You can’t say I didn’t warn you Stephen

(Note from Phil: as I take another look at this column before publishing it on my blog I feel compelled to offer this update: now-former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper did indeed fall victim to election winds he likely didn’t imagine possible when he called the longest election campaign in Canadian history in midsummer, 2015. His right-wing Conservative government was defeated, and he is no longer leader of the Conservative Party. Canada now has a Liberal government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a much more open and accessible approach to governing, while celebrating Canada’s cultural diversity.)

 My corn is not happy.

Neither are the tomatoes.

And not just because of the confusion about why one is singular and the other is plural. Fortunately I keep them far apart in order to avoid argument and bad feelings in my rather large garden. Never underestimate the ability of plants to pick up on bad vibes. Go out in the morning among your fruits and veggies with love in your heart and they will thrive.

Of course, it’s a given too that sufficient heat and rain is also essential. And in that regard, especially when it comes to heat, this has not been a good growing season so far up here on the Bruce Peninsula.

I plant untreated seed; that is, seed untreated with fungicide to keep it from rotting in cool ground. I held off as long as I could before planting my corn this past, unusually cold spring in early June instead of late May. Similarly, hundreds of frost-sensitive tomato plants got transplanted into the garden about the same time.

But so far this summer (early August, 2015) the temperature has reached the high 20s (Celsius) for just a few days about a week ago. That, followed by a day of serious rain, encouraged my corn to grow a human head taller in just a couple of days earlier this week.

But suddenly there was a chill in the air again. At this rate, I said to myself, I’ll be lucky to get ripe sweet corn to pick and sell by the Labour Day weekend. And that’s if I get it at all.

The last thing my corn needed was for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to decide way ahead of the usual schedule that the official campaign for the federal election, legally required to happen October 19th, should start now.

Too bad there isn’t also a fixed date to start the campaign.

But as things stand in this new age of political manipulation the all-powerful prime minister of the “Harper Government” has the right declare the end of summer, and more: I look out my office winter as I write this and see the dark clouds rolling just above the treetops. Near the house a big, cold-sensitive tree started shedding its big leaves, I swear, the same day Harper went to see the Governor-General and advised him to “drop the writ.”

Of course, in Canada, which is technically a Constitutional Monarchy, the Queen’s representative, or even the Queen herself, doesn’t have any real power to ignore that advice, even if it should be.

I suppose His Excellency David (Johnston) could have got on the phone to Her Majesty Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace – for all I know, maybe he did – and said something like, “Your Majesty, Prime Minister Harper wants me to dissolve the Canadian Parliament now for the election scheduled for mid-October, 11 weeks from now. Election campaigns in Canada aren’t usually that long; indeed, there hasn’t been one that long for many years. Normally I wouldn’t bother you with this, except for that.”

Whether or not Johnston actually made such a call, I of course don’t know. And I certainly, wouldn’t even dare to imagine what the Queen might have said in response. That would be crossing the protocol line too much, a breach of subject-monarch decorum akin to giving her a hug. So I won’t go there. I know my place.

But I’d love to have been the proverbial fly on the wall in the Prime Minister’s office as he and his bright lights discussed the pros and cons of starting the campaign for a fall election in midsummer.

I presume someone around the table would have had the nerve to speak frankly to the boss, along the lines of, “well, sir, it could backfire: the last thing people want when they’re on holidays is to be bothered by politics. If they think about it at all they might just end up being cynical, and distrustful of our motives. It may just look manipulative. And if people are already starting to wonder about you in that regard, as the master manipulator, then that could end up being disastrous.”

“That’s a good enough point, sir,” I imagine someone else saying, “but those who would think like that have already made up their minds. Our base is never going to go there. All we have to worry about, with the opposition split, and our poll numbers starting to come back, is picking up maybe five percent of the popular vote to get another majority.

“You start off by saying a long campaign was needed to give people more than enough time to understand the important issues at stake. You tell them not to worry, the economy is in good hands, Canada’s economic position is sound, now is not the time to change horses. You say Alberta and Ontario have made a mistake electing non-conservative governments.

“Meanwhile, we’ve got a lot more money to spend, and more time to spend it, especially in the last couple of weeks, to get our message across. We can virtually dictate the outcome of the election.”

I don’t imagine in my mischievous way that anybody at that brainstorming session talked about the weather, that favourite ice-breaking topic of Canadian conversation.

They should have. Trust me, you don’t tamper or otherwise play politics, with something as precious as summer weather. The winds might just change in a way you might never guess.

Originally published in The Sun Times in 2015.











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