07.31.2012 01:58 AM

In today’s Sun: when Harper goes, they’re pooched

L’etat, c’est lui.

That Stephen Harper is the undisputed leader in Canadian politics — that he utterly dominates the landscape, in a way no one else does — is a fact. It is also a blessing and a curse for the Conservative Party of Canada.

It is a blessing in the sense that Harper, more than any other person, is responsible for all of his party’s successes. It has been a long time in the making. About a decade ago, Harper commenced working on a three-step plan to transform Canada.

First, he brought together the warring factions of the right. He convinced Reformers and Progressive Conservatives that, unless they came together as a single conservative force, the Liberals would continue to beat them.

Second, Harper set to work on destroying the brand of the most successful political machine in western democracy, the Liberal party.

Harper knew his principal rival was, and remains, the Grits. Over a decade, Harper has methodically deconstructed the Liberals, to the point where the once Natural Governing Party is a rump in the House of Commons.

Finally, Harper has moved his party to the centre, and shed much of the racism and extremism that once was synonymous with the Reform Party. He now has the most ethnically diverse caucus in the House of Commons, and he has purged most of the rednecked mouth-breathers who dominated his caucus. Just a few weeks ago, he mercilessly put down a social conservative attempt to reopen the abortion debate.

His successes are myriad. So, too, his adversaries. Their corpses — Dion, Ignatieff, Rae and others — litter the political landscape.

53 Comments

  1. Conservative Socialist says:

    If Harper ever steps down while he is still in power, then it can only mean that the polls make it evident that the Conservatives are on the outs. I doubt that any star candidate will want to be the captain of a sinking ship ala Campbell or Turner.

    How would history remember Chretien if he had won the ’84 leadership race? It’s doubtful that he would have fared much better than Turner who had to defend the 20+ previous years of Liberal governance. 1993 was much better time for Chretien to be at the helm: the albatross that was Mulroney and even a fractured right.

    Electoral success is mostly about winning conditions and timing. If these are right, then there should be no problem attracting star candidates for leadership(*)

    * – And as for our southern neighbors, the best that the Republicans could offer was Mitt Romney. Mike Huckabee is nor nearly as insensitive and lacking in charisma, but he chose to sit it out. True, the Republicans have a better chance of winning this year compared to the tsunami of hatred they faced in ’08, but they only have a puncher’s chance this time. I think that Obama has a 3:1 chance of getting the win.

  2. billg says:

    Cant argue with you on this. But, isnt that the issue with all good leaders? Chretien, Clinton..etc? It took a decade for the Dems to recover after Clinton. The LPC is still trying to find a Leader after Chretien left. Stephen Harper is the face of Canada right now as was Jean Chretien, and, if they were easy to replace both men would never have gotten to the pinnacle of Canadian politics.

  3. Jordan says:

    What about James Moore? I’ve never vote Conservatibe but I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t if he was leader.

    After a few years in cabinet what about Chris Alexander? Though he supposedly considered by some as to moderate.

    Someone I’m really surprised you didn’t mention is John Baird, another person who could get me to vote Conservative.

    (I’m not expecting a positive response to this)

    • Dan says:

      The problem, as Warren pointed out, isn’t that there are no competent Conservative leaders who are basically indistinguishable from Paul Martin Liberals. You can find plenty of Conservatives who want to pretty much cut taxes, cut services, dole out projects and patronage to win votes, and otherwise meander through abortion and gay marriage without taking a strong stance either way. I’m sure those guys can peel off a ton of Liberal votes.

      The problem is how long the Conservative party themselves will put up with it. The Alberta PC party wants to privatize health care, and opposes equal rights for women and gays. And they were still considered too left wing among the Conservative base. Just look around on this website. Here’s a few words that get them all riled up: GAYS. ISLAM. GANGS. IMMIGRANTS. FRENCH.

      It’s amazing that Harper has been able to keep those firebreathing Reformists satisfied. It’s only because he has years of being a firebreathing Reformist to earn that credibility. But he’s been anything but a firebreathing Reformist since he’s come into power.

      The Conservatives can pick a Reformist or they can pick a Progressive Conservative. They’ll have a hard time finding a leader who can be both.

      • Michael says:

        Keep in mind that through most of Harper’s prime ministership he has had a minority. He was able to placate the fire and brimstone Reformers by saying “can’t risk it now, wait til we have a majority” How long they stay quiet will be interesting to see.

    • Philip says:

      I’m curious as to why John Baird would prompt you to vote Conservative, as he simply seems to be more of the same, rather than something different. Why Baird over Harper ( unless you have been voting Conservative all along, in which case my question becomes rather pointless)? Genuinely curious as Baird strikes me as an excellent pitbull but not someone who could broaden the base. Or maybe that is the attraction, someone who can hold the base through thick or thin and count on suppressed turnouts to grab minority governments?

