Will the real Prime Minister Stephen Harper ever stand up?

Aug 27th, 2013 | By | Category: Ottawa Scene

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at Xstrata Nickel's Raglan Mine in the northern Nunavik region of Quebec on August 23. PHOTO: THE CANADIAN PRESS/SEAN KILPATRICK.

Just over a week ago we heard that “Proroguing Parliament till October buys Harper and Tories time … The restart effectively gives Mr. Harper two high-profile opportunities … to sell Canadian voters on the notion he is still the person to lead the country.”

The first opportunity is “a Speech from the Throne that will outline the government’s agenda for the last half of its current mandate. Mr. Harper will then rally supporters in late October during a Conservative Party convention, where he will work to rebuild relations with rank-and-file Tories disenchanted over the Senate expenses scandal.” Meanwhile : “Proroguing leaves the New Democrats and Liberals without the platform of Parliament to hammer the government over the issue for several weeks longer than expected.”

In fact, more than 60% of all Canadians, coast to coast to coast, did not believe Mr. Harper was “the person to lead the country” in the last federal election on May 2, 2011. It was only the peculiar political arithmetic of our first-past-the-post electoral system, combined with five more or less serious federal political parties, that finally gave the Harper Conservatives a majority of seats in the Canadian House of Commons, with only 39.62% of the cross-Canada popular vote.

(It is, no doubt, true enough that the Chretien Liberals, eg, also won a strong majority government on November 27, 2000 with a mere 40.85% of the cross-Canada popular vote. But in this case it is arguable that most New Democrat voters would prefer the Chretien Liberals to any other available non-NDP alternative — which at least brings broad support for the governing regime very close to 50% of the popular vote. There has been no comparable calculation for the Harper Conservatives over the past more than seven years.)

Moreover, the latest relevant opinion poll — taken by Forum Research for the National Post — suggests that more than 70% of Canadians do not now believe Stephen Harper is the person to lead the country. (“The Liberals have surged to 38% support from voters … while the Conservatives have slipped to 29% and the NDP trail at 22%.” And some of us are bound to stress that the combined Liberal-NDP numbers here amount to a clear majority of 60%!)

The good news for the Harper Conservatives is that the next federal election is “tentatively scheduled for October 19, 2015, in accordance with the Canada Elections Act.”  This is still more than two years away. And as the ancient wisdom has it, a week is a long time in politics.

Stephen Harper leaves the Canadian Ranger camp near Gjoa Haven, Nunavut on August 21. He will be running in the next election, he says. Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian Press.

The absolute crux of the bad news, it seems to me at any rate, lies in something I discovered (or re-discovered) a week or so ago, while waiting in my dentist’s office. More exactly, I am referring to a Paul Wells column in the June 3 edition of Maclean’s. Stephen Harper’s crucial political goal for Canada, according to Mr. Wells, “is to last long enough in power to durably limit the federal government’s ability to intervene in Canadian public life. The only part of the job that seems to interest him is the part that involves wandering around Ottawa, boarding up old government offices. And it’s work he’s reluctant to admit to.”

Mr. Harper is reluctant to admit to this work, of course, because it is not the kind of thing that can win Canadian federal elections. As his real (as opposed to merely “declaratory”) policy on Senate reform seems to make clear, Stephen Harper does not really have a positive agenda for Canadian federal politics. Now that the seven-year itch has set in, this particular cat is finally altogether out of the bag. And it remains to be seen just how successful Mr. Harper’s hard-working staff can be in devising some new Throne Speech for this fall, that will hide the essential truth in fresh and exciting ways!

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  1. Stephen Harper is not the person to lead Canada. A majority of Canadians don;t want Harper to lead, the minority of Pro-Harper Canadians have been betrayed by Harper’s broken promises, and Canada is in deeper ruin than ever before with a larger federal debt and Carbon Footprint than before he got elected in. Stephen Harper needs to step down!

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