03.11.2015 01:32 AM

In this week’s Hill times: love and fear and Canadian politics

It’s better to be feared than loved, Niccolo Machiavelli once famously observed. You cannot be both.

It’s unknown whether the Florentine philosopher’s maxim is playing on the minds of assorted political strategists, these days. But as they squint at the calendar, brooding on the weeks ahead, politicos should heed Machiavelli’s observation. Because fear is decidedly upon the land.

Take, for example, just one day in recent days. On Thursday, the morning papers were filled with the following reports:

· A survey by Pollara Strategic Insights, showing that approximately half of Canadians say they feel less safe from terrorism than they did two years ago – and with two-thirds saying a terrorist attack in Canada is likely in the next five years.

· Revelations about a video filmed by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, minutes before he commenced a murderous rampage on Parliament Hill – and in which he lays to rest, once and for all, the notion that he was merely an unaffiliated extremist, and not a committed jihadist.

· A speech by one of the accused Via Rail bombing jihadists, speaking at the conclusion of his Toronto trial to warn the jury to prepare for “Judgment Day.”

· A police surveillance tape showing two B.C. jihadists – being prosecuted for several offences – describing their plan to bomb crowds around B.C.’s Legislature, because Canada was “guilty” of crimes in the Middle East.

· Word that a former hockey-loving boy from Timmins, Ont. had recruited five others to go and fight for ISIS.

All of the above are terror-related reports taken from the news media on a single day. And all of the above terror-related reports have a clear Canadian news angle – and do not even include the daily procession of international news stories about ISIS, or al-Shahaab, or al-Qaeda, or Boko Haram, or some other genocidal cult.

Fear – and its lesser cousin, anxiety – are rather complex emotions, but also rather durable, the psychotherapists tell us. They derive from our primeval urge to survive. And, say the experts, it is fear that has most assisted us in doing so, and in getting this far, escaping various predators along the way.

So, humans (generally) – and Canadians (specifically) – can be forgiven for thinking that fear and anxiety are not always illegitimate. They can also be forgiven for shaking their heads at the facile Liberal Party talking head who was pontificating on CBC’s Power and Politics, in the aforementioned news cycle, huffing that “it is the safest time in human history.”

That may be true, statistically, but it is completely irrelevant, emotionally. In a struggle between the political brain and the political gut, the latter will always beat the former. Political choices are mainly a function of emotion, not information.

Progressives always get tongue-tied when talking about emotion, but conservatives positively revel in it. They’re good at it. And that is why Stephen Harper is presently inching towards re-election, and why Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair are not. Harper has captured the fear zeitgeist, while Trudeau and Mulcair are attempting to swim against the tide.

It can’t be done. Of all of the human emotions, fear is arguably the most powerful. And when it is validated by daily headlines – headlines which originate in Timmins or Victoria, and not some Nigerian jungle or Iraqi bunker – it is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped.

Will fear slip from the front pages, as Liberal and New Democrat strategists hope? Perhaps. No one knows. But to this writer, the present jihad rather resembles the Crusades in reverse. And the Crusades, as students of history will recall, lasted about 200 years, give or take. ISIS intend for their crusade to last just as long: just ask them. They’ll tell you.

As they peer at their election calendars, then, plotting out what lies ahead, Liberal and New Democrat strategists know – or should – that, in a contest between love and fear, fear will win.

In this, they are assisted by ISIS and the morning papers, who show no sign of letting up.


  1. Bill says:

    CPC have simply picked up W’s 2004 campaign, crap management of the economy and played on the terror fears.

    It worked for them, but it was close(down to Ohio).

    Given our different system, I can see a CPC Minority in the next election.

    But if I’m the opposition, I’ll point out that all these attacks happened on Harper’s watch so how are they better at keeping Canadians safe?

    ISIS may be new but terror isn’t, CPC have been at the helm since 2006 and have had ample time to build on any perceived weakness in the terror legislation brought in post 9/11 but waited rather than being proactive, hardly leadership in my view.

    Hopefully, someone in the opposition invokes FDR’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”..

    • cgh says:

      “Hopefully, someone in the opposition invokes FDR’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”..”

      Yes, it was in his 1932 inaugural speech with respect to the disintegrating US economy. He then went out and starting with appropriations in 1937 proceeded to built the largest war machine the world had ever seen. Rather necessary given events that started in 1939. But you lot oppose armed intervention against ISIS, don’t you?

  2. Derek Pearce says:

    Out of the several takeaways from this column I’m most interested in the idea that ISIS-types will want to fight the West for 200 years. I agree.

