Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Case of the Curious Conservative Campaign - bashing environmentalists and refugees needlessly

Vancouver Quadra Conservative candidate Deborah Meredith with Prime Minister Stephen Harper
The Case of the Curious Conservative Campaign

Why is Harper's team taking unnecessary risks bashing the environment and refugees?   Nationally and in Vancouver Quadra.

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"

- Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of The Four, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

It's the Case of the Curious Conservative Campaign -- and call in Sherlock Holmes to do the political detective work because something is deeply amiss.

The evidence is overwhelming.

Despite a hefty 14 per cent lead in recent public opinion polls, the Conservative Party is intent on taking absolutely unnecessary risks by bashing the environment and refugees, moves that seem sure to cost them votes in the urban ridings they need to win for a majority government.

Inexplicably, they are going out of their way to alienate voters who have any environmental concerns about oil tankers off the British Columbia coast or climate change.

And the Tories are using deplorable scare tactics about Tamil refugees in their television ads, despite Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's endless moves to court immigrant voters -- appearing in Vancouver-Kingsway riding last week to watch a Pakistan cricket match on TV, for example.

Mix immigrant bashing with disdain for the environment and presto -- it looks a lot like the old redneck Reform Party of Preston Manning that could never beat the Liberals. But the mystery is why?

Vote for risk of coastal oil spills!

Here's the evidence. Exhibit A. Conservative Party candidate Deborah Meredith's election flyer in Vancouver Quadra.

When you get past all the boilerplate stuff on the economy, crime and trade, you find this special highlighted section attacking her main opponent:

"Quadra Liberal MP Joyce Murray introduced an irresponsible private member's bill to stop tanker traffic off our north coast -- killing the northern gateway and hindering trade with Asia."

Wow. So I should vote Conservative to make sure oil tankers steam down our pristine coastline and risk a catastrophe like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill?

And Meredith is just warming up, literally.

The Conservative candidate also cites "examples of irresponsible private members' bill [sic] supported by the Liberals: To legislate reduction in carbon dioxide emissions to Kyoto targets reachable only by shutting down our economy."

Hmmm. Has Meredith actually met any Vancouver Quadra voters before putting this out?

It's a very environmentally minded riding full of professionals who actually want to fight global warming and oppose oil tanker traffic on our coast, not follow Meredith's Big Oil agenda.

And why push potential voters away when there's no reason to?

Touting polluters in an eco-friendly riding

You'd think Meredith and the Tory strategists might have learned a lesson from the March 2008 by-election that she lost by just 151 votes to Murray.

In that contest Meredith shunned media interviews and all candidates debates -- including one specifically focused on climate change issues.

And it's not like Liberal MP Joyce Murray is a tough target. She was arguably the worst environment minister in the province's history.

Murray was the minister when BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell's first government approved a massive increase in salmon farm licenses, ended the grizzly bear hunting moratorium, fired wildlife protection officers and watered down pesticide and waste management regulations. They even removed the name "environment" from the ministry!

So why didn't Meredith simply say the Conservatives will protect the environment? After all, Harper's government did reject the Prosperity Mine proposal in northern B.C. because of the potential for environmental devastation.

Meredith could even point out that Harper is showing more environmental leadership than new BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark, who wants the rejection reversed.

Or just say nothing about environmental issues at all -- even that would be better than needlessly alienating many voters.

Vote to block the desperate from our shores!

But there's more evidence of this curiously dubious Conservative Party campaign -- Exhibit B -- their new television ad.

An election ballot graphic shows three items with checkmarks -- "Strong leadership" and "Lower taxes" (but no mention of Harper and Campbell imposing the Harmonized Sales Tax increase on B.C.), followed by "Tough on human smuggling."

Huh? Is that Canada's third most important issue in this election?

The pleasant female voiceover explains that Harper has "taken action to protect our borders -- not from those who are welcome but from human smugglers who take advantage of our generosity."

The Conservative ad also shows film of a ship being taken into custody by the Canadian navy.

Oh, I see. It's coded language only true Tories understand.

But let's unscramble the message: "Conservatives will keep refugees on boats out of Canada."

It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure this one out.

Last August a ship called the MV Sun Sea carrying 492 Sri Lankans of Tamil origin claiming refugee status after that country's civil war arrived off the B.C. coast. They were detained and questioned. About 39 remain in custody.

The year before another ship carrying 76 Tamil passengers, the Ocean Lady, entered B.C. waters.

Let's also make a wild guess. The Conservatives have noticed that these refugee claimants were not, shall we say, Scandinavian-looking.

