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Canada's Stupid Party

New reasons I fret about the ReformaTories.

By Mark Leiren-Young 10 Jun 2005 |

Mark Leiren-Young is a writer/director/performer who spends too much of his free time worrying about the environment, the Canadian political scene, and the Vancouver Canucks (not necessarily in that order). Mark won the Leacock Medal for Humour for his comic memoir, Never Shoot a Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo. He was a finalist for the WGC Award for screenwriting for his first feature film, The Green Chain. His most recent book, This Crazy Time, was written with/about controversial environmentalist, Tzeporah Berman. He's half of the satirical duo Local Anxiety. Their latest comedy CD, Greenpieces, is available on iTunes and their 21st century version of O Christmas Tree is becoming a holiday favourite thanks to The Tyee.

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I used to worry about Stephen Harper’s ReformaTories ™ because I thought they were mean-spirited, narrow-minded, ideologues who’d make Brian Mulroney look like Tommy Douglas.

But in the last few weeks, I’ve developed a new reason to worry.

I’m starting to suspect that they’re stupid. And I’m not just talking about Gurmant Grewal having to take “stress leave” because he forgot to call 1.800. GOFedex. I think the stupidity runs deeper than that.

So I decided to ask an expert.

Albert Nerenberg, the filmmaker who created the popular documentary, Stupidity, says that one of the key components of stupidity is an adherence to a strict belief system that leads to an inability to cope with new information or systems.

“They (stupid people) act like self destructing robots when faced with a situation they can’t understand and they actually spew smoke and rattle and jump up and down,” says Nerenberg.

I thought this was a fairly accurate description of how the Tories have looked in recent weeks.

Beelzebub Layton?

Smoke first started spewing from Harper’s ears when PM PM made his deal with Happy Jack Layton, to keep the budget afloat and Harper started flipping out over, “deals with the devil.”

It struck me that Martin had finally swallowed enough pride to do what a Prime Minister in a minority government is supposed to do and brokered a compromise in order to govern.

Meanwhile, Harper was preparing to bring down the government thanks to a deal with the leader of a party devoted to destroying Canada. So I thought maybe Harper was just projecting.

Then Belinda bailed and Harper and everyone else on team Tory started behaving like dipsticks – and not even remotely pretty ones.

Here’s a party that has serious credibility problems when it comes to convincing women they’re not a bunch of sexist neanderthals. Their most prominent woman walks across the floor and when all the cameras and microphones are pointed at them, the best attack they can muster is that their biggest female star was an ambitious, stupid, heartbreaking whore. Yeah, that’s gonna convince all Canadian women that you’ve got their best interests at heart.

I was waiting for one of the good ol’ boys to actually call her Jezebel or suggest she wear a scarlet letter. Apparently the key to “Operation Belittle Belinda” was to convince the country she was evil not for leaving the party, but for leaving her beau, Peter MacKay, who was once known as “Parliament Hill’s most eligible bachelor.”

Considering the moral outrage from the Tory family values wing, one would think that either Petey and Belinda were married -- or they’d at least signed a chastity pledge.

‘Watch them explode’

There was a way to belittle Belinda without looking like, well, the rednecks they claim they’re not. All the white bible boys should have shut up while Harper appointed the most prominent woman in his party as the designated Belinda basher. Even if the attacks were just as ignorant, if they were coming from a woman they’d at least look less sexist.

It also didn't seem bright to accuse her of being stupid. If Belinda was that dumb -- and she was the party’s second most prominent player -- what does that say about the accumulated dullness of the other knives in the Tory drawer?

It also seemed, well, stupid, after parading Belinda around the country – especially Ontario – as the face of the new, improved, “we’re not really the Reform Party... just don’t ask us to swear to that on any bibles.”

Apparently, the Tory reaction to Belinda’s defection was typical of stupid people. “They can not cope with new information or new situations,” says Nerenberg. “With Belinda, the Tories revealed themselves and it was a disaster. If I was their opponent, I’d just keep creating situations that they can’t comprehend and watch them explode.”

