Sunday, March 04, 2007

Who Is Stephen Harper?

Olaf has an interesting post, which articulates frustration at anyone who still "trots out the boogeyman" when it comes to the Harper government. To categorize Harper as a right-wing ideologue, akin to the American neo-cons is outlandish, downright dishonest. Simple fear-mongering, the facts of one year in office don't support the alarmist thesis. Olaf does a commendable job laying out the initiatives and discrediting some lines of attack. The one glaring hole in the argument, can we say with certainty that this is the real Stephen Harper? Can you take this weak minority situation and extrapolate that reality as the true nature?

The problem I have with Stephen Harper, you have to subscribe to the "epiphany" theory to reconcile his long paper trail with the current rhetoric. Any objective reading of Harper's past musings would have to conclude that he favored a right-wing agenda. I'm not going to recite the opinions, they have been discussed to death. Conservatives conveniently ignore the past, "get over it", as though irrelevant to the current situation. I would be inclined to dismiss a lot of Harper's troubling positions, if they were the product of a reckless youth, but the real problem, there is a consistency that weaves its way through Harper's entire adult life- a logical pattern, that only now seems different.

What has changed to create the "new" Stephen Harper? Does anyone doubt the change is largely a result of electoral prospects, as opposed to some evolution in thinking? Did people miss the concerted effort to re-introduce Harper's conservatism during the last election? The motivations seem clear in my mind, the rhetoric is a packaged response, sharp marketing. I'm not prepared to forget the telling positions, articulated when Harper actually spoke freehand. As a matter of fact, I will take the uncensored Harper over this propaganda campaign everytime, because it simply a man expressing his self, without the lure of votes.

Put me firmly in the "idiotic" fear-mongering camp, I'm not buying the kinder, gentler Harper agenda. If we were two years into a majority situation, then I might temper my hysterics, but we're not and that point is central to any argument. Harper must move to the center, Harper must augment his rhetoric, Harper must morph to appeal to mainstream Canada. Has Harper changed? Please. Has Harper changed his tune to secure power? If you take Harper in totality, the answer seems obvious from here.

People can point to policies while in office, as evidence that the fear-mongering is misguided, asinine even, but I see a lot of this as the minority illusion. I'm not suggesting it isn't working, Liberals will have a hard time convincing Canadians that Harper should be feared, but that doesn't mean that it isn't true. You have to sift through so much rhetoric, mis-information, that any clarity is lost.

So, who is Stephen Harper? IMHO, Harper is the same guy who spoke about "firewalls" and "welfare states", the only difference now, that honest talk doesn't quite jive with electoral success. The only "epiphany", a cold, hard calculation of what is required to take the helm. I fear a Harper majority, nothing to date has tempered that sentiment. I'm not buying, because clearly I'm being sold.


Ed said...

Agreed. With Harper, past is not prelude.

He and his team are quite skilled at 'retail politics'. The old Harper is being replaced with a more touchy feely version for the benefit of the polls, and not some true blue ideological transformation.

The majority PM Harper would be significantly different than the minority PM we have seen over the last 13 months.

ottlib said...

Hmmmm. That is a tough one.

I am inclined to agree with your assertion because the timing of his "softening" is just too convenient.

And with all due respect to Olaf, Mr. Harper's statements are many, consistant and a matter of public record and should not be dismissed out of hand.

However, to be fair, Stephen Harper gained his scary reputation before he gained a prominent place in Canadian politics, whether that was as the leader of the opposition or as the head of government.

Since he gained the prominent position he has traveled this country and met other Canadians outside of his Alberta bubble. That experience could have changed his outlook somewhat.

Who really knows?

Unfortunately the only way to find out if his change is the result of political expediency or a true change of heart is to give him a majority government and see what happens.

That is a risk I am not willing to take.

There is no way to figure out how Mr. Harper would jump if he is given the power of a majority government and for me I would prefer to err on the side of caution.

Steve V said...


That is an fair assessment. I guess it boils down to this, do you trust what we see as genuine. If the answer is a caution, then that says it all in my mind. Maybe, maybe not, isn't good enough.

leftdog said...

Olaf is doing a typical whitewash on Harper. I don't see him articulating the cheating that Harper's crew are employing in their attempt to bully farmers on the Canadian Wheat Board.

I don't see him articulating the lie Harper told Saskatchewan on the Tory election promise for Equalization.

Harper has not been able to advance his agenda to 'rebrand Canada' because he only has a minority.

Harper has a plan to end public health care.

Harper HATES Canada the way it currently exists and the proof comes from his own mouth:

"What we clearly need is experimentation with market reforms and private delivery options [in health care]."
- Stephen Harper, then President of the NCC, 2001.

"Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status"
- Stephen Harper in his article "It is time to seek a new relationship with Canada," December 12th, 2000.

Steve V said...


Good point on The Wheat Board, because the tactics employed on that issue reveal quite a bit.

leftdog said...

Harper's right wing propaganda on 'providing farmers with more OPTIONS to sell their wheat' is merely a dress rehearsal for the day when he will say that he is 'providing Canadians with more OPTIONS in the delivery of health care'.

