Friday, August 04, 2006

Heather's latest pick: Stephen Harper

The news that "Liberal power couple" Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz are now backing Stephen Harper should come as no surprise. They can read the writing on the wall. The Liberal Party is toast and destined to remain in the political wilderness for years to come.

In an e-mail to friends, Ms. Reisman applauded film producer Robert Lantos's statement at a weekend rally that he would "hereby take off [his] life-long federal Liberal hat."

"I [am] right there alongside Robert. . . . after a lifetime of being a Liberal, I have made the switch," Ms. Reisman wrote. "Feels strange, but totally and unequivocally right."

A recipient of the e-mail confirmed that Ms. Reisman, who was the Liberal Party of Canada's policy chairwoman in the 1980s and who worked for Pierre Trudeau in his first election in 1965, had sent the e-mail to several friends, and that she has told others the same thing.

"She has told her friends in person and in e-mails that she is supporting the Conservatives under Stephen Harper this time," a close friend said yesterday. "She thinks that his position on the Lebanon issue is the right one."

Ostensibly, the switch to the Conservatives is about Stephen Harper has taken a principled stand in supporting Israel's right to defend itself against terrorist attacks by Hezbollah in Lebanon. In contrast, it is hard to say what the leaderless Liberals stand for. They are all over the map. With even Michael Ignatieff, the supposed hawk among the leadership candidates, calling for a ceasefire, the Canadian Jewish community's disenchantment with the Liberal Party is understandable.

Yet people with a lifetime of involvement in a party don't switch to the other side over a single issue. Something more is at stake: their very ability to influence the government to support their business interests>

My take is that Reisman and Schwartz realize that whatever IOUs they may still hold for raising and donating bucketloads of cash to the Liberals in the past now have limited value. The Liberal Party is out of the game for at least another election. But it is always handy to have friends in high places when, say, you want to monopolize the book-selling business or take another run at a national Airline.

Since they can no longer cut a $50,000 cheque to the party in power, they must now make their presence known in other ways. Hence, the high profile defection. They even managed to get a story about it on the front page of Canada's "national" newspaper. Kudos to their public relations team.

Now the Conservatives owe nothing to such fair-weather friends. In fact, having such friends is the last thing this government needs, given Reisman's history of censorship.

So while Stephen Harper may be Heather's pick today, it is important to keep in mind that power is to Canada's parvenu what shit is to flies. They will always be buzzing around government looking for something. We can certainly indulge Heather on Israel as a matter of principle. But if she expects more, just give her a swat. There aren't any other more promising piles she can fly to. And she knows it.