'Ad borders on racism': Canadian Tamils

In fact, the National Council of Canadian Tamils has strongly criticized the Conservative ad and demanded it be pulled off the air.

"This election ad is xenophobic and borders on racism," said Krisna Saravanamuttu, a council spokesman. It appeals to the "worst instincts of Canadians to score political points and votes."

"It is reminiscent of the political rhetoric used to turn back Sikhs and Hindus on board the Komagata Maru in 1914, and Jewish refugees on board the MS St. Louis fleeing persecution in 1939," Saravanamuttu said. "In these cases, refugees fleeing persecution were labelled 'criminals' and vilified by politicians appealing to the worst instincts of Canadians to score political points and votes."

Ouch. Not the kind of message the Conservatives need to win over immigrant voters -- or anyone with a sense of social justice!

And with regard to the Tamil refugee applicants, we are talking about less than 600 people when Canada admits between 240,000 and 265,000 immigrants a year -- that's 0.2 per cent of the total. All refugees have to go through a rigorous and lengthy approval process.

But why let the facts get in the way of a good scary immigration and environment bashing election ad?

Perhaps the next Conservative slogan will be even simpler: "British Columbia's coast: Oil tankers good -- refugee ships bad."

But how the Conservatives expect these tactics will help them win urban ridings is still a mystery that even Sherlock Holmes would find puzzling.

.

19 comments:

piker said...

The Conservative campaign is baffling, particularly in "battleground BC." Why do they insist on telling me that Iggy is the leader of the Liberal party? Is Harper not the leader of the Conservative party? Heck, he rebranded the whole government the "Harper government." There's only one egomaniac with the balls to do that and hide in plain site - and it ain't Iggy.

Human smuggling - sure the dark grainy images of boatpeople make for great fearmongering. However given more inadmissables are turned away at Canada's land border crossings in a week than have washed up on Canada's shores in total, it's absoultely nonsensical.

Anyone else notice that Laureen has magically made herself available for campaigning a la Nancy Campbell in the last few days? Guess Iggy's and Jack's family plans are putting a scare into the family values vote.

Susanna said...

Well done Bill! As a Palestinian activist myself, my eyes were opened a long time ago to the disdain for which Ottawa holds fellow activists and NGO's who would support the Palestinian people, and dare to voice any level of criticism towards Israel.

RonS said...

Now we know why Layton and the Liberals forced the election. With these kind of ads and loose cannons running for the CONS I would to. I say good for Layton and the Libs to force this fear mongering, lack of compassion and environmental issued into the open.

kootcoot said...

Hopefully Spiteful Steve and his gang of misfits aren't paying attention to any advice from you Bill. I'm fine with Harper staying in his bubble and saying little except for stoooopid stuff!

"All conservatives aren't stupid, but most stupid people are conservative!"

Anonymous said...

You have to appreciate that we have experienced the two worst environmental disasters in world history - Japan and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Both have become human catastrophes and will be with us for decades.

It's important, therefore, to go into deep denial about these events in order to protect the status quo. Our friend, Ms. Deborah Meredith, has a job to do, to drag us along with her in trivializing these events.

She has no business whatsoever pretending she is a leader. She is a mannequin.

Anonymous said...

It is less creepy than Campbell's (largely successful) strategy of getting into bed with the greenies. At least with the federal cons we know the environmental groups are still beyond arms length.

Skookum1 said...

never mind urban ridings, that they would do this in rural ridings is equally questionable....

piker said...

If Harper is so concerned about boatpeople crashing the shores of B.C., why is naval command being centralized in Halifax?

Anonymous said...

Why is Bill wasting time advertising the Conservatives and not advertising the NDP??

Anonymous said...

"Well done Bill! As a Palestinian activist myself, my eyes were opened a long time ago to the disdain for which Ottawa holds fellow activists and NGO's who would support the Palestinian people, and dare to voice any level of criticism towards Israel."

Anyone can criticise Israel. Where the problem is with Hamas sending fire across the border.

Perhaps if the Palenstinans would stop fighting and build themselves a nice little territory and learn to get along with others, things in that part of the Middle East would be vastly different.

Gaza could be a high economy location (since it is optially located as a transfer port to Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia), but sadly there are more Palestinians who want to keep fighting on against Israel rather than being an economic partner for everyone.

and please spare us the repetition of the plight of the Palestinian People. We've heard it all before.

Follow the lead of that lady Palestinan politician who was working for a co-operative effort rather than those who want to keep fighting.