Olaf is quite a nice fellow - I like him and some of his ideas, but he is an apologist for Stephen Harper and he has a blind eye for the things I have pointed out here.

Harper is a right wing academic geek. He reads nothing but right wing economic schlock and crap and he is so fixated on his own ideology he can see nothing eles.

I mean come on, EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT A COMPETE IDIOT GEORGE BUSH IS ... Harper still agrees with most of Bush's insane policies.

I don't like Stephen Harper, I don't trust Stephen Harper ... look into his eyes - blank, and stunned. The man is more then an idiot, he is dangerous to those things that Canadians value.

leftdog said...

See what you did? You got me going on Stephen Harper.

What about his cozy cozy relationship with the right wing extremists in the Fraser Istitute??

Gayle said...

"Since he gained the prominent position he has traveled this country and met other Canadians outside of his Alberta bubble. That experience could have changed his outlook somewhat."

I live in Alberta, and I would not call it a bubble. Despite Harper's request for a firewall, information and ideas do trickle in from other provinces :).

I am sure Harper has had exposure to other ideas before becoming leader of the conservatives.

I do not think his personal views have changed at all, but I am cautiously optimistic that he recognizes those views will not wash with Canadians, so he is not going to start implementing a neo-con agenda immediately after winning a majority.

That said, I would prefer to play it safe and keep him to the opposition, or in a minority. I love my country too much to take the risk.

ottlib said...

So leftdog, how do you REALLY feel about Stephen Harper? :)

doug newton said...

Steve V
Do you think that a CPC majority would really be "a nightmare for Canada" as Western Grit stated?
To me if you substitute the phrase Liberal Party for the word Canada in Western Grit's post it makes more sense. Liberals do tend to confuse the two.
Any party that seeks a majority in Canada has to move toward the middle of the political spectrum and if they wish to retain that majority they can't stray too far from that position. The Liberals would still have the majority if they hadn't been so obvious about feathering their own nest.
What specifically do you think Mr. Harper might do that would be a nightmare for Canada?
My gut feeling is that he is the type of man that would try to be the Prime Minister of Canada rather than the leader of the majority party if that makes sense.

ottlib said...


I mispoke by saying his Alberta bubble.

More accurately he has stepped outside of his University of Calgary/Citizen's Coalition bubble.

I am just playing devil's advocate here to offer another explanation for his apparent softening. However, that does not mean I believe that softening is driven by anything but political expediency.

As well, I am not certain that he would not revert to his neo-con ways if he had a majority government. I believe he would have no problems sacrificing the Conservative Party to have 5 years of unfettered time to transform Canada to meet his vision.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with all of you. I live in Alberta and I am so afraid for my country that I lose sleep at night. The only epiphany that extremist has had is how to manipulate the masses that he holds in contempt by the way into believing he is not 'scary'. If given a majority mandate we wouldn't have a country worth saving in 5 years and I bet we'd have the greenback. Once public healthcare is dismantled it won't be rebuilt. This country is over if Harper's spinmasters succeed. The NDP right now needs to give their head a shake as them demonize the Liberals who will work with them vs. Harper. I will lay Canada's demise at Jack's feeble feet...he's pathetic and will sell out Canada for his own personal gain. It's just all depressing. Harper is the most malevolent leader we have ever witnessed in this country with what I believe is a deep hatred for Canada. He is bitter he wasn't born in the US and then throw in his wacky fundamentalist evangelical beliefs and Canada is in for a very rough ride. sigh.....

Steve V said...

I don't think he would ever completely "re-vert" to his neo-con ways, even with a majority. The worrying part, to have a man will full control, that has these ideas, which are bound to manifest themselves somewhere.

doug newton

Where I get quite concerned, is Harper's view of federalism. We have already heard of low-profile discussions with the provinces, which Harper initiated, about limiting the federal role. A majority might bring a more concerted effort by Harper to put his stamp on the federation. I would view this development as "nightmarish", because he approaches federalism from a premier's perspective, a dangerous ingredient, that provides no balance in any discussions.

Olaf said...


Good post, and you're quite right, the "he's still in a minority" is still a floating variable.

There is so much to cover in your post and the comments, I don't know where to start.

How about with Buck,

I mean come on, EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT A COMPETE IDIOT GEORGE BUSH IS ... Harper still agrees with most of Bush's insane policies.

These are precisely the types of statements that drive me absolutely fucking mad. What policies of Bush does Harper "still agree with"? Do you actually have any in mind, or are you just saying stuff? Do you even know which of Bush's policies Harper does or does not agree with? I mean what the hell.

I'm not railing against people who criticize Harper, I do constantly, which would make me a pretty sad "apologist".

I could ramble on for hours in response to the valid points raised here and in the comments, but I'll spare you, and just make one point: Whether Harper is in a majority or minority, he will still be concerned with votes and maintaining his popularity.

The idea that he is only being moderate so that he can win a majority may be true, but that doesn't mean that once he has a majority, he won't continue to be moderate so he can win another, and another, and to solidify his legacy thereafter.

