Canada's Harper shifts to politics of fear amid refugee crisis: analysts

Fri Sep 11, 2015 9:31pm EDT
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By Andrea Hopkins

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, stung by criticism over his government's slow response to the Syrian refugee crisis, shifted the focus of his re-election campaign to national security on Friday, a move analysts said brings the politics of fear to a deadlocked race.

Seeking a rare fourth term in office, Harper's pivot just a month before the election positions his Conservative campaign squarely on national security and uncertain risks.

"On Oct. 19, you will have to choose between experience and the unknown, between security and risk," Harper told a crowd of supporters in Quebec. "Security and experience, that's what Conservative candidates offer."

Harper shuffled his campaign staff this week and began repeating the message that his nine-year-old government is best placed to protect Canadians from global threats.

"When Canadians stand together against ISIS, we stand in support of Canadian values and in defense of our way of life," Harper tweeted on Friday.

Harper's use of the new tactic comes amid news of the hiring of Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby, who helped British PM David Cameron snatch improbable victory in May, to reshape the party's message and help him claw back flagging poll support.

A social media campaign has criticized tactics employed by Crosby, who has been accused of playing to racist instincts of Australians and Britons to help conservatives win elections there.

Political analysts said that in Canada and elsewhere anti-immigration messages are a strong motivator among right-leaning voters.   Continued...

Conservative leader and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign event in Ottawa, Canada September 11, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie