07.02.2013 07:31 AM

In today’s Sun: ten reasons why Harper may quit

It’s (finally) summertime, when the political speculation is easy.

Heretofore, the subject that no longer seems as crazy as it once did: Will Stephen Harper quit before the next federal election in October 2015?

There are plenty of reasons why he shouldn’t, or why he won’t.

But there are 10 very good reasons why he just might, too. Here they be:

1. Ten years is a long time: By the time the next election takes place, Harper will have been in power for nearly a decade. Very few last that long, and those who overstay their welcome inevitably end up regretting their decision. After that much time has gone by, voters start to get sick of your face.

2. He could lose. As pollsters have been saying for months, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is the real deal. By now, it is clear that his popularity is no passing fad. For the first time, Harper needs to consider the possibility that he could to lose to someone he clearly considers his inferior. He doesn’t want to do that.

3. His party is getting restless. As Alberta Wildrose supporter Rod Love once observed: “When the water dries up, the animals begin to look at each other differently.” So too in politics. Harper’s backbench is no longer afraid of him, and rebelling. His PMO is heartily detested throughout the Conservative hinterland. To many Conservatives, Harper is being quietly regarded as a liability, and not an asset.

4. Leadership shenanigans abound: Jason Kenney has been running a leadership campaign for months; Peter MacKay is warning he will quit the party if he doesn’t get his way on leadership selection rules. Harper, mindful of what Jean Chretien endured, may be persuaded to choose discretion over valour.

5. He is not a wealthy man: Harper and his wife own their Calgary home, but not much else. And, as Calgary Conservative legend Harvie Andre once queried: “Why is it more profitable to know Harvie Andre than to be Harvie Andre?” Harper, knowing this, may decide he needs to build up a retirement nest egg while he still can.

6. He’s a young man: Not even 60, Harper has many prime earning years ahead of him — as a corporate rainmaker, as a member of lucrative boards, as the giver of big-ticket speeches. Why wait until he can’t enjoy the fruits of his labours? Why not go while the getting’s good?

7. Everything starts to look the same: After 10 years in the same job, new files aren’t as exciting or as challenging as they once were. Things develop a sameness to them; boredom and sloppiness start to set in. When that happens, it’s time to go.

8. The Cons don’t stand for anything anymore: Even the party faithful are admitting the mission statement is long forgotten. They have become, in effect, what they came to Ottawa to destroy. Even Harper, a policy wonk and partisan, would be hard pressed to express his party’s raison d’etre. Canadians sure can’t.

9. The job is done: Harper wanted to do three things. One, reduce the Liberal Party to a shadow of its former self. Two, unite conservatives as a single political force. Three, make conservativism a less radical political choice. He has indisputably done all three. His legacy is achieved.

10. Him: Watch him. Listen to him. There is no joy in the job for him anymore. There is no challenge. He looks unhappy.

Will he go?

Who knows?

But no one should be surprised, now, if he does.


  1. Reality.Bites says:

    Just wondering – is there really a substantial demand for Harper as a public speaker if he’s no longer in politics? He’s never been the most gifted or engaging orator. It’s clear why there’s a great demand for a Bill Clinton or a Jean Chretien, but for someone who’s both polarizing and boring?

    • Ted B says:

      Not that I would pay to hear him, but he was in demand even before he became PM. It has little to do with how engaging or gifted a public orator he is.

      And as a former PM, he would have a lot of coinage. Just ask Joe Clark or Kim Campbell or John Turner.

      • Kaspar Juul says:

        His speeches cured my insomnia. All I need to hear is “let me be clear” and I’m sawing logs.

      • Reality.Bites says:

        I would expect people to be interested in an up-and-coming politician, no matter how dull. And I would expect that Paul Martin is in less demand than Jean Chretien, which would not have been the case when he was finance minister or after he left cabinet.

    • Ottawa Civil Servant says:

      I love how you imply that the demand for speaking engagements is while he is in politics. Maybe Justin could introduce him to his booking agent!

      I also find it amusing that Harper owns his house and not much more, whereas the Liberals have a multi-millionaire leader, following the tradition of Trudeau, Martin, Chretien. Too funny.

      • Elisabeth Lindsay says:

        He has also forgone over $1,000,000.00 in pension benefits. Why are we not hearing more about this?