After the bitterness over Belinda, Harper seemed to pin all his hopes on the, um, thin Grewal of a bizarre espionage mission – that supposedly wasn’t officially endorsed, but certainly wasn’t disavowed either. Harper stood by his man, and his tape, despite the fact that it “accidentally,” lost fourteen minutes during the initial dubbing. For anyone keeping score, that’s only four a half minutes less than Nixon lost from the Watergate tapes.

Since voters are always so impressed by the ethics of people who secretly tape conversations, what exactly was Grewal thinking with his Linda Tripp impersonation? And what were the Tories thinking when they released it? This was supposed to be their shortcut to the moral high ground?

Our friends the Bloc

And what could Grewal have been thinking when he tried to hand off the tape at the airport – except that if he truly wanted to enter the BC political sweepstakes for bizarre behaviour, just taping something still wasn’t anywhere near as interesting as pocketing a wedding ring.

Meanwhile, just when people outside of Calgary started seriously testing the phrase, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper,” the party started nominating candidates who are so deeply fundamentalist, it’s possible to picture Stockwell Day telling them to get back to bible study to reread all the stuff about loving their neighbours.

“The Tories are stupid,” says Nerenberg, “because instead of trying to move to the mainstream and become an alternative to the Liberals, they’ve allowed themselves to be taken over by kooks and lunatics and fanatics.”

Keep in mind that Day’s hopes for running the country, pretty much evaporated when he explained that his thoughts on evolution were fairly consistent with the teachings of The Flintstones.

But it was Harper’s desperation for an election that struck me as particularly stupid.

Over the last few weeks Harper’s looked so grasping, desperate and power hungry that he’s managed to do the impossible and make Paul Martin seem almost Prime Ministerial in comparison. It’s starting to look like if he doesn’t topple the government soon, Harper’s going to threaten to hold his breath until he turns blue. So what’s stupid about that?

The Reform election math never seemed to be based on gaining enough seats to actually form a majority, but on the Liberals losing enough seats in Quebec that Harper would have the most MPs.

Since Harper’s about as likely to deal with the devilish NDP as he is to flash a human-looking smile, that means the only way the ReformaTories could govern is by striking an Alliance with the Bloc Quebecois.

Yeah, that’s definitely the best way to save Canada from outraged separatists. If Harper wins and has to depend on the Bloc to prop him up, he could have the shortest-lived government in Canadian history. But Harper still claims and proclaims he needs to bring down the government fast for the good of, um, Quebec.

Premature election syndrome

To make matters weirder, let’s picture this not entirely implausible scenario. Instead of assuming a sudden wave of Harper-mania’s going to sweep the nation, what if the government falls, Paul Martin wins a new mandate and two weeks later Justice Gomery declares Martin loaded and fired the smoking gun?

I’d assume someone, somewhere – if not everyone, everywhere -- would demand Martin resign and/or that the Liberals call another election. But if they’d just won one, that would be, well, stupid.

Back when Preston ran Reform – and whoever imagined how lovable he’d look in the rearview mirror – his caucus members were infamous for saying stupid things. But Preston was normally quick to disavow them – even if he was only putting on a show for the eastern media.

“The Tories in the U.K. were once known as, “the stupid party,”” says Nerenberg, “because they were famous for saying ignorant, dumb things. It was a combination of saying stupid things and losing. I think it’s because they were on the side of ignorance. And the same might be said about our own Tories.”

So perhaps stupidity is just part of Harper’s political heritage and the Tories should embrace it. After all, stupid politicians win a lot of elections. And it’s a catchy slogan. “The Conservatives: Canada’s Stupid party."

Or maybe... "The New Tories -- We're not corrupt, we're just stupid."

Mark Leiren-Young would like to remind that, on the night of the provincial election, he predicted ‘I'd go with 48 Libs, 31 NDP’, which was pretty close.  [Tyee]

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