Stan said...

Bill,

Ever the wordsmith, your article is a biased condemnation based on your fictional conclusions. One example is the your claim that boat people are immigrants. They are not immigrants. They are people who knowingly paid snake heads to illegally ship them into a country in order to jump the queue because they didn't want to go through the proper channels like everyone else. The fact is, most landed immigrants in this country do not support what they are doing and will be in support of a government crack-down on snake heads and illegal immigrants.

DPL said...

Today the Horsemen admitted they were busy hauling people out of conservative meetings. Their excuse was they were there to protect Harper, but promised not to do it again. Sure, until the next time. A party that actually checks peoples blogs, or face book to see if they are loyal Steve Boy suitable for being in the same room as the guy makes me wonder how he even exists as a employee of the public. Not his fault says Steve, it's the staff.
They stopped one guy because he had a bunper sticker that said. "Don't blame me, I'm NDP". Havn't seen that sticker since a number of elections ago.

@witsend said...

I seldom agree with Bill Tieleman and we know how he despises critical comments directed towards him... but at the same time he makes it so easy to disagree. He points out that the Liberal candidate squeaked out a win in the last federal election in part because as he said that Ms. Meredith was unavailable. Now that she is making her views known to the people in Quadra he finds it some how offensive. Bill isn't opposing ideas and thoughts what an election is all about?

@witsend

PeterInEdmonton said...

Since you cast a fairly wide net in this posting, I don't THINK I am going too far off topic when I report that the CBC reported this afternoon that Jack Layton would let BC keep the 1.6 Billion HST subsidy. See

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canadavotes2011/story/2011/04/06/cv-election-layton-seniors.html

I searched your blog for any previous reference to this subsidy and found that you said following about it:

'Who else benefits? The B.C. Liberal government, which will get $1.6 billion from the Stephen Harper Conservative federal government to "implement" the HST -- money it can spend however it likes.'

I am quoting this from

http://billtieleman.blogspot.com/2009/07/harmonize-this-why-bc-harmonized-sales.html

I'd quote something from the NDP web site but I can find no platform reference to this there.

I felt tempted to end this off with a snarky comment or two, but actually I feel rather sad at Jack's insensitivity to you.

Anonymous said...

Meredith lost by 150 votes in the by-election, and then by more than 5000 in the general election of 2008.
Question: How many times do the good voters of Vancouver Quadra have to reject this person?

Anonymous said...

"Today the Horsemen admitted they were busy hauling people out of conservative meetings."


"Their excuse was they were there to protect Harper, but promised not to do it again. Sure, until the next time. A party that actually checks peoples blogs, or face book to see if they are loyal Steve Boy suitable for being in the same room as the guy makes me wonder how he even exists as a employee of the public."

Quite simple actually. More people vote for Conservative candidates than they do for NDP candidates or Liberal candidates, hencewith he returns as Prime Minister. Same can be said for Jack Layton. It's just a matter of getting more people to vote for more NDP candidates in such numbers that exceed Conservative and Liberal candidates. See how simple it is?

"Not his fault says Steve, it's the staff.
They stopped one guy because he had a bunper sticker that said. "Don't blame me, I'm NDP". Havn't seen that sticker since a number of elections ago."

Saw a good one a very long time ago.

"I can't afford the NDP" But bumber stickers are so 1970's.

As is Adrian Dix.

For real direction, vote Mike Farnworth.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason that Harper is bashing the environment and immigration during the campaign is the same reason that he cut arts funding during the last campaign - it will actually appeal to people who think the way he does. He's saying "if I'm bold enough to do this during the campaign, just think what I'll do when I have a majority."

DPL said...

Hey Anon 10:11.If bumper stickers are so 1970, where do you place someone who can't even offer up a name or set of initials before telling us how wrong folks who don't support a candidate( Mike )who if by some chance got elected leader, most of us know would simply be Carole James mark 2?
Methinks some folks are afraid that Adrian Dix who is the best candidate will soon sort out "Perky Christy"

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon 10:11.If bumper stickers are so 1970, where do you place someone who can't even offer up a name or set of initials before telling us how wrong folks who don't support a candidate( Mike )who if by some chance got elected leader, most of us know would simply be Carole James mark 2?
Methinks some folks are afraid that Adrian Dix who is the best candidate will soon sort out "Perky Christy"

That's laughable.

For a serious candidate who offers postive direction for the NDP, and will be accepted by many as the next Premier of B.C. ...

...Vote Mike Farnworth.

Second choice? John Horgan!

No one else matters!