Tory attack campaign tarnishing federal government integrity

The lie-and-spin approach to public debate fits with Harper’s order to keep his campaigning MPs away from all-candidates meetings

Our prime minister has now made it official: lying is his new way of engaging with Canadians.

A certain amount of attacking and fudging is a necessary evil in politics. But what the Conservative Party is doing in its renewed media campaign slagging NDP leader Tom Mulcair for championing a carbon tax he never proposed takes attack lying to a new low.

The first time this campaign rolled out, six months ago, it might have been the work of an overzealous campaign team testing the limits. Now that the gross inaccuracies have been so well documented and the campaign is being repeated, it’s clear that it’s an official policy of aggressive lying endorsed by the prime minister and by our silence.

The attack parrots just look you in the eye and repeat lies that have already been widely exposed as fraud. Wow.

There’s a dangerous pattern here, where facts and evidence are tossed out in favour of well-polished lies laid out on a buffet of untruths carefully calculated to satisfy us. It’s reminiscent of the lie-ridden acceptance speech of defeated U.S. Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, whose pollster countered, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

OK, so then it’s official, we’re counting on voters to join us in a parallel universe of calculated fantasies.

Harper’s latest salvo fits with the firing of scientists whose work might be disturbing to the government’s agenda of stirring the economy with whatever dirty stick it takes to get it through the next election.

The lie-and-spin approach to public debate fits with Harper’s order to keep his campaigning MPs away from all-candidates meetings, as though engaging citizens in policy discussions is dangerous.

It’s something Premier Christy Clark copied in her byelection campaign where she barely won her seat. Demonizing the public’s insistence on facts fits with the Tory orders to federally funded scientists, working in the public interest on the public dime in the public realm, to shut up.

It fits with the prime minister’s and cabinet ministers’ repeated refusals to answer questions from the media.

It’s especially galling that this smear campaign has two targets: the official opposition and economists’ best-consensus policy to deal with climate change. The subtext is that both should be thrown out, even though establishing a predictable uniform price on carbon is endorsed by Canada’s major industry associations, including the Mining Association of Canada and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

It’s hard not to stand by between elections feeling helpless as these fabricated attacks keep coming, gradually enabling a new political culture of seemingly unlimited intellectual fraud and venom. Those who can’t win on their own merits depend on our complacency to allow poll-tested hate to be the new normal.

As former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark warned in a Vancouver Sun interview: “I think the greatest threat to Canada is not some disease that will come, not some attack that will come, but [that] we will just grow sufficiently indifferent that instead of finding national reasons to come together, to be our best, to be excited about our whole country, we sort of slip into our gated communities and stay there and watch the world go by.”

He didn’t finish. We don’t just watch the world go by. In our indifference we also watch democracy go by. We watch our kids go by, shaking their heads at what we’re bequeathing them, staring deeper into their mobile devices where the distractions are so much more attractive than hate-and-lie-fuelled political discourse.

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