Tories train their intellectual big guns on Tom Mulcair: if Rex Murphy fails, there’s always Don Cherry!

Prime Minister Stephen Harper (clutching the balloon, centre) sets off his attack on Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair, who is illustrated standing in the background. Beep-beep! Actual federal politicians may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Tory big guns Rex Murphy and Don Cherry, plus former Tory big gun Norman Spector, all of whom have appeared exactly as illustrated.


“BRIEFING NOTE: Respond to criticism about economic impact of high-Loonie, everything-for-petrochemical-industry policy by making voters see Thomas Mulcair as recklessly un-Canadian…”

This isn’t an actual quote from the Tories’ current list of talking points, but it seems to be what the Strategic Heavy Lifters in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative brain trust have in mind for their main attack on the leader of the NDP Opposition. Expect them to trot out that French passport momentarily.

They promised us the Mother of All Battles, and the best they can come up with before Mr. Harper’s Republican Guards bug off to the dusty hills of Alberta is to call the NDP leader un-Canadian?

Pathetic!

Oh, I know, I’m being hyperbolic. I admit it. It’ll be a long road before Mr. Mulcair and the NDP form the government of Canada, and the possibility’s quite high the old slime-hurlers of Mr. Harper’s Tea Party of Canada will come up with something more effective than this kind of fake patriotism, the last refuge of the modern neo-Con petro-scoundrel. So I guess we shouldn’t start measuring the orange shag carpet for the prime ministerial residence on Sussex Drive just yet.

But, really people, does Mr. Harper seriously think getting his party’s Media Auxiliary over at the National Pest to assign Rex Murphy the job of calling Mr. Mulcair “recklessly un-Canadian” is a strategy? Rex Murphy?

And for what does the thankfully inimitable Mr. Murphy level this charge of un-Canadianism? Because Mr. Mulcair called three of the four western premiers “Harper’s Messengers”!

For lack of a more suitable phrase usable in the public prints: Take off!

Surely this is unworthy of a mighty “public intellectual” like Mr. Murphy. They must be holding back the really big guns for when things get truly desperate … you know, like Don Cherry!

Mr. Murphy’s screed is a laugh a minute, like the bit about how “it’s taken more than a couple of decades to exorcise the demon of the NEP from Western memories — particularly Albertan ones…” Excuse me, but we’ve heard about nothing but the alleged depredations of the National Energy Program here in Alberta pretty much every day for the past 32 years. (“The NEP destroyed Alberta! Would you like fries with that, sir?”) Some exorcism!

Mr. Murphy also descends into the fuzzy arithmetic typical of his so-called conservative ilk since really only three of the four Western premiers have had anything to say on this topic, and the one from British Columbia is being pretty mild and cautious for obvious reasons. You know, like the well-known Mulcair-style predilections of a majority of B.C. voters, who may well have concluded they have nothing whatsoever to gain from Alberta bitumen being pumped through their forests to the ocean but oil dumps, oil spills, dead fish, dead animals, pissed off environmentalists, angry First Nations, litigation, cancer, high security costs, terrorism risks, lawsuits and the ruination of a few more local small export businesses. Did I miss anything?

Perhaps Mr. Harper and Alberta Premier Alison Redford could explain the advantage of this to British Columbians again. A couple of dozen maintenance jobs and a boost for the private security industry? Or what?

But, hey, half a loaf is better than none – especially when you’re apparently just trying to stick as close as possible to the PMO’s talking points. And Mr. Murphy’s effort truly outshone the line of Zs thrown up by the Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson, who worked himself into what passes for a swivet at 444 Front Street, calling Mr. Mulcair’s commentary … “political nonsense.” Whew!

With stirring headlines like “Mulcair should drop the ‘Dutch Disease’ rhetoric,” the Globe had better be careful it doesn’t provoke rioting in the streets of Calgary!

Meanwhile, out here in the west, the Conservative echo chamber is really testing our arithmetical skills: Friday’s edition of the Edmonton Journal includes a story under a headline that reads: “Alberta exporters don’t buy Mulcair’s loonie concerns.” (“Loonie concerns” … Geddit?) The story quotes five business people, all of whom are … uh … concerned about the strong petro-Loonie.