        • Robin says:

          Pierre Trudeau invested with Peter Lougheed to begin large scale commercial development of the oil sands and defeated Rene Levesque’s separatists in a referendum then repartriated Canada’s Constitution with an amending formula and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms; Paul Martin balanced Canada’s budget and produced $13 billion surpluses in five years; Chretien collaborated with Ralph Klein to encourage expansion of oil sands production which is a significant contributor to Canada’s economy nationwide and he kept Canada out of Iraq which saved billions and the lives of dedicated Canadian soldiers; whereas, Harper hasn’t been able to bring Alberta, BC, First Nations, environmentalists and other stakeholders together to complete a pipeline to the west coast so that oil sands production can reach world markets and get world prices, so we are selling at a discount with an estimated annual loss of $29 billion including $4 billion in federal taxes. Maybe millionaires know how to get things done, maybe that’s why they became millionaires. It might be cheaper for Canada to pay Harper a pension to leave office.

          • Robin says:

            Elizabeth, Harper will receive a federal MP pension as well as a Prime Ministerial pension which combined will be over $200,000 annually including an office budget for former Prime Ministers. When he retired as an MP in 1997 he was not eligible for the pension (it requires a minimum of six years therefore he was not in a position to decline the pension). However, when he returned as an MP in 2002 he automatically became eligible in 2004 and there isn’t any evidence he has declined his pension. The only Reform MPs who declined the pension are: Preston Manning, Lee Morrison and Werner Schmidt.

  2. steve says:

    Reason 11, he has so destroyed Canada’s brand that the world no longer lets him float on the goodwill of being a Canadian.

    • Derek Pearce says:

      This is sadly true. He hasn’t completely destroyed Canada’s brand (thankfully it’s too strong for him to that) but he sure has soiled it.

  3. Ted B says:

    Two years (until the next election) is a long time, and lots can happen. But he’s not going to go and for many of the reasons you cite:

    1. Ten years is a long time: Yes, but it’s also shorter than the last 2 Liberal leaders (of substance), Chretien and Trudeau, and many of the big PMs in our history (King, Laurier, MacDonald, Borden). That will eat under his skin in retirement, as I’m sure it does now.

    2. He could lose: This is the only thing that will lead him into pasture: his calculation that he can’t possibly win. So if he leaves, it will be at almost the very last minute, making it even harder for his successor.

    3. His party is getting restless: It is, but this (like a certain former Liberal leader!) will inspire him to show them who is boss.

    4. Leadership shenanigans abound: See #3.

    5. He is not a wealthy man: Don’t like the guy, but I do think finances and enjoying the good life are pretty far down the list of his priorities. He’s in politics for (many of) the right reasons. Plus he knows that whenever he quits, he will have a plethora of easy and high paying offers. If not, he can always do a Dole and advertise for Viagara!

    6. He’s a young man: He can go on and on and on.

    7. Everything starts to look the same: But it doesn’t, for him. His whole approach has been incremental, small conservative-light changes that over time make an impact. More King than Trudeau or Mulroney. Plus he does have his sights on some specific targets like European free trade and a resurgent Liberal Party.

    8. The Cons don’t stand for anything anymore: What you say is absolutely right. They are what they despised. But they are not what Harper despises which is all that matters. See #7.

    9. The job is done: He has achieved a certain party legacy, but has no national legacy. In fact, worse, if he left now, the only legacy of note his historians would write about would be turning a Liberal surplus into a record setting deficit, the only government found in contempt, and multiple election frauds (in-and-out, robocalls, Del Mastro, etc.) and largely 10 years of not a lot significant getting done despite huge fanfare and press releases (senate reform, accountability, SeaKing helicopters, arctic icebreakers, F-35 debacle, nuclear, etc.). According to surveys on individual issues, Canadians are even more liberal/progressive now than they were when he took office. His many little changes (eg Royal Navy) are too new and too few to be assured of lasting. As far as legacy goes, I’d put him behind Alexander Mackenzie and Louis St. Laurent: some stuff got done, but does the ordinary joe remember it? That’s not good enough for a guy like Harper.

    10. Him: He looks unhappy, for sure. But he always has. The only time you see any zeal in him is when he is campaigning and that’s why he’ll run again. One last battle.

    And better still: it would be against a Trudeau and all that that would stand for symbolically for an arch conservative, Liberal-hating, petty-minded, ego-driven man.

  4. Michael Bussiere says:

    Regarding reason 9; how depressing. In other words, it had been about Harper. This perpetual myth that he united the right is a masterful pile of BS. I mean, the man did bust it up in the first place. Don’t credit me with rebuilding your house if I was the one who took dynamite to it in the first place. Furthermore, making conservativism a less radical choice was what the red Tories were all about i.e. the PCs. So why destroy and reinvent something that was working just fine in the first place. Interesting that the Calgary Sun is calling for the reds to be given the boot in the next cabinet shuffle. I guess the right-right is not happy either.