Votes won't cease to be a concern if he gets a majority, far from it. People like Buckdog would have you believe that once he gets a majority, we can expect a wild right wing extremist government that will destroy the very nature of Canada. But lets think about what would happen in the following election if such an extremist neo-con agenda was implemented: the Liberals would get a HUGE majority government, they would reverse every single policy that Harper put in place, the Conservative Party of Canada would never again be trusted and likely disband, and the Liberal Party would once again become the natural ruling party, and it's likely that Canada's entire political culture would shift more to the left than it already is just in reaction to a hard right government. If you think this is Harper's long term vision and goal, you're not paying attention or even thinking with your brain.

Loraine Lamontagne said...

Last night I watched on tv the proceedings of the defence committee of the Senate which dealt primarily with the forced resignation of Senator Michael Meighen from his vice-chair position on the committee. Harper not only likes to read, but he obviously is inspired by, Stalin.
In comparison, think of Liberal MP Gauthier who refused in 1982 to stand up and vote with Trudeau's government on the patriation of the constitution because of the quantifying provisions regarding minority language rights. Gauthier was never made a minister, but he always retained his freedom of speech and was eventually named by Chr├ętien to the Senate where he served his country very well until age 75.

I think Mr. Harper's reputation is well-deserved. Most disturbing is Harper's penchant and delight for unsubstantiated personal attacks on politicians and their families, like Dingwall and his daughter, Robillard, Jenings, Bains, etc...

Daniel said...

Good lord, with all the fearmongering and hysterics around here, you'd think we were talking about giving a majority to Hitler or Mussolini.....

Harper may be on the right of the political spectrum, but even the Conservative Party of Canada is one of the most moderate right-of-centre parties in the industrialized world. And if he DID win a majority, I'm sure he wouldn't throw it out the window quite so easily (5 years to "sacrifice the CPC and change the face of the country"? Utterly ridiculous.)

Many people change their views over time - heck, Pierre Trudeau was partial to fascism in his younger days. Even if Harper's transformation is merely for political expediency, I think there will be enough people tying his hands to temper any of the "old" Harper that may still exist.

I don't think Canada's identity is so fragile that 4 years of a government with a slightly different outlook on thingsn will cause the country to implode.

In addition, those calling Harper an "extremist" obviously don't know the meaning of the word.

Miles Lunn said...

Good article. I think his positions are no doubt considerably more right wing than what he makes them out to be. Now that doesn't mean he doesn't have the right to hold those positions. I may agree with a few of his more right wing positions (such as on health care) while disagree with the majority (such as SSM).

Still I agree, until Harper has a majority we have no way of knowing just how right wing he would be. My guess is he would be very right wing in the first couple of years, while more centrist in the third year with the election approaching since people tend to have short-term memories. I didn't live in Ontario duing the Harris reign, but I seem to recall his most right wing ideas were implemented in his first year and he was more centrist in the year leading up to the election.

Also another indicator is to look at his caucus, which for the most part are quite right wing. I guess the question comes does one want to take a risk of a Harper majority or not. I don't and that is why I won't vote for him. You don't get to decide on your ballot whether you want a majority or minority government, so by voting Conservative, you are essentially saying you are okay with a majority Conservative government.

As to the other commenters, it is true that if Harper moved too far to the right, the party would get crushed in the next election, but still lets remember you only need 40% to get a majority and you would be surprised at how many issues you can find 40% who support a right wing position. For example 38% support privatizing the CBC, so my guess is he would stick to the 40% issues. I guess the only question is that on these issues is it the same 40% or different ones and will enough who agree with him on some issues, but not all decide it is too much. In addition I will always be a proud Canadian no matter who our PM is and Canada to me is not defined by any government program, but rather its people and the contribution we have all made to this great country.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank both Olaf and Steve for thoughtful posts, and the former for his comment here. I agree wholeheartedly with Olaf's points and would add a few further. Frankly, it seems to me that the demonizing of the Chretien years--remember Barney, and Myron Thompson, and Alberta's (though strangely not Quebec's or BC's) dismantling of health care, and all the rest that went to portraying the Reform/Alliance "Other", and indeed Alberta tout court, as American redneck biblethumping troglodyte xenophobes whom Ontarians had to keep from dismantling Confederation by electing 100 Liberals in election after election?--has so taken root in LPC circles that they are unable to see and pay attention to the man they are actually facing. Know your foe, ladies and gentlemen. Harper IS a fiscal conservative and a BNA Act federalist, ie in favour of a less activist and intrusive federal government, one which attends primarily to its own constitutional responsibilities and does not expand its tax base with a view to using the spending power to encroach upon or simply annex the sexier, because more tangibly present in people's daily lives, areas of provincial jurisdiction. Harper IS NOT, nor has he ever been, a social conservative. He IS NOT some slavering racist, as his actions on several files over the past 14 months should make clear. He IS NOT some protofacist totalitarian (and this is without exaggeration the tenor of some of the rhetoric here); indeed, he wants to make government smaller and more accountable, to constrain its power, though through electoral and constitutional (ie. via Senate Reform and actual observance of the constitutional divisions of powers) rather than judicial avenues.

