Odes to business acumen, delivered in front of a wall-sized Quebec flag, for the entrepreneurial nationalists of the Quebec City region.Paeans to the new Canadian mosaic in the bustling suburbs around Toronto.The turnout was one of the largest yet for Harper in this campaign.
When he finished, the applause was tumultuous, as it was when Harper pledged to “continue to support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.” When it was over, Harper called it an evening and resumed the measured pace he has pursued throughout the campaign’s ﬁrst month.
It is the classic pace of the modern national leader’s campaign, not far different from what Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau are doing, predicated on the very strong belief among political professionals that there is nothing to be gained from running a leader into the ground.
The difference is the exquisite degree to which Harper’s staff have refined the technique.
Nobody gets into a Harper event without an invitation.
And again, days later, when I was transcribing my recording of Harper’s remarks.
Stephen Harper is having a ball out there on the road, loose and cheerful, and it’s all a bit jarring, because there is no poll so far that suggests he can hang onto a Conservative majority in the House of Commons after Oct. Most polls suggest he is not on track to win this thing in any way. Or maybe the Conservative leader knows what we know—that this may be his last hurrah—and he’s okay with that.Some show the Conservatives in third place, behind Mulcair’s NDP and even Trudeau’s hated Liberals, whose collective voice rings in Harper’s head like a voice from a cancelled late-night talk show. Every day, he tells invited audiences who have demonstrated their loyalty to Canadian conservatism the things they most want to hear.In Whitehorse, at the morning event, he was introduced by Ryan Leef, the incumbent MP who had leapt from the bushes a few nights earlier to inflict a citizen’s arrest on a neighbour who had been defacing his campaign signs.No message escapes his lips that did not get there from a teleprompter.The campaign is a feedback loop, supporters to leader and back.But Harper plainly enjoys his pep talks to Conservative troops more than these daily confrontations with the scribes. He stands straighter, delivers his lines with more élan, and seems in a genuinely far better mood than four years ago, when he slouched and grumbled his way to a third consecutive election victory.