Representative quote: Edmonton frozen-Indian-dinner exporter Noorudin Jiwani “acknowledged that a strong Canadian dollar makes exporting more difficult, but he said he realizes that oilsands companies dwarf his firm, which employs about 70 people. ‘The Canadian dollar is too strong for us,’ he said. ‘I would like that not to happen, but then I’m a small potato.’” (Emphasis added.) Got that?

I’m sure they’re slapping themselves on the back at the PMO. “Great media coverage, chief!” … if you don’t bother to read the story.

And it’s all just so divisive, our Pecksniffian Conservative MPs keep sniveling – this from a group of people who repeatedly told tout le monde Quebec to bug right off on the topic of the long-gun registry, and who indeed continue to do so, the better to play wedge politics in the last federal election and the next one.

Oh well, like the big lie about how it was Pierre Trudeau’s energy policy and not world petroleum prices that caused Alberta’s one-dimensional economy to fall on its keester in 1980, a certain number of people will eventually start to believe anything if you repeat it often enough.

Meanwhile, Mr. Harper’s semi-official Conservative Party newspaper and the state broadcaster over at Sun Media keep telling us Mr. Mulcair is not only a suitable candidate to be hauled before the House Un-Canadian Activities Committee (HUCAC) but he’s a firebrand, a hothead and a perpetually angry guy.

But constant repetition of this meme doesn’t actually change the fact that Mr. Mulcair is probably just as coldly calculating as our divisive and un-Canadian prime minister.

For this reason, western Canada’s current crop of parochial Conservative leaders – and that includes the sanctimonious Mr. Harper – really ought to think carefully about how their hysterical McCarthyism is going to go over in what they privately think of as the cheap seats of Confederation.

As Norman Spector – the “steely political insider” who was once chief of staff to prime minister Brian Mulroney and holder of several other illustrious positions, and who is now one of Canada’s Top Tweetersshrewdly observed last month in the Vancouver Sun: “To prevent Harper from forming another majority government, Mulcair must break the coalition between Ontario and the West that the Conservatives fashioned in May 2011. To become prime minister, Mulcair must create a coalition of his own. …

“He will invite Quebecers to join with ‘progressives’ across Canada to help replace the Conservative government they have come to revile. And he will focus on re-creating the coalition with Ontario that has governed Canada for most of our history, while not giving up on the prospect of winning more seats in B.C. and Manitoba.”

Note which western provinces are not on the old civil-service slasher’s list – the ones that benefit most from the conditions that are causing our national outbreak of Dutch Disease and which are currently led by petrocrats hostile both to increased Canadian control of the oil patch and to policies that would help restore the country’s manufacturing sector to health.

We can expect to hear a lot more of this divisiveness codswollop about Mr. Mulcair over the next couple of years unless Mr. Harper’s advisors manage to come up with something more effective.

But if that’s all the Harperites can think of, they’d best phone their Republican mentors south of the Medicine Line right quickly! Maybe those guys can send out a Tweet demanding to see Mr. Mulcair’s birth certificate or dress up like Paul Revere and light lanterns to warn us Albertans, “One if by land, two if by … uh, land.”

Either that or just hand over the keys to 24 Sussex while they’re still in possession of some tattered remnants of their dignity.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

10 Comments on "Tories train their intellectual big guns on Tom Mulcair: if Rex Murphy fails, there’s always Don Cherry!"

  1. Jymn says:

    It's not so much what Mulcair is saying, it's how he is saying it that has me worried. He has turned the media advantage the NDP was beginning to establish into a disadvantage. The media has historically not been the NDP's friend. Mulcair seems intent on 'unfriending' them all over again. I agree with Mulcair more than disagree. I just wish he had better media savvy. Wiping out NDP gains on that front is not the way to go.

  2. Skinny Dipper says:

    I think for Thomas Mulcair and the NDP, they need to take support away from the Conservatives. Traditionally in the past 20 years, the NDP's implicit goal has been to try to take support away from the Liberals. The NDP has always talked about supporting and maintaining good health care and the environment. While general Conservative supporters do like health care and the envirionment, they like to receive arguments framed in economic terms. Stephen Harper does that well for Conservatives. Thomas Mulcair seems to understand that same frame. He's using economic arguments about the Tar Sands to get his points across.

