Paul Wells explains why, despite all the blather from Harper “supporters”, the PM finally got around to meeting with the premier of Ontario. It has to do with a number … a very large number:
The “readout” is a term of art, one I’ve actually only learned in the past couple of years, for a summary of a conversation between two political leaders. It’s usually perfunctory, often designed to obscure as much as it reveals. The readout supplied by the Ontario premier’s office after Kathleen Wynne’s meeting with Stephen Harper is athletically happy-happy. Deleting the details actually clarifies the tone. I’m not making this excerpt up. Everyone make friends!:
“Today’s meeting with the Prime Minister is a positive step forward… The Prime Minister and I agreed… Today, the Prime Minister and I had a good discussion… we agreed that, going forward, our governments will work together … I am pleased that Prime Minister Harper and I agreed today to continue working together… agreed to deepen our collaboration… I am confident that today’s meeting can mark the beginning of such a partnership. The Prime Minister and I agreed to continue…”
But what’s striking is that though the PMO sent out no readout that I’ve received, it did publish a photo of the blessed event. And it’s also a flattering pic of both of them.
Okay, so what is the big number of significance here?
One scrap of data for you: in the 2011 federal election, there were 951,156 more Ontario voters who voted for the Harper Conservatives than there were Ontario voters who voted for the Hudak Conservatives in the 2014 Ontario election.
That’s not quite a million Ontario voters who didn’t vote for Hudak, but whom Harper needs to vote for him if he’s to hold his majority. That’s what political moderation looks like. Harper needs the votes of a hell of a lot of Ontarians who basically have no problem with Kathleen Wynne. Realizing that, and acting on it, is an election-year instinct. It’s the same instinct that made him campaign with old Bill Davis in 2006 after excoriating the former Red Tory premier in print. It’s the instinct that has his PMO send out photos of Harper with Jean Chrétien and Harper with Barack Obama every time the PM nears those men. His base can’t stand Chrétien, Obama or Wynne. He needs more than his base. On Monday, he came back from vacation and sucked it up.