Andrew Coyne is aghast that the Conservatives would seek to be the stupid people's party. http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/08/17/a-know-nothing-strain-of-conservatism/ He is right to be. As he says, "A society that holds education and expertise in contempt, no less than one that disdains commerce or entrepreneurship, is dying. To whip up popular hostility to intellectuals is to invite the public to jump on its own funeral pyre."
That said, Coyne overstates Harper's Machiavellian inclinations. The Conservatives are not without convictions and neither is Harper. Not everything they do is a ploy to stay in power. Far from it. It is evident what Harper wants to do. It is just that Harper's world view -- particularly when it comes to foreign affairs-- is not terribly sophisticated. Needless to say, this is also true of most Conservative MPs. As for all those stupid talking points the Conservatives have trotted out over the years it is a mistake to assume that they are merely instrumental. That is to say these talking points not merely designed to get the base going. On any number of issues these talking points seem hardly different from what various Conservative MPs (e.g., Stockwelll Day) have said previously on the subject and in private life. In sum, many Conservative talking points should be seen on some level as a reflection of what Conservatives MPs truly believe.
Whatever the case, the Liberals should welcome the opportunity to debunk these talking points and ridicule the Conservatives for having championed them. But that is not what the Liberals have done. Take the census issue. Whereas, most pundits have focused in on the idiocy of Tony Clement has had to say, the Liberals have focused on showing just how many groups use the census and to what ends. In other words, they have treated it as an issue Canadians care deeply about, but that is simply not the case. What has caught the public's attention and what will always grab the public's attention is the ham fisted manner in which Conservatives have proceeded and above all else the ridiculousness of what Conservatives have had to say. The Liberals should not be trying to educate the populace about how useful the census is, but rather be doing their utmost to make Tony Clement into a punch line to various jokes. They should be laughing it up with the pundits. Keep it light. For example: "The Conservatives believe that most Canadians have a secret desire to fail stats 101. I do not believe that to be the case."