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Bobby in the school yard and Harper in Ottawa both made the classic bully mistake


Bobby was his name and bashing my face was his aim.
I was the awkward immigrant kid, literally less than a year off the boat. Still mangling English with my Greek accent and showing up to school in a buzz cut and Honest Ed’s specials, which was all my family could afford for clothing at the time. I was an easy mark for ridicule for my jive-talkin’, long-haired class mates in their “cool” 1970s-era duds.
He was an athlete and a favourite with the girls. If there was an election, he would easily have been voted one of the most popular kids in the school, and he knew it. And boy did he have the moves. Punch, counterpunch, hook and upper cut – he could perform them in quick succession, weaving in and out like a pro, thanks apparently to some boxing training he’d had and was always keen on showing off during recess.
We were both 11. And clearly headed in different directions during that early stage of our lives.
There was no need on that cold December day in 1974 for Bobby, one of the most popular kids in the school, to pick on me, firmly entrenched as I was at the bottom of the social ladder in our school. I was already licking my wounds from the beating I received from one of his friends just a few days earlier.
But Bobby was a bully, I was easy pickings, and I guess he couldn’t resist the temptation.
In the late afternoon I was informed by his buddies that “3:30 I was dead” – the usual message one received at our school when there was to be a fight after school. I had come to know the drill well. When school was out I would try all four of the possible exits. I would find each of them blocked by some of his buddies. Not able to escape I would be escorted to the back of the school, forced into a circle of jeering kids and the fight would start. It wouldn’t end till I was on the ground, kids all around celebrating my latest humiliation.
And so it went this time around. I was pushed into the circle to find Bobby already dancing around showing off his boxing moves, a big smile on his face. He already knew how this would go.
Except this time, after a year of beatings as the new immigrant kid, something in me finally broke. I stood there amidst all those eager to experience my certain pounding and cried. But these weren’t just tears of fear; they were also tears of pent-up frustration.
Bobby started dancing around me then showing off his fancy boxing moves, still laughing. I didn’t know how to fight so I just started swinging my arms around wildly like windmills, so many tears stinging my eyes I could hardly see Bobby.
Bobby was as incredulous at my ridiculous attempt at defence as the rest of the kids.
He was confident. He was fast.
THWACK. I can still remember the sound as my left fist arching downwards from a weird and wild angle caught him smack on the nose, knocking him to the ground. I remember his eyes wild with pain and disbelief. Blood streaming from his nose he couldn’t get up, the realization of what had just happened quickly hitting him harder than my fist had – he had just been beaten by the class whipping boy in front of all his friends. His status as one of the “cool” kids had just evaporated.
Why am I telling this personal story, so long in my past? Because it’s the best, and obviously most personal way, I can find to describe what’s happened to Stephen Harper of late.
You see Stephen Harper, like Bobby, is a bully. No matter what you think of his political ideology, he’s regularly acted as such. And Stephane Dion has certainly been the whipping boy in Ottawa, leading the Liberals through a disastrous election and now forced to relinquish his leadership of the party.
There was no real reason for Harper to pick a fight with either the Liberals or the NDP by pushing to pull public funding for government parties. In fact, considering the economic situation, there was every reason for Harper to reach out to the opposition parties to forge a bipartisan approach to dealing with the economic crisis, as US president elect Barack Obama has done.
As the Globe & Mail pointed out in a recent editorial both the Liberals and the NDP “busy licking their election wounds, were not out to pick a fight in the new Parliament. Mr. Harper gave them one anyway, turning his government’s economic update into a partisan document aimed less at strengthening Canada’s economic position than at undermining their ability to compete in the next election.”
As the Globe & Mail editorial pointed out: “Mr. Harper is ultimately responsible for this unhappy state of affairs. It is the byproduct of his machinations, and the product of a failure of leadership.”
In my own words, Harper is a bully, who like Bobby back in that schoolyard in 1974, committed the ultimate mistake all bullies make: He picked one fight too many. And so, like Bobby, he should face the consequence of his overreaching and step down to save his government.
As for Stephane Dion leading a new coalition government, I’m afraid he’s no more ready to do that than I was to suddenly become one of the “cool” kids after knocking Bobby to the ground.


Lou Smyrlis

Lou Smyrlis

With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics.
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14 Comments » for Bobby in the school yard and Harper in Ottawa both made the classic bully mistake
  1. Colin Ball says:

    What I understand is this Coalition was being formed in the back rooms,along with Broadbent and Chretian long before Parliament convened. To me it puts Canada in the class of Banana Republic country, when three stooges pull stunts like this, not able to take defeat in a Democratic election.There is not one of them I would want to run this country! Canada has been looked up to in other parts of the world as a solid example of how a economy should be run.If there was an election today Harper would win with a majority.

  2. KC says:

    Too true, Lou.
    I hope that the major of Canadians realize this and remember this in the future…
    It is just a shame that Mr. Dion and Mr. Layton chose such an all too personal issue (to their respective parties) instead of one that truly deserves to be fought against.
    KC

  3. chester bartel says:

    Good morning,I often read your comments and agree with you,but this time I would like to challenge you. I have asked many people this, but no one can tell me what he bullied about. I was thinking about bulling, no one did it better than Cretien and no one complained eg. gun control,lack of leadership to softwood lumber etc. Is it by any chance the age old problem of fair treatment east to west that bothers a lot of paper editors? If any one has noticed but the Harper gov. is the only gov. that has rolled back taxes directly, rather than collecting it first then sending it back and making us feel warm and fuzzy all over for getting money back that was mine to start off with. I would challenge any editor to go and interview a business owner once, not one that runs his business off of gov. grants. Keep up the good work.

