Opinion Column

Stephen Harper — bad man behind blue eyes

Bill Tieleman

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Stephen Harper on the campaign trail.
REUTERS

Stephen Harper on the campaign trail. REUTERS

No one knows what it's like/To be the bad man/To be the sad man/Behind blue eyes. - Behind Blue Eyes, The Who, 1971

Stephen Harper, the bad man behind blue eyes to many – the only choice for others – has dominated this election campaign and our country like no other leader in decades.

Despised by not only New Democrats and Liberals, but by former Progressive Conservatives and even some Reform Party supporters, Harper has polarized Canada in a way not seen since Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau.

But even that former blustery Conservative and disdainful Liberal respectively didn’t engender the same level of loathing that Harper has accomplished in just three terms in office.

“No one knows what it's like/To be hated/To be fated/To telling only lies,” the Who wrote in a powerful and disturbing song, narrated not by the hero but a villain.

And to half or even more voters, that’s exactly what Harper is – a bad man.

From the implicit racism of fighting the niqab face covering worn by a handful of Muslim women to rejecting an inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women, Harper has deliberately pushed hot button topics that either infuriate or delight different voters.

That creates extreme views going well beyond “wedge issues” favoured by politicians to gain an advantage over their opponents.

“There is a segment of Canadian society, about 50%, who absolutely detest Stephen Harper,” Canadian pollster Angus Reid said this month.

So how can Harper say in television ads that: “This election isn’t about me, it’s about you” with a straight face?

The answer might also be found in The Who’s lyrics.

“But my dreams/They aren't as empty/As my conscience seems to be,” they wrote.

This extended 11-week campaign has shown that Canada has two new solitudes – no longer between Quebec and English Canada, but an ideological divide perhaps even more disturbing for its lack of tolerance and promotion of discord.

Regardless of this election – I am writing before the results are known – Canada must share our dreams more cooperatively – so not to have an empty conscience.

Otherwise every new prime minister will soon be the next bad man behind blue eyes.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com or Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman  

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