    The real battle ground is not in Alberta or Saskatchewan. The NDP could propose Harperite policies and not gain an extra vote in these two provinces. In Alberta, the Conservatives are too far ahead in most ridings that it would not be worthwhile for the NDP to spend limited resources trying to gain seats except in parts of Edmonton. In Saskatchewan, we eastern bastards must understand that it is no longer the wheat province. It's not longer Little House on the Prairie. It's an oil and natural gas producing place. Saskatchewan will be interesting for the NDP depending on how the riding boundaries are re-drawn.

    British Columbia is not Alberta and Saskatchewan. Its economy is diverse enough that it is not dependent on the oil and natural gas industries alone. The NDP can win extra seats in that province.

    The big prize will be Ontario. The NDP may or may not win the most seats. However, it can break Harper's majority by winning seats there. The NDP can win seats in urban Ontario, small cities, and in non-agricultural rural areas like northern Ontario. The party will be weak in suburban areas and in agricultural rural areas.

    When Rex Murphy spews against Thomas Mulcair and the NDP, he is not speaking to Albertans or Saskatchewanians. He's telling Ontarians not to switch to the NDP. Ontarians don't tend to distinguish between Canadian and Ontarian identities. They are one in the same. When Rex Murphy and his Conservative friends attack Tom Mulcair for being un-Canadian, they are attacking him for being un-Ontarian. The two "uns" are one in the same.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yes, this is really the charge of the Lite Brigade … light on economic facts, light on knowledge of history, light on deductive reasoning; in fact just more hot air (lighter than the cold air of reality) and smoke and mirrors which the bright lights of bombast shine through to give a good show.
    I heard Alison Redford on CBC's Sunday Edition yesterday; she sounds so smart and articulate. Which was so nice to hear after the incoherent mumblings of Ed and the mean spirited and loony ravings of Ralph … has it really been that long since we've heard passable sentence structure from the Leg? Anyhow, for a smart worldly woman like Alison to be playing this song and dance of shock and dismay over observations by a national leader of a bona fide economic phenomenon that legions of economists in scores of countries plan for and sometimes regulate around. But hey, we do neither here in Wildrose Country; that's our advantage … heh, heh, heh (cue George Bush snigger). It points out to me just how deeply embedded CAPP is in the governance of this province, and I think points to Harpers real agenda, but that another story.
    Three items that caught my ear in the Redford interview and are not getting any attention are:
    1. she, and GOA in general, are always going on about Alberta's "world class" environmental system. It's not! Provably so. This legislation has not changed its focus from the 1970's. Nor have the practices that manage day to day operations or the people who administer them. Yes, Alberta's environmental regulatory regime is better than say, Nigeria, but is that the standard to which we should expect our industry to perform. Compared to even the US, who lord knows is no anti-capitalist utopia Alberta comes up far, far short. As long as people are willing to believe that a) we have decent environmental regulation and b) that we have people who are honest and diligent regulators we will always be subservient to our corporate petro-masters.
    2. when Jim Brown was asking about what her opinion was regarding the BC position that there are minimal benefits to the pipeline while taking the maximal risk she went off on no one part of the country should be allowed to make decisions regarding a national port. She did not say that "BC should not be allowed to control the destiny of her own ports" but came just this close. How can anyone argue that they are ever so upset about someone from away making unpleasant noises about our industry and which are under our constitutional control and then turn around and say that someone else's property and resources should be made available for our use when and how we want them?
    3. her response to the questions that Dr James Hansen raised in his latest essay in the NY Times was to dismiss his concern about global warming as "not proven or known". Really, in 2012, 30 years after Dr Hansen began his warnings, we still have a provincial leader trying to make this a controversy. This is the same person who claims a world class environmental monitoring system, she doesn't even believe in the same world we all live in. Its round not flat.

    2. when Jim Brown was aking about what her opinion was regarding the BC position that there are minimal benifits to the pipeline while taking the maximal risk she went off on no one part of the country should be allowed to make decisions regarding a national port. She did not say that "BC should not be allowed to control the destiny of her own ports" but came just this close. How can anyone argue that they are ever so upset about someone from away making unpleasent noises about our industry and which are under our constitutional control and then turn around and say that someone elses property and resources should be made available for our use when and how we want them?