    Immediately after 9/11 up to and including some time well after the invasion of Iraq, I was convinced the west would have to steel itself for a long, protracted and at times dirty war of several dozen years, and yet my enthusiasm dulled after only a half dozen. Even if not on the offensive, can fear be maintained for 200 years? The British masses learned to get on with life and not live in constant fear of the IRA during the 25 years of The Troubles. Both Labour and Tory governments ruled alternately during those times and terrorism was usually greatly eclipsed by the economy as an issue for people. Maybe in another 10 years or so Canadians will not factor terror into their electoral decisions. Until then the opposition parties are at a loss I guess.

  3. sezme says:

    “…in a contest between love and fear, fear will win.”

    Sure, just ask Obama in 2008!

    And sticking with a US Presidential theme, what did the greatest one of the 20th century say?
    “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

  4. MississaugaPeter says:

    Agree with the overall view WK, but am reminded that Martin tried fear and it did not lead to victory (although one could say they would have lost worse without it).

    Obama owned the ISIS file last fall and the result was still Democratic Party losses in November (maybe the losses would have been greater without the focus on ISIS).

    • Warren says:

      I should have said fear in the current circumstances. Needs a factual basis. There is one, at the moment.

      • wsam says:

        Obama didn’t own the ISIL file. He called ISIL junior varsity (correctly) and tried not to engage with them directly. There were good reasons for this and it would have been better if he had been able to continue using covert means and not turn ISIL into poster boys for international jihad, but he went in. People saw scary shit on TV and flipped out. It was a crass news media and Republicans who forced his hand.

        Obama’s flip-flopping on ISIL helped affirm the narrative promoted by his political opponents that he is a weak and naïve leader.

        Then, as now, those advocating tough measures to combat ISIL and ‘Islamic jihadism’ are operating in the context of no context, where the concrete reality of ongoing events in the Middle East are ignored in favour of fear-mongering appeals to prejudice and uninformed bias. It is as if nobody can understand how ISIL came into existence and how it was able to expand so rapidly into Sunni areas. Canada has truly joined Team Dumb.

        • cgh says:

          The nonsense just gets worse and worse with you.

          “He called ISIL junior varsity (correctly)”

          From hiding in caves in Afghanistan, jihadism has grown to overrunning one-third of Syria and nearly half of Iraq, complete with some modern weaponry, a revenue stream and most of the other appurtenances of a state. To call such a judgment correct simply illustrates your own illusions.

          “…and tried not to engage with them directly.”

          Bill Clinton did the same kind of thing with Rwanda in the 1990s. A half-million dead later, he admitted it was the worst mistake of his Presidency.

          The only rational conclusion from your remarks here is that you believe ISIL continue its murderous path entirely unmolested.

          • wsam says:

            cgh, do you pay attention to the news?

            Iraqi Shia militias under Iranian leadership, celebrated for using power drills to torture Sunnis, have been enthusiastically ethnically-cleansing towns of their Sunni co-nationalists after coalition airstrikes have helped clear of those same towns of ISIL.

            We are doing are part. According to Parliamentary Budget Office Estimates (and they are estimates because Stephen Harper’s fiscally responsible government refuses to co-operate with Canadian fact-based agencies like the Parliament’s Budget Office) Canada has spent $128.8-million to $166.4-million in Iraq so far.

            This has been money well-spent, for Iran. By tomorrow Iraq forces and Shia militias commanded by Iranian General Qasem Soleimani might have already taken Tikrit. The US is refusing to aid this attack, although it previously had been co-ordinating with Iran. One reason for the US’s reluctance is Solimani and Iran’s leadership of Iraqi and Shia militias and the ground war.

            Solimani is the head of Iran’s elite al-Quds Force and is believed to be the most powerful man in Iraq.

            Saudi Arabia is publicly accusing Iran of taking over Iraq. In Bagdad Solimani is known as Super-Soliman!

            The above is one among the many reasons why Obama wanted to keep US involvement covert. This is nothing like Rwanda, you fool! I feel bad for you, cgh, being trapped in your tiny little brain.

            150 million is a lot of money to spend to hand Iraq over to Iran. Justify that …

  5. zeker says:


    “Hope always beats fear and all that Stephen Harper knows is the fear button,” said [Warren] Kinsella.

  6. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Fear at its height can move mountains. It can be stroked and exaggerated to the point that the sky is falling.

    But it generally has a short shelf life. So watch for plenty of woe is me in the coming months leading to a spring election.

    Conservatives don’t want their fear diluted — that’s why a fall election is now off the table.

  7. Mark Roseman says:

    Having been Prime Minister since 2006, he waited until he completed running one of the most successful economies of the world into the ground before taking a serious stab at preventing terror attacks?