Now, this is something at odds with other more centralizing, more Charter-based (and I must say, therefore, rather more American and republican) and more social-democratic traditions in this country. Fair enough, and you may well oppose these and find them troubling. Indeed, as Liberals, you're at least as likely to hew to a more centralizing and Trudeau-esque line (though you would do well to recall that this line has not exhausted the debates or traditions of even the LPC itself, historically). In fact, one of the things that saddens me about M Dion's performance--and not just his fall in the polls, or some recent missteps, but his clear decision, from day one, to proceed by way of ad hominem distortion and demonizing (the "mean-spirited, far right, neocon blah blah blah" tack of his very first day in the House)--is that we are missing out on what could have been a worthwhile national debate between two intelligent, principled and passionate advocates of different visions of the federal government's role in Confederation. Oh well....

My point here is that you may not like Mr Harper; you may well and for sound reasons disagree with him. That does not make him or his supporters the febrile, drooling blackshirts your respondents, and even you yourself, Steve, all too often suggest they are. What's more, in insisting on such a rhetoric in the teeth of substantial evidence to the contrary, you don't just make Olaf and myself go fucking insane, you make *yourselves* look the hyperpartisans out of touch with reality and Canadians' actual priorities. This, above all, I humbly submit, accounts for current polling trendlines, and I don't think that continuing the chant that you know the REAL Stephen Harper, the Mr Hyde still lurking in the shadows whom we must still be scared of, just as we were properly chilled in 1997 and 2000, is going to do much to reverse these trends, frankly, when you seem NOT to know him very well. I would recommend, on this score, William Johnson's updated bio, Paul Wells' *Right Side Up* and even Hugh Segal's *The Long Road Back* as some preliminary reading for coming to understand just who your adversary is.

With respect,

(Card-carrying CPC member and so one of those braindead, partline spewing drone/trolls I read so much about in your comment threads).

doug newton said...

Steve V
Well I guess I will excuse myself from the conversation as I think that changing the role of the federal government to give us some clear cut assignment of federal, provincial and possibly municipal responsibility is a good thing from a voters perspective and necessary for the long term viability of the country. In health care for instance I would like to see the provincial governments free to meet federal guidelines including wait time guarantees in whatever manner best suits their circumstances and political bent of their electorate.
I guess this makes me a scary nightmare to leftdog and fellow ideologues but I am just looking for more local accountability instead of the current buckpassing we have on this issue.

lance said...

DMD, very well said.

Miles, I wouldn't put too much faith in the '40% makes a majority' mantra. Remember, the Greens are players in the field too. If their support holds through an election, the splits could divide the left enough that 37% could be the new line.


Steve V said...

"I don't think that continuing the chant that you know the REAL Stephen Harper, the Mr Hyde still lurking in the shadows whom we must still be scared of, just as we were properly chilled in 1997 and 2000, is going to do much to reverse these trends, frankly, when you seem NOT to know him very well. I would recommend, on this score, William Johnson's updated bio, Paul Wells' *Right Side Up* and even Hugh Segal's *The Long Road Back* as some preliminary reading for coming to understand just who your adversary is."

DMD, will all respect, where to you get off pontificating, as though you KNOW Harper, while another opinion is "preliminary". I KNOW Harper, his musing haven't left much room for interpretation, he's a blunt man.

As to the rest, I appreciate your opinion, I just don't share it.

leftdog said...

Olaf ... Harper supports Bush in his foreign policy in the middle east, that is obvious. He has said it himself.

It would be easier for you to articulate the policies that Bush and Harper disagree with - because there aren't many.

Harper is a petty petty pathetic person. What he did to MP Bains in the House of Commons was so totally 'unprime ministerial' you guys should all be ashamed that you have anything to do with him.

Harper HATES Canada the way it is and he has said that. He wants a NEW Canada based on misguided, ideolgy that says the market place should dictate the economy, health care, education etc.etc.etc.

wilson61 said...

Only 13 months in office, and the separtists are on their way down, and Canadian pride is on it's way up.
A remarkable achievement for a government that Harper and McKay formed a few short years ago.

Dion is rallying the troops with
'we will reverse everything Harper has done'.
If policy is that easy to reverse, what is there to fear?

ottlib said...


With a majority Mr. Harper can gut the Federal Government with the help of the provinces.

He can change the National Health Act to allow those same provinces to increase the privatization of Canada's health care system.

Both would be irreversible once done. Both have been key desires of Mr. Harper since he was a political pup and he has never reputiated either one.

In both cases the Liberals could wipe out the Conservatives in the federal parliament and still not reverse them because the provinces would never agree.

Stephen Harper does not need much time to establish a "legacy" because his main political ideas are premised on the destruction of key Canadian institutions. We all know it takes alot less time to tear something down than it does to built something.

You give this man 5 years of unfettered power and Canada could very well be a much different place.

Olaf, is that the kind of change you want for Canada?

Scotian said...


You are presuming that Harper is first a politician and a true believer in his ideology second, I don't agree. I am very much convinced he is a true believer (based on his two DECADES of adult life spouting the same beliefs and political ideology until after the 2004 election defeat) who is being "centrist"/pragmatic to get to that majority. Once he has it he will implement his agenda even if it costs him power in five years figuring that the changes he will have wrought will have by then their own momentum and/or be undoable (as in devolving federal powers to Provinces which has been one of his mainstay beliefs in those 2 decades, once done it will be very hard to undo and get Provinces to return said powers).

