Is there a back story to the “Heave Steve 2015” website? It’s such a great slogan, with such a delectable rhyme, resonance, and prospect, that I immediately checked out the site. The blog was put up in January 2015, and copyrighted as “Heave Steve in 2015.” It is apparently the product of “a non-partisan group…” of “centrists” who are “NOT…anti-conservative,” but “are against a Stephen Harper conservative government.” There are only five posts, one dated January 24th, and the rest January 25th. The only apparent writer is identified as “Ed.” There is a link to the Facebook page of author Michael Harris (Party of One, Viking, 2014) and a call for volunteers “to coordinate election drive flyers in their city.” There is the usual structure of a WordPress blog site but, apart from the five posts, the template is empty. The website is singularly unsophisticated, replete with diction and spelling errors, and filled with rhetoric that will turn people off. If it represented the groundswell of a rising grassroots campaign, one would have thought that the website would have taken off and gone viral by now. But such is not the case. It seems to have ended as quickly as it began. All of which is profoundly suspicious.
How can that be, in this particular federal election non-campaign? The latest polls show that the Tories are neck and neck with the Liberals and the NDP. Who would have thunk it? Never have the polls been so close. For all the talk about “the middle class,” “the economy,” and “the threat of terrorism,” the really hot issue in this campaign is the track record and the legacy of Stephen Harper. Hence, the significance of the “heave Steve” label.
The writ has not yet dropped, but the federal election non-campaign has been waging for months, with endless notices of tax benefits yet “to be approved by Parliament,” lavish partisan ads funded by Canadian taxpayers, and attack ads questioning whether “Trudeau is ready.” The hotly contested ridings around the country have been identified by where the Prime Minister travels. And when his travels take him for extended visits abroad, you can be sure that it is for a photo op with the troops or some foreign leader, or because there is bad news on the domestic front. One week it is Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault complaining about the government passing retroactive legislation to protect the RCMP from future investigation into their own past wrongdoing, a troubling historical first. The next, the Auditor’s report on Senate expenses is released.
Harper strictly stages his public appearances and doesn’t like press conferences. The media picks up on when he does not speak, as in no response at all last week to the Truth and Reconciliation report. It’s like his non-response to vacancies as they have arisen on the Senate in recent years. If the Supreme Court of Canada says the Harper government cannot reform or abolish the Senate, except with the consent of the provinces, he will show them. He will do it himself, by stealth, one vacancy at a time, until there is no one left. Ditto with the monument to the victims of Communism he’s building in Ottawa, in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, and with the long-form census he killed a few years ago. If all the experts agree that the location is wrong or that the long form census is essential, he will resolutely forge ahead anyway. What do they know?
Clearly, the PM is a control freak. It is called the “the Harper government,” not the Canadian government, at his direction. No one in the public service or the federally-funded agencies says anything or does anything without prior approval from the PM’s office. He has reduced Parliamentary backbenchers to lap-dogs barking on command. He has appointed Senators for seats they are geographically unqualified for. I didn’t realize that Tory Senators were part of the Conservative caucus until Harper emerged telling them what to do when the Duffy/Wallin/Brazeau scandal first broke a year ago. Since Harper controls everything, and fires the watchdogs who take him to task, the key issue in the campaign is whether the time has come to heave Steve.
This brings me back to the “Heave Steve 2015” website. Is it possible that the Harper Tories bought out the writer of the blog so that they could control the domain name and shut down the site? Or that they published the blog themselves and claimed a copyright, to block use of the phrase by anyone else? And that they left up the existing site as a decoy to discredit those who did? The Harper Tories do, after all, have a history of political tricks: the in-and-out scandal, robocalls, exceeding election spending limits, “vote suppression” in the “Fair” Elections Act. Use of a decoy “Heave Steve” website seems like it could be consistent. Question whether it is possible to copyright a phrase as generic as “heave Steve”? I was never an intellectual property lawyer, so I don’t know.
Regardless of the suspect authenticity of the inactive website, maybe we should begin to speak plainly about what needs to happen in October, and work to make it so. If you agree, please forward this post by email or social media to everyone you know. And follow my blog for further posts on the 2015 federal election.