    • Ray says:

      The Canadian economy churns out $1.5T annually and boasts the 11th-highest GDP on the planet (IMF, World Bank, UN). Unemployment is below 7%. Canada ranks 8th on the list of the world’s most developed nations (Human Development Index), ahead of those oft-championed paragons of socialism, Denmark (10th), Sweden (12th), and Iceland (13th).

      Sorry – how did the current government run the economy into the ground again?

      • wsam says:

        By neglecting the economy’s sectors besides oil because as an Alberta Nationalist Stephen Harper does not understand how an economy functions past extracting its resources. As a neo-Conservative he does not understand foreign policy outside of muscle flexing.

        In both foreign policy and the economy Harper’s Conservatives will be seen to have failed. Their failure stems from not understanding how the world beyond short-term electoral considerations works. Like you cannot bully a sitting American president into buying your oil. Like Canada does not control the global price of oil. Like as bad as it seems it is possible to make the Middle East worse.

        Harper probably figures that at the most Conservatives have only one more term left. After that it will be left to the Liberals to deal with their mess. Just like after Mulroney.

        • Elisabeth Lindsay says:

          Hey wsam – that sitting American President is buying 200 million more barrels of oil from us than the last sitting American President. Per day!! Now up to 1 million barrels.

          Mining, quarrying and oil & gas combined – 8 1/2% of Canada`s economy.

          Manufacturing is up to 11%

          Real Estate, Rental and Leasing is 13%

          • wsam says:

            A auto industry which is a shell of its former self and a $200 million manufacturing fund for Ontario which hasn’t been accessed once because it does not really exist outside of Conservative PR efforts.

            Yeah. The oil industry is doing great. Good point.

        • Ray says:

          “Alberta Nationalist Stephen Harper does not understand how an economy functions past extracting its resources”

          Weak argument. Energy exports (roughly $90B/year) make up less than 10% of the Canadian GDP and employ only about 2% of the workforce. The other 90% of Canada’s economy does very well outside of the oil & gas industry. That said, Canada is a resource-rich country – I would expect any sitting PM to promote and develop the resources of any province or territory.

          “As a neo-Conservative he does not understand foreign policy outside of muscle flexing”

          Then one must assume you considered PM Chretien a muscle-flexing neo-conservative for committing combat troops to Afghanistan in 2001 (yes, combat), or deploying CF-18’s to drop bombs in Kosovo in 1997. Good luck with that one.

          You’re an angry Harper-hater Wsam – we get it.

          • wsam says:

            Know your history. You are a joke. There is a great book called The Unexpected War: Canada In Kandahar. It explains in detail the decisions which led to Canada committing troops to Kandahar Province. It was anything but neo-Conservatism. The entire western involvement in Kosovo was the opposite of neo-Conservatism. It was rules-based Liberal interventionism write large.


          • Ray says:

            Ah. I see. So when the Liberals commit combat troops it’s a good thing & holds up liberal/democratic values. When the Cons commit troops, it’s neo-conservative muscle-flexing. Thanks for clarifying.

      • Derek Pearce says:

        The quality of jobs is lacking– the 7% unemployment figure is masking that most new jobs are contract or part-time. And the jobs that do exist, including the full time ones, are stalled for wages leaving Canadians feeling like they can’t ahead.

    • cgh says:

      Partisan rubbish at its worst and most misleading. Perhaps you can explain then why Canada’s economy performed better than the G-8 and most of the OECD throughout the past 10 years. And a little thing about the worst recession and financial crisis since 1930. Were you absent for those? And absent for the fact that the effects were worse just about everywhere else?

      • wsam says:

        The government of Jean Chretien and his finance minister Paul Martin explains Canada’s economic record. Which Harper has destroyed, putting us into deficit (via 2 points off the GST) for no reason expect as an excuse to cut government further.

        • Ray says:

          One should probably consider NAFTA, the GST, and a good timing as helping contribute to the successes of that economic record as well.

  8. davie says:

    I am trying to get the chronology straightened out for myself on this ‘fear’ stuff. I am sure most of us, most of the time, will sacrifice for those we fear rather than for those we love. We just do not have the courage to resist saving ourselves.
    And, of course, fear can easily be channeled into hate. Part of that hate is that we hate those we fear because we blame them for making us betray those we love.
    So, I agree with the column, that re election based on fear and hate is becoming increasingly possible.