  4. Anonymous says:

    con't …
    3. her response to the questions that Dr James Hansen raised in his latest essay in the NY Times was to dismiss his concern about global warming as "not proven or known". Really, in 2012, 30 years after Dr Hansen began his warnings, we still have a provincial leader trying to make this a controversy. This is the same person who claims a world class environmental monitoring system, she doesn't even believe in the same world we all live in. It's round not flat.

    Anyhow David another excellent post

  5. godmakeslemonstoo says:

    I think Jymn nailed it: Mulcair needs to watch his diction. His comments reflect the typical mudslinging that should be left out of politics.

    His statements are perfect fodder for the right-leaning media to jump all over. I think Rex makes some illogical points in his article, but some of his points about Mulcair's statements make sense.

  6. Ronmac says:

    OMG Rex Murphy looks like a real prick, doesn't he? Anyways if the Harper gang had any brains they would double the CBC budget and staff it with their spokespeople.

    It reminds me of not too many years ago when a lot of opinions were being expressed for the US to pull out of the UN.

    That is until somebody pointed out the UN was the perefct cover to orchestrate public opinion, everything from passing fradulent resolutions (Iraq's WMD)to legitimizing phony elections, like the ones in Afghanistan where a gang of heroin smuuglers masquerading as a gov't managed to get a UN stamp of approval. And I'm pround to say Alberta's current premier Allison Redford was an active particpant in 2005.

  7. Sam Gunsch says:

    Canada's corporate/executive class and the right-wing in general, have steam-rollered the reality- and evidence-based community as it navel-gazes and word-smiths and armchair quarterback/nit-picks itself to death.

    How about we get up off our ass and write guest editorials, phone the radio call-in shows, write letters to the editor, dominate the comments section with evidence…

    in other words, spend less time second-guessing the word choice and framing and diction to the nth degree and help out with publicizing the evidence that supports the position Mulcair has had the spine to speak to…

    good grief.

  8. Alex P says:

    Like I keep saying, (here, mostly): Prime Minister Wile E Coyote, Super Genius! Thanks for finding just the right image, David. Sending the signal that Mulcair is un-Canadian sure got my elderly mother going. She had to inform me of what Rex Murphy said, in detail, because it seems like the barbarians are at gate, or Klingons on the starboard bow, or something.

    My reaction? Rex, you just failed the 'he who smelled it dealt it' test. But this is Harper's Canada. A hyper-patriotic, belligerent petrol state. I suspect Mulcair is quiet shrewd about when to cause a stink. If no publicity is bad publicity, then maybe a few people will take a day or two, think back a few decades, and conclude this might be a valid point.

    Meanwhile, a move is afoot to reverse the flow on a East to West pipeline (we have that?) to send bitumen to process in Central or even Atlantic Canada. (Edmonton Journal http://goo.gl/QMPdv) When all else fails, start taking energy independence and national unity.

    “This is a chance to create a national unity project that benefits the entire country,” said Frank McKenna, deputy chair of the TD Bank Group and one of the idea’s key advocates.

    See, when all other options are exhausted, start sounding reasonable. On the other hand, if we ship our oil to them, how are those eastern bastards gonna freeze in the dark? That's a conundrum.

  9. alvinfinkel says:

    I don't agree that Mulcair is not media savvy. Just getting lots of media coverage, even when much of it is negative, is an achievement for a national NDP leader.

    Mulcair is the first national NDP leader so far who has been willing to talk about the economy as opposed to just social programs and the environment. He sounds like a PM and that's a real challenge for an NDP leader. Watch for more and more of this "I'm a public administrator, not a theorist with no government experience" approach over the next several years.

    Of course,Harper and the lapdog conservative premiers of AB and SK will rage, but I think that in the end, even in those provinces, a large number of people are going to decide that he knows what he's talking about. He'll be able to add his economic and administrative credibility to the respect that the NDP already holds for its positions on social issues. For once the NDP will not look like it is promising pie in the sky with no notion of how to budget or run the economy

  10. fubar says:

    Haven't paid attention to Rex since he fluffed Sarah Palin in an article – anyone that dumb can't be listened to on anything.

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