The problem Olaf is that Harper sees himself as a revolutionary, and he sees himself as being the only one that can save this country from itself. He will do *ANYTHING* it takes to advance that; he has shown that by his actions as well over the past 2 decades. You are unwilling to accept this premise for some reason and excuse his prior comments as some sort of youthful error/misjudgment, I am many others are not. I for example know of no other LOO that on an issue of war went outside his country after the decision was taken to badmouth that decision in American/foreign press to claim that the majority of Canadians (despite the polls and despite the action taken by the legitimate government of the day) were solidly behind that war. That was less than four years ago Olaf, while he was LOO and he had to know that this position was not popular in this country, would likely be held against him politically, yet he did it because he *believed* in it and he will do what he believes in damn the costs to those that disagree.

He knows he cannot win by stating his beliefs openly; he has several election results to tell him that. He knows that he must appear moderate/centrist to have any chance of gaining the majority power he needs to enact his agenda wholeheartedly, but that does not mean he will not advance it incrementally while in minority as the Wheat Board, judicial appointments committee changes, and other examples already discussed half to death already illustrate.

The real problem though Olaf is what Steve V put his finger on in his second paragraph of his post: "The problem I have with Stephen Harper, you have to subscribe to the "epiphany" theory to reconcile his long paper trail with the current rhetoric.". One not only has to believe in the epiphany theory one has to do so without Harper explaining his various epiphanies on his multiple sudden changes from positions he been consistent about from 1987 to 2004-05 when he has never explained these epiphanies, never explained why he was wrong to believe what he did before and is right now, no he has done none of that which in any politician let alone party leader should be viewed with high distrust/skepticism because without the explanations it can be easily be expediency to gain votes and not real change. This is so because when you explain why you were wrong to think something before and are correct in your revised positions now makes it much harder to backtrack later once in power without it looking to Canadians to be exactly what it would have been, empty rhetoric used to sell Canadian voters on an illusion and sowing Harper to be a pandering "flipflopper" to borrow a recent CPC talking point.

Steve V also raises a good point about you Olaf, like him I like you, but I have to agree with Leftdog you carry Harper's water uncritically while examining the failings of the other parties especially the Libs and Dion. You are not consistent in how you apply your critical lens and commentary between the parties and leaders, you yourself even noted that at RT's the other day in the thread dealing with the Canadian 9/11/01 widow when you noted you had not taken the opportunity to do a comparative post on that exploitation like you had when the Libs did so on another issue a while back.

Now, before you start saying I am no better since I only focus on Harper's negatives, and indeed am likely one of the ones you are referring to about beating the drums about "scary Harper" (although my fears are not rooted in socon but federal powers issue AND the kind of particularly slimy and disgusting political tactics Harper has shown no hesitation in using to lie about his opponents so long as it helps him politically) although I can also back up with Harper's own words and actions why I think so, I have never claimed to be anything other than a fierce opponent of Harper and his particular brand of conservativism. I have not denounced conservativism in general as bad, just his variant of it. I support no other party, I don't spend a lot of time trying to promote the policies of other parties (although I will defend them from smear attacks from Harper since that is also further evidence of why I am concerned about Harper and his penchant for total war politics) and my only real goal is to discredit Harper and his strain of conservativism so badly that a more Canadian rooted conservativism comes to run the CPC instead of the more dangerous Calgary School adherents that currently make up its leadership brain trust.

It is a sad day Olaf when you represent one of the more reasonable and rational online Conservatives and even you get sucked into the whirlitzer surrounding Harper and the CPC and buy into their spin about their opposition. It is a sad day Olaf when you represent one of the most balanced conservative opinions and you are willing to excuse/ignore Harper's entire adult life both in and out of public office until 2 years ago as nothing to be overly worried about, indeed that you call it scare mongering when those of us that do take Harper at his word over that 2 decade period raise the many things he advocated.

Do you believe in the culture war approach to politics Olaf? Harper certainly did four years ago as CA leader and LOO, he not only did a policy speech but policy paper for the CA on the absolute necessity for it if the Canadian conservative movement is to thrive in this country, even if it costs some of the more traditional conservative supporters in the process. Why does that not trouble you? Why is raising what he said as LOO out of bounds yet bringing up Liberal misdeeds and misspeech over the last 13 years is entirely acceptable? Why was it ok for Harper to use a smear of criminal behaviour against a sitting government based on faked evidence and then to cover it up and claim no CPCer did anything wrong when someone in the CPC had to have been the editor of the May 31 05 Grewal recordings release since from the moment of recording to that point they were exclusively in CPC hands? I can provide a lot of examples of Harper like this, and have in front of you, yet you have considered my concerns fear mongering and without substance, this despite the fact I (and others who also share these concerns) can back all of this up with comments and actions of Harper's from the beginning of this decade onwards. Those are not youthful indiscretions, they are the words and deeds of a true believer, and I have a hard time believing any true believer in anything has lost their faith until they profess they lost it AND why. This applies to all true believers in anything I might add, not just the political kind.