    • WDM says:

      Moore is likely too much of a moderate to win the support of the base. While it’s anecdotal, a large chunk of the conservative blogosphere aren’t big fans. The power rests in Western Canada, and there will likely be a motivated base looking to support a candidate with stronger conservative credentials than Moore. Also, if one looks at history, replacing a sitting PM doesn’t provide a very clear path to victory going forward. Martin, Turner and Campbell all found that out, so Moore, who is young, would be smart to sit the next round out regardless. Today, Jason Kenney would probably be the favourite if he wanted the job. No question about his conservative credentials, has performed in Cabinet, and has deep ties to important communities within the party.

    • frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

      James Moore, quite frankly, lacks charisma….

      Both Baird and Kenney would go over with “the base” like a lead balloon……the reason for which has been discussed on here ad nauseum…….

      Former Cabinet Minister Jim Prentice is the one to watch…..intelligent, successful, self-made family man, who can appeal to both the Refoorm and PC camps within the Conservative Party…..

      • Jordan says:

        Love Jim Prentice but he would never be supported by the Reform faction. Moore started his career as a member of the Canadian Alliance.

        • frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

          Beg to differ, Jordan……while not a “born” Reformer, Jim Prentice was one of the few candidates for the 2003 leadership race of the PC Party that was pro-merger…..that stance(still somewhat unpopular with the majority of PCers at the time), and an unfortunate endorsement by leadership candidate and troglodyte Craig Chandler killed his chances…..but he is respected by all factions of the Conservative Party…..both socons and Red Tories…….Hes popular in corporate circles as well, and isnt hated by the environmental movement either……
          Id say he’s the Conservative Party’s best chance post maelstrom after “Dear Leader’s” departure…..

          • Ted B says:

            Except, if he wasn’t pushed out, he had lost enough internal battles to know he wasn’t wanted by the party and they held the door open for him.

            Kenney has a pretty good lock on this already, in my view. But that is now and I think Harper’s going to stay on board for another 8-9 years so this is a tad premature.

  4. Joey Rapaport says:

    That’s Okay, when Harper finally leaves, it will be 10+ years, definitely time for a change! Just praying not the NDP…

  5. Anne Peterson says:

    Here’s a positive response. Nothing on earth could persuade me to vote for anyone connected with Harper. I think that’s the most positive comment yet on this thread. He is also responsible for all the bad stuff and there is a lot of it. He doesn’t fare too well in the books written about him to date but I can’t wait to read the ones written about him after he is gone.

  6. dave says:

    End of the 1990’s and into this century I would watch the cynicism, the evasions, the sneers on the Lib front bench and figure, ‘You people are going to give this country a Reform government. The blatant Islamophobia 10 years ago, the double talk about iraq, Maher Arar in Syria, the stalinist Anti Terrorism Act, the Danish Embassy thing, all showed that the Libs were Reform leaning anyway.
    Then, someone sleazy pulled the income trust bs (and did so with impunity)in the 2006 election campaign that shifted votes from a Lib minority to a Conservative minority.
    Finally, when a newer generation of Libs started moving into leadership, the old boys of the Lib party shafted them, and appointed Ignatieff to the leadership, thereby alienating all kinds of younger Libs.
    The Conservative inner circle did some things, but the Libs did it to themselves.

  7. !o! says:

    I really like this article. Like really REALLY like it. It’s common knowledge, it’s sensible, but not anything really new to people that follow politics closely.

    But the article IS new to a lot of people. A lot of people who read the Sun, and people who buy into notions like that the liberal party is a husk looking for a messiah, and who wouldn’t necessarily realize that their party of choice is a band of warring factions kept together by Harper glue, in short, nothing without a leader.

    I’ve always thought that the cracks would really really start showing if they start to slip below the 30% range (plurality more or less impossible), and stay there and not move up despite efforts. Like a qualitative difference. People are discontent now with the party, but it’s in those peoples’ best interest to work with what they have, and said people keep more or less quiet. People will start to voice this discontent when the iceberg starts looming, and things will fly apart.

  8. Glen says:

    I agree with you that the Conservatives are screwed once Kim Jong Harper leaves, but the warring factions within the Liberal Party had more to do with its fall from grace than anything the Supreme Leader did.

    It’ll rebound once Justin is on the prowl.

  9. dillon says:

    PMSH is a relatively young man. His handling of the issues that matter such as the economy has been near perfect. His next task is to build a party that is strong enough to attract Canada’s leaders of Indusry Academia and Communities to run as candidates for public office. This process is wll under way and with the confidence of the electorate locked up PMSH will have no problem in 20 years of turning over the reins of power to an outstanding Canadian successor.

  10. que sera sera says:

    ….will…??

  11. Mulletaur says:

    Note to all those Liberals and assorted pundits who whine that leadership is given far too much importance by Liberal Party of Canada members : you’re wrong. Stephen Harper has proved you wrong.