  4. MKL says:

    BS
    The back stabbing always been there…
    Bully my ass Harper is the first one to call them on all their bluffs and since they don’t have the support of the people then they try an overthrow ???
    C’mon now whats next ?
    Shall we call each other Comrade…
    The people have spoken, What gives them the right to be the power OVER the people.

  5. Bill Waugh says:

    I’m amazed Turdeau bullied Quebec and the West, Chretien was the teflon man and the one that created $1.95 per vote slush fund with our tax money, was the man in power when the liberal party was caught with they’re hand in the jar but you never hear about that side of the story from the Eastern media. A practical thinking leader who is trying to find areas to reduce spending though is a bully who can’t be trusted.
    Trudeau & Chretien gave the West the NEP now we have a Liberal led eastern based coalition trying to steal our government out from under us. If they are successful come January, I think Ontario & the Maritimes will have more to worry about then Quebec seperatism!

  6. Derek says:

    When I was younger, I found bullies’ behaviour distasteful; usually standing up for the weaker individual and beating the crap out of the bully. I know this is deviating from your analogy to the current political scene Lou; but your position on recent topics lately has been causing me to second guess my position of standing up for individuals such as yourself in the past.
    I’d also venture a guess that since history is usually written in favour of the author or circumstances; what you described in your encounter with the bully has a fair amount of embellishment. (In your favour, of course.)

  7. Sam says:

    Lou,
    Did I miss something somewhere along the line? Did you see the same election campaign that I watched? Three leaders of the Liberals, NDP & Bloc, bullied Mr. Harper during the debate, it was shamefull. The television debate was the similar to the gang of thugs that beat on you. Wasn’t is Layton that announced, I quote loosely “Mr. Harper has resigned in position and I am applying for the job.
    I too was a victim of bullying in my youth. I was a card carrying member of the Liberals. I stopped supporting them because of Chretien. The biggest bully of them all, he even out did Mulroney. Typically bullying doesn’t last very long, just take a look at the opinion polls. I guess you are just showing your political stripes, either your a Liberal or NDP?
    Sam

  8. Gord says:

    Lou…once agian you are leaning over to the left. PM Harper won the election, the other parties should go away and let the PM do his job. Canada is a democracy…only in some third world banna republic could other parties team up to over throw the government that was leagally elected to form a government. If you don’t like it here, go back to Greece.

  9. Arnold says:

    We have had bullies in Parliment for years but this time when Mr. Harper takes the other parties(the ones that can’t manage their own finances) to task is a bully. We have asked him to manage this country and now when he does that he is a bully. You can’t have it both ways. Mr Harper stood up well to the bullying in the debate so I feel he is the only one with the intelligence to run this country.

  10. Mike says:

    I disagree with a lot of the comments coming from different respondants. For one thing, Canadians did not elect Harper, his name was not on all ballots across Canada. His party also received fewer votes than the other three combined. It is also perfectly legal in Canada for the opposition parties combined to head the government when the current one lost the confidence of parliament. As a conservative I don’t like this situation either, but it can happen if Harper doesn’t smarten up.

  11. Mark Little says:

    To those who complain Harper is a bully, may I remind them that under our system being a bully is the only way a PM gets anything through the house. His own MP’s are “whipped” into voting for legislation they often don’t desire or support. We don’t elect Harper directly but the party that got the most seats in our system (one that you support only when your party wins it seems)was the Conservatives and Harper is the Prime Minister as a result. He wants to push forward his agenda and he calculated that he would be able to do so based on the fact that Dion and the stooges (and I am being charitable when I speak of people like Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe) did everything they could to avoid an election during the last parliament when push came to shove. So this time they are lying in wait with a preset coalition sitting there…just add water.
    Now Harper isn’t perfect. Far from it. He lacks the charisma we expect from our leaders and he isn’t exactly the most tactful guy but one thing he has in spades is guts. You expect a leader to have the guts to do what he/she thinks as best at the time and to follow through on it. He is our PM for better or worse and I can tell you that the human weathervane that Dion was wasn’t going to cut it and the electorate told us that. Layton would drive the economy off the road with his nonsense so lets drop the pretence that Harper is a bully who must be stopped.
    He may or may not be stopped at the next election, which is where Canadians judge their politicians. At least now with Ignatieff on the scene for the Libreals, maybe some sober analysis of the coalition of the greedy will be given and Ignatieff will realize climbing in bed with Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe is NOT what Canadians want.

  12. Bill M./ January 15,2009 10:35 PM says:

    Sorry Lou.
    I also have to disagree with some of your comments. One thing I can say for Mr.Harper when he said they will lower taxes they did.When Chretian &Tredeau flapped their gums on lowering taxes Canada is still waiting.All Tredeau did is converted the country into metric which tax-payers are still paying for.Maybe it takes a (bully)as you call him to fix the mess the Liberals left the country in. Mr.Harper is the only PM that has made any head-way with USA & the rest of the world. I,m also glad that so far Ignatieff has more between his ears,not like the other three clowns all they got between their ears is dead stale air.

  13. I am not sure what your article has to do with the transportation industry, but I would have to strongly disagree with your statements that Harper is a bully and has bullied Stephan Dion or the other party leaders. For you to say that Jack Layton and Stephan Dion were not out to “pick a fight” is to be completely naive. Harper is doing the right thing by not giving in to every push and shove from the opposition. I am hoping that he will not cave in to the pressures of the minorities out there. He needs to show leadership as he has in the past, by standing up for what is right. Steven Harper may have his own agenda, but it has not changed from the time that he was elected by the Canadian people.

  14. Doug Schmale says:

    Move on. Are you away on holidays Lou, or just too caught up in something else that you have no time to update your blog with some information that might be helpfull to someone. Give it a rest and move on.

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