To understand the Conservative base, you have to meet Larry Miller.

The burly beef farmer from rural Ontario has been a backbench Conservative MP for 11 years.

He is beloved in his caucus for speaking truth to prime ministerial power, even if it’s not convenient. When Larry Miller talks, he has something to say. When he says something, he speaks for Costco Canadians not the Bay and Bloor crowd.

So when Miller clumsily declared on open line radio that women who insist on wearing a niqab to their Canadian citizenship ceremony should stay in their native country, he nailed the political pulse of the rural heartland.

But the real question is why this issue has gone visceral and viral in Canadian public opinion now.

It didn’t flare when the former immigration minister unveiled his policy on citizenship ceremonies or during the pro-niqab court verdict now under appeal.

And there’s no evidence of niqab-shrouded imposters at citizenship ceremonies. In fact, the only fakery I can find in citizenship oath-taking was the day the Immigration Minister used staff and bureaucrats to stage a ceremony for a now-defunct news channel.

It was only after Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared the niqab a personal affront to Canadian values did was it elevate the divisive discussion to water cooler conversation.

And the reason he whipped the frenzy is because demonizing the niqab, which is already removed for driver’s license, passports and health care cards, is an easy target in an election year.

Well, enough. It’s time for damage control.

For what it’s worth, might I suggest the prime minister quickly find a pretext to visit a mosque with photographers in tow. He might even consider diverting a few million dollars from his government’s propaganda ad fund to tackle and thwart homegrown radicalization.

Just do something to show that the 1 million Muslims in this country do not belong to a culture of anti-women terrorist sympathizers.

Then Stephen Harper should get back to the real issue of firing up an economy with its oil-producing engine sputtering badly.

And until the election seven months from today, might I suggest the Prime Minister and the man they call the Keeper of the Flame stick to a niqab-bashing diet of Miller Light.