    Now you just have to find a leader of equal or better calibre.

  12. paul says:

    Warren,

    Don’t forget the 2 Bens. Ben M or Ben H will emerge from the ashes to the kingdom like the second coming of Justin T.

  13. Kelly says:

    Two words: Vote. Splitting.

    Every Majority in modern times (except Mulroney’s first) was a phony majority. Our ate age first past the post system is to blame. We never get the government we vote for. Harper struts around as though he has the support of most voters. Every Liberal government was the same…and lazy journalists perpetuate the myth.

    Here’s what would fix things: 1. Proportional representation (mixed member or 1-2-3 Single transferable vote); 2. Abolish Senate; 3. Party leaders elected by caucus in parliament in order to weaken the power of the PMO; 4. Centralize election spending and mandate a low maximum of say, $10million; 5. Polling blackout during writ; 5. Mandate 50% women MP (this is possible with mixed member PR)

    These reforms would bring us into the 21st century. Every one is already in place in many other more successful democracies, than ours. Would lead to more consensus building and all party representation across the whole country and de-emphasize the phony regionalism and provincialism that the current power players and media exploit.

    • Jim Hanna says:

      Actually, we get the government that most people voted for, your solution 1) would ensure coalitions, which would be a govermnent no one voted for; if there is a Liberal NDP coalition then whatever compromises made in Parliatment to effect that would result in a government that neither Liberal nor NDP voters would have wanted had their party one. FPTP at least has the advantage that usually, more people than any one else wanted that government (although not a majority, granted). PR also has the perverse effect of elevating parties over MP’s, something which I think would be a detrminent to the system. MMP or STV does address some of that, though…

      2) The Senate has a role, and could have a greater one; it should represent provincial interestes in Ottawa. If it was properly functioning (and along Bert Brown’s reforms ) the gun registry may still be in place – Brown proposed that to overturn legislation from the HOC, the Senate should have to defeat it on a basis similar to the amending formula, 7 provinces with 50% of the seats…Ontario and Quebec would have opposed for sure, that leaves 5 others- the four Atlantic provinces, and BC…ditto with the crime bill. There has been a lot of downloading on the provinces and this would give a proper legislative body to deal with that. Personally if its to be elected, then I think it should be based on the proportions in its respective provincial legislatures, so a Senate delegation would reflect the makeup of the provincial legislature. Added bonus, this means that a separate eleciton would not be necessary, it would be derived from a provincial vote. And yes its PR, but here we are representing provincies, not constituaents.

      3) I toally agree; we have been lulled into a false sense of democracy by expanding the voter base for leader, without recognizing that each step makes the leader less accountable. The Liberals have taken it to its logical conclusion and may end up with a leader who will be unaccountable to either the Party or the Caucus. If we went back to leaders being supported by caucus it would give the MPs some real power, and if we at the same time ensured that the leader could not veto candidates (currently they have to sign off on nomination papers) it would provide some real teeth. Let the riding presidents or if necessary the party president sign off on who is or isn’t a party’s nominee. And when MP’s have real power an dreal say, it makes nominating them more important – and thats were members can get their input; at the local level. Being able to vote for a leader when you are one of tens of thousands, just put the parties, all of them, in the hands of the organizers.

      4) Centralizing spending would just concentrate power; we have not had huge scandals. I’d reeinstate the party subsidy; but we already have decent spending limits. We have gone overboard in other areas though, and sometimes thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Case in point; in the past, in the Northwest Territories, airline companies allowed candidates free travel between the very far flung communities of the North. Suddenly that become a “corporate donation” and was banned; but there was no way for candidates to afford the high cost of travel. I don’t know if it was ever addressed but if something is offered to all parties, it should be allowed.

      5) Blackout during the entire writ? I don’t see that being doable or constitutional. To be honest, I’m not sure how its a bad thing; if we all know what we’re up to; I think the party that would agree the most right now is the Wild Rose (I think they got screwed at the end whe Liberals in Alberta realized that the PC’s were the lesser evil. Alas, Cthulu wasn’t on the ballet, why vote for the lesser evil, huh)

      6) (you called it 5., but I think we know you meant 6.) I like the result, I dislike most of the ways about it. And it starts a slippery slope; why not allocate for aboriginals, philipinos, etc. Very corporatist. And it implies that woman would also be capped at 50%; even in an MMP, say we do that, have 6 spots, 3 men, 3 woman – well in that case, I can see times when there were better woman candidates – especially if we had to deal with party divisions. Lets say of the six spots, the top 3 went to the NDP and Conservatives, and they all listed woman; then the Liberal in the 4th spot has to pick a man; but what if thats not the parites choice or…anyway. Thats why I don’t like it. But something has to be done to increase woman represenation; so perhaps we take the good with the bad.

