Party’s ongoing sideshow is more bizarre when one considers the party’s post-merger modus operandi. A collective of Reaganite neo-cons, the Harper Conservatives have typically been all about appearances, eschewing nearly all else for the sake of presenting a united front. Harper himself has historically been a paragon of structured

restraint, a stone-faced student of politics nestled neatly in a sweater vest. The recent Harper troubles may be endemic of a larger trend- long-time Tory MP Diane Ablonsky’s allocation of federal tourism funding to the Toronto Pride Parade led to Conservative MP Brad Trost suggesting that she would be disciplined or demoted in an interview, the kind of public calling-out of a caucus member the party

has avoided in the past.

The scary thing about Harper’s wacky week is that it came at a time when absolutely nothing is at stake. These are the dog days of summer, where reporters often go on vacation and media reports are filled with rodeo and parade coverage. The next federal election is likely several months ahead of us and Stephen Harper and his Conservatives seem to be cracking when there is absolutely no pressure. Just imagine what horrors he’ll unleash when the spotlight is on during the Olympics in February.

That is, of course, if he’s still Prime Minister.

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