Olaf, you want to give Harper the benefit of the doubt and think many of us are being unreasonable for not doing so. We think you are unreasonable for giving Harper the benefit of the doubt given his long consistent history of words and deeds which run counter to his current political mask he wears when he has never repudiated any of those convictions, merely stopped talking about them for a time. Of the two sides yours is the one that is more rooted in faith/gut/feelings than ours, as we have that extensive history right up to 2005 to draw upon and we have no evidence of the repudiation of his former positions if he really has changed his positions/had those epiphanies Steve V was referring to. You only have his unexplained changes of fundamental positions and his inability thanks to that weak minority to advance his agenda to fail back upon.

Yet the examples of the Wheat Board, the judicial appointments process being altered to give the PM's appointees the majority power on those committees from the minority they had been prior (Which by definition makes it easier to put political partisans on the bench not harder, and showed that the Libs were using a method which made it HARDER for them to put political appointees on, so why did Harper change it if he really believes what he says about how terrible judicial activism is in a democracy?) exist in this minority to demonstrate that whatever Harper says his commitment to his core beliefs is clearly unchanged despite all the effort he has put into masking and camouflage himself as a centrist/moderate in the Canadian political context, an effort which sadly looks to have succeeded with you as well as the more blatantly partisan online Conservatives. So which one of us is the greater fool, those of us that believe in taking what Harper said for 2 decades straight and his actions in government appear to support (incremental changes were also something he recognized would be necessary, especially short of a majority) or the image he is trying to project of the centrist despite never being accountable for the positions of conviction he held to so strongly for 2 decades prior? That is why while many of us may like you and find you so much more preferable to discuss/debate/disagree with than many of your fellow online Conservatives we still find you to be far too much of a Harper water carrier even given your periodic hard criticisms of some of his actions.


Olaf, do the names Lee Atwater and Karl Rove mean much to you? Have you ever researched those two and the political tools they were willing to use to slime/discredit/destroy their political opposition no matter how slimy/false? Have you ever then compared the methods Atwater and Rove pioneereed to those in use by the Harper CPC against the Libs? If you have not you should, because the similarities are extremely worrisome, which is why I and many others say he imports GOP tactics wholesale, and not good ones either.

Please do not come back with the tired "but the other side uses negative tools too" bit, I am not saying they do not, but the kind of negative politics Atwater and Rove employed is something far more negative and destructive than what any other party from the Libs, to the NDP to the PCPC have used, and besides why does the fact that others use negative tools means that it is ok to use even more negative and destructive tools? Not only do two wrongs not make a right this kind of reasoning makes spirally down into total war/scorched earth politics the eventual and inevitable result. Personally, I think that is a bad thing for any open democratic society, that is why I am so opposed to it and dedicated to exposing it, especially after seeing what damages it has wrought upon my American cousins in that regard, unless you prefer our politics to look like the American mudslinging fests, personally I am repulsed by the idea and I think most Canadians would be whatever the politicial affiliation.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

I'm not afraid of Harper and his crew as long as he's kept to a minority. I don't agree with what he's done so far, but I don't find it scary. You're right, though, that a majority would almost certainly look very, very different, and this is why that can't be allowed to happen.

If both Dion and Layton run good campaigns in the next election, though, I don't think we have too much to worry about on that front. The likelihood of anyone at all getting a majority are pretty slim.

Anonymous said...

ottlib, leftdog, Scotian:


Just a brief note to Scotian. All federal court appointees (and so, on the Canadian model, the majority of judicial appointees) are made by Cabinet on the advice of the Justice Minister, but also, given the exceedingly centralized version of Westminster governance we have in Canada, in practice by the fiat of the PM. The point is that constitutionally Her Majesty's Gov't appoints the judges as it sees fit. Period. They could appoint you if they so chose. So complaining about how changes to the JACs allow the government to interfere politically with the process doesn't make much sense. The elected and partisan government IS, when you read the Constitution Act (1867, or 1982), the process. FWIW.


Anonymous said...

I find it very hard that Harper "suddenly" understands Canada and Canadians. The man grew up in Ontario - his impressionable learning years. He was an adult (late teens) when he moved to Alberta.

How could he not understand?

It's an idealogy that he has "chosen".

Even in a minorty he hasn't been that centrist - it's slowly leaking out.

Anonymous said...

If the man's policies and success were so great as a PM - why would he have to resort to lies, trashing, bashing and belittling? He can't get the "points" on "merit" obviously.

If he was so good - he wouldn't have to do it, therefore, he's not as good as people believe.

Olaf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Olaf said...


With all due respect, I'm not getting into this with you, because we've had this conversation before, and we disagree. I see no point in having the same discussion over and over again.

I will however point to one comment you made:

I have to agree with Leftdog you carry Harper's water uncritically while examining the failings of the other parties especially the Libs and Dion

I have criticized Harper on political strategy, parliamentary decorum, attack ads, political optics, placating Quebec, floating the Defence of Religions Act, his political vocabulary, caucus control, income trust dishonesty, health care grandstanding, the nation resolution, fiscal management, and overspending. Furthermore, I've basically been the only one coming out with a reasonable defence of the Liberal Party regarding the recent charges leveled against them. If I'm a CPC water carrier, I totally suck at it.

