Campaign Notebook: Harper’s Critics Anger at Least One Canadian

Canada’s election campaign is wrapping up its third week, but much of it has played out just steps from Parliament Hill -- in Courtroom 33, where a senator appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper is standing trial.

The Mike Duffy scandal has shaken Harper’s Conservatives by revealing a plan to cover up a payment of C$90,000 by the prime minister’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to Duffy.

This week, the trial revealed that Wright’s successor, longtime Harper aide Ray Novak, was also told about the plan to pay Duffy -- contradicting what Harper has said regularly for two years, and what Wright testified.

Harper has stonewalled on the matter, insisting it was only Wright and Duffy who were responsible, but has been dogged by persistent questions.

“I’m not going to go around holding everybody else accountable for their actions,” Harper said Thursday.

Old Yeller

Amid a trial increasingly focused on whether Harper told the truth, the prime minister’s reticence was contrasted by one of his own supporters -- a white-haired man at a Conservative rally who unleashed a profanity-laced tirade on the press.

With cameras rolling, he called the journalists liars and idiots and said the Duffy case is a case of mistaken tax disputes -- though it’s not. Asked his name, he told a reporter to “go stuff yourself.”

He sparked a series of online memes and images, with his face superimposed onto Conservative signs, making him something of a campaign folk hero.

Thatcher’s Admirer

The first long-lost video to surface in the campaign arrived this week, showing the leader of the New Democratic Party in 2001 praising the economic policies of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The only problem? Tom Mulcair’s current party is left-leaning, and the furthest ideologically from Thatcherism among Canada’s main parties. His full-throated defense of opening markets and easing the reach of government was made while he was a provincial Liberal, traditionally a more centrist party in Canada, and before he switched to the NDP.

His comments may stoke doubt among the party’s base about Mulcair’s leftist bona fides. The NDP campaign downplayed the clip.

Not Caitlyn

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is, by 13 years, the youngest of the major party leaders and tends to take interviews outside the traditional political circuit. This week, Trudeau sat down with ET Canada, an entertainment show, and the host asked him to identify photos of the Kardashian family.

He identified Kim Kardashian as Caitlyn Jenner, leading the host to hold the picture closer and whisper the correct answer. “I know,” Trudeau said.

The father of three identified two more with references to children’s characters -- Dora the Explorer and “not Caillou” - - and two others as, again, Caitlyn Jenner, including one correctly.

He was also asked this week which of the Avengers heroes was his favorite. He said Hulk.

Surveys Say

The campaign’s first debate was held Aug. 6. This week, one Abacus Data poll assessed the impact, and respondents who watched some or all of the debate rated Trudeau the winner. Among those who did not watch the debate, however, Mulcair was said to have won.

Polls this week have generally been positive for Mulcair -- Abacus found he leads Trudeau and Harper on ratings of being principled and having “good ideas,” while narrowly outscoring Harper on who is most “a leader.”

Polling aggregator continues to show Mulcair’s party four percentage points ahead of Harper’s second-place Conservatives.

Rae’s Legacy

Harper has dialed up his attacks on the NDP while campaigning in Ontario, the country’s most populous and vote-rich province. The NDP held power there for one term two decades ago and was tossed out in the next vote.

The Conservative leader has sought to stoke fears of the federal NDP by raising memories of its Ontario example, and then-NDP-Premier Bob Rae, who has since switched to the Liberals, served as an MP and retired from federal politics.

New Democrats have responded lately by simply brushing aside any ties to the Rae legacy.

“Bob Rae is a Liberal,” one NDP candidate in Ontario, former Saskatchewan NDP Finance Minister Andrew Thomson, said in an interview. “So we’ll leave it up to Justin Trudeau to explain how his party relates to Bob Rae’s legacy.”

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