Scary Stephen

Stephen Harper is no stranger to the politics of fear, a strategy he’s effectively used to his advantage. His goal is to make voters fearful of the economic consequences if he’s voted out of office.

The results of British Columbia’s general election on May 14 are one example of the realities that further Harper’s strategy.

B.C. residents re-elected Christy Clark’s Liberal government, which came as a shock because the B.C. Liberals had been embarrassed by scandals and polls had them trailing the New Democrats.

According to the Globe and Mail, B.C. residents chose Clark over her opponent, Adrian Dix of the NDP, partly because the NDP was labeled “anti-development” by opponents due to its stance on energy projects like the Northern Gateway pipeline.

The results of this election highlight two important political realities that work in Stephen Harper’s favour.

First, voters often choose who to vote for based on apprehension towards the alternative rather than genuine support for a given candidate. Second, the politics of pipelines and energy are effective conduits for Canadian fears of an economic slowdown.

Harper’s team is aware of these dynamics and will continue to use them effectively.

In the lead up to Harper’s re-election in 2011, the Conservative party ran an ad that opened with scenes of rioting and ended with shots of Harper looking serene and confident. The clear implication was that he had staved off civil unrest and saved Canada from the global recession.

I don’t mean to imply that it’s only the Harper Conservatives who play off Canadian fears for electoral victory. Indeed, the Canadian left has appropriated Harper as a symbol of evil itself.

His unique style of fear-mongering, though, is perfectly formulated for Canada’s coming challenges.

The debate over natural resources exploitation is a key area in which Harper can use fear to his advantage.

The Idle No More movement was the first widespread taste of this conflict and has the potential to be significant going into the future. Harper could pivot perfectly from this development by painting his opposition as conciliatory ninnies willing to sell Canada’s economy down the river.

Reports of Harper’s demise are definitely exaggerated. Despite ongoing scandals, he’ll keep pushing his narrative of economic stability.

Harper’s politics of fear represent a conservative strategy which galvanizes his base of support, and opponents should be wary of conditions that could augment his ability to scare Canadians.

David is the Editorials Editor at the Journal.

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