I often encounter this type of criticism. After a few encounters with me, people on the left will come to the conclusion that I'm pretty reasonable and not just a mindless BT drone.

Then, they see me defending Harper or criticizing Dion on one matter or another, and instead of thinking "well, he's a conservative, so it would make sense that he agrees with Harper more often than Dion", they think "well obviously he's not that reasonable - it's too bad even he's buying into the spin".

Basically, I'm infinitely sensible every time I criticize Harper, and somehow turn into an unreasonable "water-carrier" when I don't. I think this type of conclusion says more about those who would draw it than me.

Gayle said...

"What's more, in insisting on such a rhetoric in the teeth of substantial evidence to the contrary, you don't just make Olaf and myself go fucking insane, you make *yourselves* look the hyperpartisans out of touch with reality and Canadians' actual priorities. This, above all, I humbly submit, accounts for current polling trendlines..."

Completely disagree with you here. If polling was all about the reality of Canadian priorities, Harper et al would not have to stoop to calling the liberals "soft" on terrorism, nor stoop to a completely uncalled for slander against a sitting MP during QP. If the judicial appointments issue was really no big deal, Harper et al would not have to continuously LIE about what the real issue is - which is Harper's own statement that he wants a judiciary that is prepared to implement his agenda, and not patronage. If Harper really believes his party, and his views are what Canadians want, then he should stop with the smear campaign, right now, and allow those issues to be debated.

He will not do that, because he knows that the only reason he is PM right now is because of people voting against the liberals, not people voting for the conservatives. He also knows that is the only way he is going to hold on to his government.

Gayle said...

"Harper IS a fiscal conservative and a BNA Act federalist..."

This is something I hate - Harper trying to attach himself to Sir John A.

It was a long time ago when I took graduate level Canadian history, but I do remember that the BNA was designed to be a centralizing document, because MacDonald believed Canada needed a strong central government in order to be a strong country.

Subsequently, many Privy Counsel decisions decentralized the BNA, primarily by ruling in favour of the provinces on separation of powers issues. My history professor believed the PC did this in order to weaken Canada and keep our country in line with what the UK wanted.

ottlib said...


I would count you as a reasonable Conservative and I have read your criticisms of Mr. Harper.

One thing that stands out about them is they are critiques of his policies or his political techniques.

The discussion of this thread goes to the very core of his being as a political animal. That is, who is he and what does he believe in?

Many arguments have been put forward here about the nature of Mr. Harper, some reasonable and some not so much, but you have dismissed all of them out of hand.

Stephen Harper is a walking contradiction. His actions and words of today go against much of what he did and said in the past. It is wholly reasonable to wonder if he has really changed and it is wholly reasonable to conclude that he has not.

Yet you dismiss all of that as just scare tactics and an attempt to demonize him. As far as I can see you make no attempt to see it otherwise and in this basic question that does make you a Stephen Harper apologist.

Olaf said...


Yet you dismiss all of that as just scare tactics and an attempt to demonize him. As far as I can see you make no attempt to see it otherwise and in this basic question that does make you a Stephen Harper apologist.

What would making an attempt to see it otherwise look like? What makes you so sure than an attempt hasn't been made? How could an attempt to see it otherwise be demonstrated to your satisfaction?

Look it, I don't demonize anyone and I didn't accuse anyone of anything. Like I said in response to Steve's post, it's reasonable to think that it's all just an act, and that he really is every bit the snarling neo-con that everyone fears. I outlined the reasons why this doesn't make sense to me, and that is, unfortunately, the way it is. Disagreeing is not evidence of "apologizing" for anyone.

I understand that some of his past speeches and writings would lead someone to believe he's the devil incarnate. As I'm a conservative, they're inherently less scary to me, but I also think it's possible that he's moderated to some degree, as I think his actions (which normally speak louder than words) in minority demonstrate. I think Harper knows the constraints on his government that Canadian society presents, so that even if he were the fascist that many want him to be, he wouldn't be dumb enough to act on those impulses.

Whatever, I'm tired of having to defend my intentions or motivations, let alone Harper's, of which I couldn't presume to know. I'll continue to judge him based on his actions in government, as opposed to an obscure reference to Canada as a socialist country, or his broadly agreeing to the findings of the Liberal Michael Kirby's Senate report on health care, two use the two examples that Buckdog provided to prove "Harper HATES Canada".

Anonymous said...

Of course we could just take Ted Byfield at his word when he speaks about Harper. "I don't think he knows how to compromise. It's not in his genes. The issue now is: how do we fool the world into thinking we're moving to the left when we're not?"

Unless Byfield's lying. Which has to be the case, right?

Scotian said...


I did not call you a drone, indeed I called you one of the most reasonable online Conservatives, so excuse me if I find that characterization inaccurate of what I said.

Yes, we have had this discussion before and yes we have disagreed, but you keep disagreeing with my position based on what you believe is in his heart now as opposed to what he said for two decades. I keep coming back to this paragraph and especially the first sentence in Steve V's post Olaf:"The problem I have with Stephen Harper, you have to subscribe to the "epiphany" theory to reconcile his long paper trail with the current rhetoric. Any objective reading of Harper's past musings would have to conclude that he favored a right-wing agenda. I'm not going to recite the opinions, they have been discussed to death. Conservatives conveniently ignore the past, "get over it", as though irrelevant to the current situation. I would be inclined to dismiss a lot of Harper's troubling positions, if they were the product of a reckless youth, but the real problem, there is a consistency that weaves its way through Harper's entire adult life- a logical pattern, that only now seems different."

