Now, The Real Stephen Harper


Stephen Harper finally has his cherished majority. Now, perhaps, we’ll see what he’s really made of.


Since he ran his first campaign as Conservative party leader in 2004, losing but forcing the dominant Liberal party to minority status, Canadians have been ambivalent about Harper. His Conservatives won the 2006 election, ending the Liberal reign, but the small minority he was given was an indication that we were still unsure of what this chilly, controlling man from Calgary was really up to.


The 2008 election again presented Canadians a chance to give their total trust to Harper, but once again he failed to gain a majority, this time at the hands of the inept Liberal leader Stéphane Dion.  Faced with perhaps the weakest leader the Liberals had offered in their history, the Conservatives were still denied their majority. The reason, clearly, was Harper. Plain and simple, we just didn’t trust him.


But fortune smiled on Stephen Harper. The Liberals became distracted with leadership questions, taking the only reasonable alternative party out of the picture, and giving Harper almost free reign to run his government.


On Monday, Canadians dutifully trooped to the polls in the fourth general election in seven years. This time, however, we would give Stephen Harper his majority, and in the process rewrite the political map of Canada.


How did he do it? How did this man that Canadians simply did not trust well enough to give full control gain a solid majority?


In the famous phrase of U.S. political strategist James Carville, “It’s the economy, stupid!” Canadians voted, as they almost always do, with their wallets.


Harper’s record in many areas — most notably his utter disregard for parliament, which led to his party’s unprecedented contempt of parliament charge — is weak, even worrisome. But in economic matters, Harper has fared well enough. Canada emerged from the worldwide economic collapse in better shape than almost any other country in the world, and Harper was able to take credit, despite the fact the solid foundation of our economy was a creation of Liberal governments. In this election, Harper smoothed away the rough edges, avoiding discussion of motherhood Canadian issues like health care. Contentious social issues were not up for discussion. Harper and the Conservatives positioned themselves in the centre, traditional Liberal territory, forcing the Grits to veer left. The result was a Conservative majority, a decimated Liberal party, and the New Democratic Party as the official opposition.


Harper now has his majority, but let’s hope he bears in mind that he accomplished this feat with 60 per cent of the electorate voting against him. His natural inclination will be to rule with an iron fist, but perhaps his better nature — if it exists — will recognize that even in majority a government must listen to the people.


In previous elections, Liberals and New Democrats made electoral gains just by connecting the words ‘secret agenda’ with Stephen Harper. That term disappeared in the election of 2011. Now with Harper in total control of the government — without those nettlesome opposition MPs looking over his shoulder — we’ll find out once and for all if the hidden agenda actually exists, or if it was just a scare tactic by the other parties. 


Now Canada — for better or for worse — will see the real Stephen Harper.


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