    You see, I am trying hard not to get too swept away by decades of false propaganda getting me to really fear and hate all things Muslim, especially Arab Muslims. For the past 4 decades I have always known oil patch guys who went away for a while to work in oil patch countries that are Muslim, and Arab Muslim. I never saw any Arab Muslims working in our oil patch. In the past 2 and 1/2 decades we have been ‘over there,’ strafing and bombing, harassing shipping, kicking down doors.
    Over here in BC, we have a couple of drug addled patsies who were enabled by an undercover cop to put themselves in court.
    We have allegations that two guys in Ontario talked about bombing a train bridge; and we nailed them with help from a foreign secret police agent provocateur. Apparently ne guy dropped out of the talks 7 months before being arrested and charged. I guess the FBI guy’s wire info had a ‘best by’ date.
    We had another drug addled guy (come on, I know Paulsen’s autopsy claims, but look at the vids of that guy running around at the cenotaph and parliament building) who was supplied with a 7 shot hunting rifle by the international jihadist islamofascist global conspiracy to attack an armed camp and threaten the Canadian democracy that we respect so much.

    Anyway, here is my basic timeline:
    WE declared that we were sending our military to Iraq to bomb people.
    THEN, vids appeared with Islamic State people saying they would strike back at Canada.

    Both love and fear can make us look at things a little differently, and mix in hate with the fear successfully and you likely have a re elected majority.

  9. wsam says:

    According to the Parliamentary Budget Office estimates Canada has spent $128.8-million to $166.4-million in Iraq so far. With our help softening up ISIL in Iraq’s south, Iraq forces and Shia militias commanded by an Iranian Qasem Soleimani are poised to take Tikrit. Solimani is the head of Iran’s elite al-Quds Force and is believed to now be the most powerful man in Iraq. 150 million is a lot of money to spend to hand Iraq over to Iran.
    Good work Conservatives!

  10. Doug says:

    Fear works disproportionately among different segments of the population. It works well amongst the aging white boomers who make up the bulk of the CPC base. Hope is a better strategy among the more diverse, urban younger voters. As Obama found in 2008. Now the challenge for progressives (those who prefer hope over fear) is that one of those segments is much more likely to vote than the other.

    • wsam says:

      A successful and massive GOP effort was a major part of Obama’s initial victory.

      It is doubtful Canadians will desire change with the same urgency that Americans did in 2008, after 8 years of Stephen Harper’s fellow neo-Conservative George W Bush

  11. Robin says:

    “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 Inaugural Address. It is true.

    Harper is promoting fear therefore I fear him more than fear itself.

  12. Robin says:

    Ironically, the quotes selected all come from detained individuals whose attempted plans were thwarted by police and security forces under existing laws; therefore, their empty rhetoric shouldn’t be cause for alarm since that is all they have left in their arsenal to promote fear. Should we be vigilant and alert to potential threats and more observant of unusual or suspicious behaviours that might suggest involvement in some devious and violent plan? Yes. However, should we be profiling based on religious belief as Harper seems to suggest? No. He conveniently ignores acts of terror by white male perpetrators, the shooting of four RCMP officers in New Brunswick comes to mind.

    Nor should the state lend credence to these isolated acts by deranged individuals who achieve celebrity by wrapping their criminal acts in the jihadist rhetoric. I would prefer to have the Government of Canada promote tolerance and calm rather than amplify, exaggerate, and promote fear by giving undue attention to these deranged individuals.

    More Aboriginal women have been murdered in recent years than by terrorists, yet Harper ignores it. I have more chance of dying from a moose attack than a terrorist one.

    In the meantime, Harper is hoping to reduce our freedoms and rights while attempting to manipulate unwitting Canadians to re-elect him out of fear that he has promoted.

    I agree with Trudeau. I would rather risk dying with all my freedoms than live in a Harper Canada without them.

    Hundreds of thousands of Canadian soldiers died for our freedoms; I am prepared to risk dying to keep those freedoms if not expand them.

    Harper thinks otherwise. And, he doesn’t respect veterans.

  13. patrick says:

    Odds of dying from something other than a terrorist attack
    Heart disease 35000 times more likely
    Cancer 33000 more likely
    Obesity 23000 more likely
    Medical error 5800 more likely
    Car accident 1900 more likely
    Prescription drugs 3000 more likely
    Suicide 2000 more likely
    the point is, other than not driving to the doctor while depressed, is that we can’t let the fear mongers win. And it’s not weakness to point out they are full of shit.

  14. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Now Les, surely you don’t expect me to take any politician at his word. Harper says he has no idea where this is coming from.

    If he wants to satisfy yours truly, let him swear to it on a bible — in front of cameras.

  15. Elisabeth Lindsay says:

    So where are all these “afraid” people? I haven`t met any of them. A whole bunch of anger against a whole lot of atrocities going on, but no fear here yet.

  16. Nicole says:

    Didn’t they just arrest some guy who threatened to bomb the financial district in Toronto? How were they able to do that if Bill C-51? is not yet law? Wouldn’t this arrest suggest we have the laws we need and perhaps should focus more on providing resources to enforce the current laws?

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