With a federal election coming up later this year, Stephen Harper’s electoral strategy is now coming into focus. He intends on emphasizing a series of wedge issues designed to separate his principal opponent from the Canadian voters, or to strengthen his bond with conservative voters. In the latter category has been Bill C-42 – designed to deregulate gun ownership, as well as Harper’s comments on the need of rural people for guns to defend themselves. Another has been the building of the Victims of Communism memorial in Ottawa, which has elicited shrieks of outrage from the Ottawa intelligentsia (as well as specious excuses from the Liberals). Again, the politics behind this effort is designed to separate voters of Polish, Ukrainian, and other Eastern European extraction from the Liberal Party (and for that matter non-European refugees of communism such as the Cambodians).
As I have said a number of times before (here and here), an excellent wedge issue is the Keystone XL pipeline, whose Congressional approval President Obama has recently vetoed. Traditionally, the Conservatives have been seen in Canada as the pro-American party due to the Conservative’s ideological sympathy with the American system of government. The Liberals have used this perception to insinuate Conservative disloyalty to Canada. With Keystone XL, the roles are reversed. Harper can play the anti-American card against the Liberals who are forced, by their ties to environmentalism, to oppose a project that is indisputably good for the Canadian economy. So far so good.
What Stephen Harper hasn’t done but what he needs to do is to call President Obama out personally, accuse him anti-Canadianism in his opposition to Keystone XL. As Obama is an icon of the Canadian left, Trudeau will have two forces pulling him in the opposite direction – environmentalism and Obamaism. At that point, Harper – and/or his attack ads - need to ask in public whether Trudeau is capable of standing up for the Canadian economy, or whether his allegiances to left-wing ideology and foreign leaders disqualifies him from doing that.
Done right it is will be effective, and leave the Liberals sputtering and speechless. They have never been accused of being too pro-American before.