Prime Minister Stephen Harper smiles as he leaves a news conference at the Americas Summit in Cartagena April 15.
Credits: REUTERS/CHRIS WATTIE
In the old days when clouds gathered, the Conservatives could stick to their plan, whatever it might be, confident the storm would pass. They knew the public found their new practical, straightforward approach appealing, if not exactly sexy.
In the minds of many voters, they were plain-looking and dull as dishwater, but a good provider.
Being a good provider can take you a long way in Canadian politics, but over time the standards change. People get bored and they want some excitement in their government relationship.
For example, liberal-minded people who grew up with Oprah may suddenly announce there's more to life than a nice home and a secure retirement. They also want a government that's emotionally present.
God knows there's even a segment of the population that wants a government that "completes them." Unless the government regularly affirms their views, they're miffed. For those nice people, an ideal government doesn't just provide services, it also provides psychic hugs.
Conservative-minded people are a little more resistant to this because we view all government with suspicion. We won't be happy until the government makes it clear that it is suspicious of itself.
Anyway, after six years an increasingly indifferent public isn't cutting the bland "good provider" government much slack. At least not the way they used to. And then there is that interesting new guy who just moved in next door. He's a fiery Quebecer, has progressive ideas and a beard that just screams Latin American revolutionary.
Rumour has it that when he's not running around town being fascinating, he composes sonnets and races motorcycles.
Who is this man with a personality like a pot of boiling oil? Who is this Thomas Mulcair?
Honestly, for some people it doesn't matter who he is as long as he's not Stephen Harper. That's why some people might wonder if the Conservatives need to change strategy.
Still, I'm not sure the Conservative fall in the polls and the NDP rise is as serious as it might seem. Consider Mulcair's accusation that Canada's resource sector wealth had created Dutch disease, which he alleges hurts our manufacturing sector.
This was immediately refuted by a new study. Then Mr. Canadian Unity, Stephane Dion, suggested Mulcair was selling out that unity for political gain.
It's usually pretty hard to botch a political winner like pitting regions against each other, but Mulcair may have done so.
Then, of course, the Liberal leadership race will soon electrify the country, or at the very least give us a national case of static cling. Anyway, the media will be off chasing that story and breathing life into the Liberal corpse at the expense of the NDP.
Meanwhile, the world economy really is sick with the Greek mumps and the Spanish flu, which may cause the public to again decide that the bland, crotchety, "good provider" Conservative government is looking pretty hot in those mature-fit jeans.