Harper-haters – found mainly on the progressive side of the spectrum, but not exclusively — consider the prime minister to be a black-hearted social conservative, perpetually scheming to crush dissent and push Canada further to the right. (When, in fact, he spent like a liberal during the post-recession stimulus period, and has pledged to vote with Liberals and the NDP to keep abortion legal.)
Harper-lovers — most often conservatives, but also a wide swath of Canada’s media establishment — regard their man as a latter-day St. George, slaying the twin-headed dragon of socialism and liberalism, and remaking Canada in the image of our WASPy antecedents. (When, in fact, he has piloted his Conservative party to the centre of the ideological road, and leads the most ethnically diverse caucus in the House of Commons.)
His detractors are flummoxed by Harper’s position atop the polls, as in the Abacus survey which showed his party is still the dominant force in Canadian politics, more than six years after he became PM.
His acolytes believe his popularity can be traced to conservative orthodoxy. Harper’s haters, and his helpers and hangers-on, are misinformed. Both sides believe Harper is an activist. Both sides believe he never rests in aggressively pursuing his agenda, whether they approve of it or not.
They’re wrong. Harper has survived and prospered for one reason: He stays out of your face.