Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The plan of attack

Since there seems to be plenty of agreement with the sentiment that the Cons' war on public services demands a strong opposition response. With that in mind, what should we be looking to in order to turn the admitted goal of sabotaging governments across the country into the defining public perception of the Harper government, rather than just another ephemeral story?

1. Keep focused on the story.

The Libs in particular have taken loads of well-justified criticism during their stay in opposition for reflexively responding to the minutiae of the day rather than setting out a larger narrative. But a declaration that the Cons are actively working to prevent would seem to provide the perfect opportunity to connect an immediate story into a broader message - that is, if the Cons don't manage to change the subject again.

2. Connect all talk about the census to Taylor's declaration.

One of the Cons' great "successes" has been in consistently framing opposition positions as implausible extremes with no basis in fact - and I won't suggest the opposition parties should want to sink quite as low as Harper's crew. But now that the Cons' leading spokesparrot has said outright that his party's goal is to tear down the factual foundation for civil society, there's no reason for the opposition parties to allow the Cons to pretend their attack on the census represents any less.

So by the time the next election rolls around, Taylor should be better known than he is now as "Stephen Harper's court stenographer". Phrases like "ideological force-feeding" and "dealing a huge blow to the welfare state" - or better yet, stronger versions on terms not set by Taylor - should be highlighted often enough to penetrate the public's consciousness as defining the Cons. And every Con MP, candidate and spokespuppet should be forced to either distance himself or herself from Taylor, or agree with the statement that the Cons' ultimate goal is to destroy Canada's public infrastructure for good - and that the choice to gut the census is a "shortcut" to that end.

3. Raise the census at every opportunity.

Here's the plus side of a conflict which goes to the basic capacity and decision-making philosophy of government: every political issue can easily be linked back to it. So it shouldn't be difficult to make sure that every piece of news - including the Cons' own moves to change the subject - gets greeted with a response leading right back to Harper's ideological vandalism.

The Cons make a spending announcement? Point out how census information is important to making it, and how the Cons have basically said they don't care if the money produces results.

The Cons meet with a community group? Ask whether the group is satisfied being dismissed as a "special interest" which should be permanently shut out of public decision-making.

The Cons proclaim their fiscal responsibility? Highlight their ridiculous choice to pay more for less usable information, and tie it back into the broader theme of refusing to even have outcomes accurately evaluated.

Needless to say, I'll encourage readers to come up with more to add to the above. But the most important point is to make sure that our ideas now come to define the Cons by the time Canadians next go to the polls.

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