Stephen Harper thinks Canadians are stupid – really stupid. He thinks we look at him in his warm sweater vest, hugging Asian babies and huddling around immigrant kitchen tables and believe that he’s changed, that he’s just like one of us, down there in the trenches, eking out a living.

"I can't see his teeth - what does he hide?"  Moonstruck

But, he’s not one of us. He is an arrogant, hypocritical opportunist determined to tell you and I what we need in government, what we need in our lives and what we need in our country – and he will only tell us these things through carefully scripted, painstakingly researched bites screened through his office by his people. Heck, even his people can’t actually speak for their own campaigns, as we saw this week when Surrey, BC Conservative candidate Donna Cadman was muzzled by Harper staff at a function in her home town.

Are Canadians buying the fatherly schtick Harper puts on – and he doesn’t even do it well – while trying to hide his true Machiavellian, Big Brother, neo-Con mish-mash of an agenda? One wonders when poll after poll show the Conservatives in a comfortable lead – how is this possible? Harper is uber-intelligent, no one doubts that for a moment; he is a policy and process wizard. But where he falters is in trying to sell his regular guy image to a country he runs under the assumption his subjects are all far too stupid to understand the issues or manage the country themselves.

Even when he lies to us – as on October 31, 2006 when Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced new taxes on income trusts for Canadians in clear contravention of a Harper election promise not to tax the investment vehicle – he tells us we need it this new way. He flip flops his way through election promises: a Ford prop up here, stricter environmental penalties there – ooo, say five dollars per indiscretion, up from three for corporate polluters? – a “tougher” Youth Criminal Justice Act there, a jab at members of Canada’s vibrant arts community who apparently attend too many fancy galas for the liking of a PM who looks like he’s known more “tax-payer-subsidized” buffet tables than Kirstie Alley. And all for what?

Canadians – even those who might vote Conservative and could be considered politically stupid or unsophisticated – wonder what Harper really stands for, or, more accurately, will he ever reveal his true agenda? He says – like most politicians – what he has to in order to get elected, then disregards it all and gets down to serving up the real Conservative menu of law and order, militarization, globalization, and – oh yes, let us not forget – bowing and scraping at the feet of the American neo-Con movement and its unfortunate government of the moment.

The American cruise missile, whose tail to which Harper has so firmly attached Canada’a fortunes, is about to crash, as evidenced by John McCain’s numerous blunders this week culminating with his latest announcement that he will suspend his campaigning in order to go to Washington and help George Bush sell his woefully misguided economic bail out plan to increasingly dubious taxpayers. McCain apparently thinks Americans are stupid, too and that might not be working for him.

Many believe this is McCain’s way to avoid or postpone looming presidential and vice-presidential debates at a time when his leadership and decision-making are under fire and the physical manifestation of his worst decision – the choice of Sarah Palin as his Vice-Presidential running mate – sits marinading for what would be the worst wolf attack since maybe somethin’ that happened in Alaska one time. (Gosh, I’m startin’ to sound like her!)

There are choices, Canada – Stephane Dion and Elizabeth May don’t seem to think we’re stupid. Now, if we can just work out a way to join forces to beat Harper’s machine, we can move on to the business of fixing our economy, our environment and our arts and social programs. Are we smart enough to do it, Canada?