  14. u suk says:

    Hey Warren,
    Wake up, Alison Redford is already warming up to take a run at the federal leadership when Harper departs. Bilingual, red Tory although no premier has gone on to be be PM.

    • Kelly says:

      The price of oil is going to crash again temporarily with the currently gelling recession II. Alberta’s economy will collapse, they’ll run a big deficit again (because taxes are too low and they don’t save enough) and Redford will be toast. She also sounded selfish fighting with Clark even though constitutionally she was “correct”.

      Federalism sucks. Unfortunately Canada was born of separate pre-existing entities coming together, then was expanded through the invention of yet more provinces later. In my opinion it’s all so artificial. I think we’d be better off with a strong central national government and more robust municipal governments. Provincial governments are too big for real local straws roots access and too small to do anything but create phony regionalism. Obviously many would disagree.

    • Brian Busby says:

      U, you are forgetting Tupper and Thompson.

  15. Realist says:

    The only thing I disagree with is that unlike Dion and Ignatieff, Rae is not a victim of Harper. He’s a victim of the Liberal party.

  16. Windsurfer says:

    All CON’s can go screw themselves. Fiscal managers, my ass.

    Robert Chisholm: Flaherty’s fiscal recklessness is hurting Canada’s economy

    Robert Chisholm, National Post Jul 27, 2012

    Federal Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty.
    Wednesday in these pages, federal finance minister Jim Flaherty took the opportunity to offer some fatherly advice to provincial and territorial premiers gathering in Halifax for the Council of the Federation, dispensing his thoughts on the virtues of balance budgets and fiscal responsibility (“Our long term goal: Balance Canada’s budgets,” July 25.

    While the Harper government seems happy to offer advice through the media, it failed to send a single representative to meet with the premiers in Halifax. It seems the Harper Conservatives believe unilateral edicts handed down from Ottawa are now the most constructive approach to Canadian federalism.

    But before anyone considers taking Mr. Flaherty’s advice, let’s take a closer look at his government’s record.

    After inheriting the largest budget surplus in federal government history when he first took office, the Conservative finance minister quickly squandered it on a series of short-sighted and unaffordable corporate tax cuts. Now, after having broken the bank, he’s asking the provinces, and Canadian families, to pick up the tab for his corporate giveaways.

    Despite years of promising that Conservatives would never balance the budget by cutting health care transfers or public pensions, Mr. Flaherty and the Prime Minister decided to do exactly that — cutting services and downloading costs to provinces, territories, municipalities and First Nations at a rate that would make even Paul Martin blush.

    Instead of coming to the table in good faith and negotiating a new health accord with the provinces, Conservatives unilaterally announced they were going to cut health care transfer payments and short-change the provinces and territories by $31-billion. These governments will be forced to cut services and ultimately the health and well-being of Canadians will suffer.

    On pensions, the Conservatives are pushing ahead with plans to cut Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement by raising the retirement age to 67. No longer able to rely on the strong public pensions that Canadians counted on for generations, many seniors will fall into poverty before they’re able to retire. And despite never consulting them on these changes, Conservatives are downloading the costs for these social assistance benefits onto the provinces and territories.

    Recent changes to Employment Insurance (EI) will have the same effect. Even though fewer Canadians are able to collect EI today than ever before, the federal government is moving to restrict access even further, making it harder for unemployed Canadians to access this important element of our social safety net. Many Canadians stripped of their EI benefits will be pushed onto provincial and territorial social assistance programs. Once again, it is the provinces and territories who will be stuck with the bill.

    But his recent budget cuts weren’t Mr. Flaherty’s first foray into fiscal recklessness.

    In 2008, despite warning signs, Conservatives were caught unprepared by the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Indeed, they only acted when their hold on power was threatened.

    Mr. Flaherty is now being forced to acknowledge that economic instability around the world affects Canada. He seems to finally realize that in the 21st-century, world economies are interconnected – and he seems ready at last to accept the possibility that Canada could be facing a second recession.

    But sadly, Mr. Flaherty still appears unwilling to consult with either the premiers or the public about his plans to address these risks. He prefers to lecture others rather than take responsibility for his own government’s mistakes.

    National Post

    Robert Chisholm is deputy critic for intergovernmental affairs.

  17. reformatory says:

    Alison Redford, Jim Prentice, Jim Flaherty, Mark Carney, a slew of provincial premiers, their future looks far brighter than the liberals I tell you

  18. Ron in Gower says:

    “Jason Kenny is a joke”. Don’t kid yourself. Jason Kenny is a dangerous man.

  19. Mauserman says:

    Don’t bet on it Warren. Your old boss ruined the Liberal Party and you lot what be back anytime soon. The NDP are still weak outside of Quebec, so little room to grown there. Your Libby hubris killed the party and drove people away. Just look upon the Liberal waste land YOU helped create.

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