    I suppose a big ego is a requirement for the job, but personally, I cannot ever remember a guy who saw the role as being his reflection in the mirror more than this SOB. Harper Government™ says it all.

  5. G. Mcrae says:

    Points 1, 3-10 are well made. Point 2 RE: Pollsters, not so much. After the election results in BC, Alberta, and Quebec you should know better.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Interesting. I really hope he goes, although I don’t know if I could stand the sight of Jason Kenney or Moore as Prime Minister.

    A sign of his coming departure might be the lifetime gag orders he’s placed on 11? departments. Trying to control things from the retirement couch, maybe. I wonder if he places gag orders on everyone around him? There’s so little in the media about his school life, life at home, life in Toronto growing up – nothing. Nobody talks.

  7. frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

    One can only hope he sticks around long enough for Canadians to hand him his ass on platter……..but on the other hand, I look forward to Jason Kenney’s mad scramble for a suitable spouse…….

  8. Kaplan says:

    Harper won’t quit – can’t quit – while there’s a Trudeau to campaign against. His whole being, his history and his thinking is so bound up in defeating and destroying Liberals and the legacy of PET, Harper won’t back down from an opportunity to vanquish JT.

    I’m not expert, but…come on!

    • Sean says:

      Exactly what I am thinking. Suppose Trudeau senior had never been PM. Stephen Harper would just be a nerdy economics professor, known only to his family. colleagues and students. If the son of Maurice Duplessis was the Con. Leader in 2000, do you think Chretien would throw in the towel?

  9. Very compelling reasoning. Especially numbers 9 and 10. I don’t know if you need any others beyond those two. You saved the best for last in that list.

  10. billg says:

    Good column. Good points. There’s a storm brewing over underfunded pensions, if the Cons take it on then I think your bang on, if they decide to leave this mess for the next guy then he’s running again.

  11. deb s says:

    good analysis, I hope its spot on, and if he reads your website, its even better advice:)

  12. Robin says:

    Another reason is that he doesn’t have a positive or constructive vision for Canada. He has accomplished what he set out to do and that is dismantle most if not all the progressive institutions and programs that had been fastidiously established over decades by a succession of liberal governments including Diefenbaker and Mulroney. Harper has demonstrated an ability to dismantle rather than build. Now, with the dismantling mostly done, it is time to build and he’s not up for the job. For example, despite his pronouncements about making Canada an energy superpower Alberta’s oil sands remain land locked and further expansion in jeopardy. The absence of federal leadership to bring Alberta and BC together with industry and key stakeholders such as First Nations and environmental groups in order to agree on one pipeline route to tidewater has hampered the most likely prospect, that is, expansion of the existing Kinder Morgan line to Vancouver. Meanwhile, Keystone XL is languishing in political limbo in the US partly due to the negative perception about Canada’s commitment to combat climate change. Canada needs leadership at the national level and a return to cooperative and executive federalism to achieve greater economic success. I’m not sure this fits with Harper’s approach to governing.

  13. Windsurfer says:

    The fact that nobody has responded to this in about 6 hours probably means they all agree with you.

    PMSH, do not let the door hit you on the way out.

    • Ted B says:

      Or that Warren has a real job and it sometimes comes ahead of the website (and the approval of comments that goes with it).

  14. kitt says:

    Oh please stay so we can watch the Dear Leader thrown off his throne and trampled under the voters feet. That is what is deserved of the worse prime minister Canada ever had. And that, not blah, blah, blah will be crime minister’s legacy.

  15. Michael Bussiere says:

    Why is Immigration Minister Kenney and not Foreign Minister Baird commenting on the situation in Cairo on the CBC?

  16. Kaspar Juul says:

    Humid here in Vancouver too. My friend in Los Angeles hit 50 degrees before 10 this morning

  17. Brad Young says:

    If there is even a remote chance he will lose to Justin, he’ll quit.

    Because he is a bully and bullies are always cowards.

  18. PeggyW says:

    I see it as a toss-up. His ego would definitely preclude leaving as a loser; on the other hand, he strikes me as someone who is supremely confident that he is vastly more intelligent than everyone around him. That hubris may cause him to stay on. Usually, I believe the emperor is the last to know he has no clothes on…

  19. Marc L says:

    “The Cons don’t stand for anything anymore”. True. But neither do the Liberals. If standing for anything mattered these days, Justin would not be leader.

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