Stephen Harper rode into his morning event in Victoriaville, Que., on Tuesday in this community’s finest fire truck.
At first glance, this would appear a strange metaphor given the urgency of his campaign.
Nobody spending their days with the Conservative leader has ever been moved to shout “where’s the fire?” given the languid pace of this front-running stroll through Canada, delivering the message track to the converted in both official languages.
But viewed from a different perspective, perhaps the sight of an uncomfortable Conservative leader appearing trapped in the cab of the ladder truck makes some sense.
In his daily quest to sell the need for a majority Conservative government in Canada, Harper has become the political equivalent of the guy who shouts “fire” in a crowded theatre.
Wild speculative tales of a potential Harper majority were once thought to be a valuable Liberal weapon, conjuring as they did all manner of dark conspiracies regarding the hidden agenda harboured by the man at the helm.
This time, the wild tales are being spun by Harper, all in the name of “stability,” something that he says can only be derived from a majority government.
At rally after rally, the warnings of life under continued minority rule in Canada become more florid.
It brings “danger,” Harper says.
Chaos is lapping at our shores, he says.
Under his leadership, Harper tells supporters, Canada has become “the closest thing the world has to an island of stability.”
Some of the pre-screened supporters who provide the campaign backdrop have taken to holding signs that read “Harper = Stability.”
To many ears the Harper message is more than just hyperbole.
It is a message to new Canadians, voters the Conservatives are assiduously courting in a bid to turn the tide in a number of once safe Liberal ridings, many of them in the greater Toronto area.
It is a constituency Harper will be chasing flat out during his longest stay in the Toronto area that began on Wednesday.
Chaos, instability and danger mean something much more real and dire to a recent arrival from a troubled land or to a more established immigrant with family remaining in one of the world’s hot spots.
It was a message Harper took behind closed doors at an airport hotel on Monday afternoon when he met with 12 influential members of the ethnic media — mainly newspaper publishers.
Thomas S. Saras, 45 years in the media business and now president of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, can divine a political message. He has been courted by federal and provincial leaders since 1968 and had the best seat in the house on Monday.
“It is obvious,” he says, “that it was an effort to use a little psychological pressure.
“If you left your house because it is not safe and you come to your new house, you cannot have violence again in your new house.”
Those who have come to Canada from troubled lands seek the peace and “good life” that stability brings, Saras says.
He is confident that most of those publishers, from newspapers serving Chinese, South Asian, East European and Italian communities in the greater Toronto area and beyond, will return to their offices and write editorials on the wisdom of stability and majority government.
Harper brought another message to the journalists that he is careful to deliver to his rallies. “If Canadians give me a minority, I will accept that,” he says.
“Our agenda is the same whether it is a minority or a majority government.”
But with a majority still within their grasp, that message is being sharpened and it is clear the Harper campaign knows where that majority must be forged.
Tim Harper is a syndicated Toronto Star columnist.