Yes, you have been critical of some of the decisions and statements Harper has made, which is why you are seen as one of the more reasonable online conservatives and not a mindless CPC drone. It is however the fact that you have periodically demonstrated that ability to employ critical thinking that frustrates many of us when you so blithely dismiss Harper's well documented adult history regarding his core beliefs and principles. As I said, it is a sad day when one of the most reasonable online conservatives buys into this sort of unsupported undocumented massive repudiation of core principles and beliefs of Harper's and calls those of us that are not so willing to give Harper the benefit of the doubt that he has really changed fear mongering.

The problem Olaf is that of the two sides yours is the one more rooted in faith and belief instead of documented fact where Harper's own words and deeds are concerned throughout his adult history including as LOO. Yet we are the ones you feel are being the ones working without a net/holding imaginary fears/positions because we take Harper at his word throughout his adult life until his recent multiple epiphanies that make him supposedly a centrist in our political context/dynamic whereas you are more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt despite his lack of repudiation of those former positions/principles/core beliefs nor his explanation as to why he was wrong then and is right now.

Would you give any NDP or Lib leader the same benefit of the doubt with a similar 2 decade history that suddenly started acting and sounding very different from that history so easily? Somehow I doubt it, and that is where your own blind spot comes into play and why despite all your good criticisms when you make them are more of a water carrier than not for Harper and his CPC. I strongly suspect that is at the root of the others here who feel this way. If anything the fact that you will do some criticisms while accepting the bulk of his rhetoric/imagery makes you more effective a water carrier because you do give the appearance at first blush of being a true free thinker where he is concerned. However, as time goes on it becomes clear that whether you realize it or not you are employing significantly different standards of judgment to Harper and the CPC than you do the Libs and NDP. That makes you less dishonest than say the Trolletariat or the true Kool-Aid drinkers but it does not absolve you from carrying Harper's water, sorry.

Olaf said...


Couple of things:

I did not call you a drone, indeed I called you one of the most reasonable online Conservatives, so excuse me if I find that characterization inaccurate of what I said.

I didn't characterize you at all. I made the drone comment in a very generalized way to "people on the left", and I used it in the negative. I didn't say that anyone, let alone you, call me a drone, I said they don't call me a drone. How this converts in your head to me saying that you called me a drone is a miracle.

It is however the fact that you have periodically demonstrated that ability to employ critical thinking that frustrates many of us when you so blithely dismiss Harper's well documented adult history regarding his core beliefs and principles

Again, this is my point. When I criticize Harper, I'm displaying "the ability to employ critical thought", but if I dare defend him or judge him on his actions in government, I'm automatically betraying the ability to think critically that is so rare among conservatives.

Would you give any NDP or Lib leader the same benefit of the doubt with a similar 2 decade history that suddenly started acting and sounding very different from that history so easily? Somehow I doubt it, and that is where your own blind spot comes into play and why despite all your good criticisms when you make them are more of a water carrier than not for Harper and his CPC.

I find it interesting how you have the ability to speculate on my hypothetical reaction, and draw conclusions on that speculated hypothetical. That aside, I have a relatively analogous example: Bob Rae.

I'm very fiscally conservative, so you'd think the prospect of a socialist-minded Prime Minister would scare the crap out of me, right? Not exactly.

When Bob ran for Liberal leadership, I didn't write a bunch of hysterical posts about his NDP past, or dig up speeches where he made comments that some would find dangerously socialist, or rail on about his disasterous government in the 1990s. In fact, I only wrote two posts about him: in one, I took him on his word that his political philosophy had changed, and in the other, I defended his health care platform, which I found quite reasonable.

So, contrary to your prediction, I judged him on the policies and positions he took, not on his past believes, and I did not assume that he was trying to mole his way into power by pretending to be a Liberal in order to implement a far left socialist agenda.

Sure, people on the right would and did make this very argument, and if Rae had seemed fiscally responsible in a minority government, they would say "yea, but just wait until he gets a majority, that's when he's going to flush our economy down the toilet". But I didn't and I wouldn't.

Like Harper regarding social or federal issues, I think that no matter what Rae might believe deep down (which I could never presume to know), he would be aware of the restraints that Canadian society would place on him, and he would respect them. More than that, and despite his history, I'm more than willing to give Rae the benefit of the doubt that he has moderated the political beliefs he held for most of his adult life.

So, as I think my reaction to Bob Rae seems to attest to, you've misjudged me. You wouldn't make a habit out of misjudging people, would you?

As much as you think that Harpers political beliefs are forever etched in stone, you'll allow me to respectfully disagree. Is Harper as left as he's been governing? Probably not. Is he as right as some of his past speeches might vaguely suggest? Probably not. But I'd prefer to judge him on what he has said and done recently in government, than what he has said and done in the past outside of it. I don't blithely dismiss his past, I just prefer to allow for the possibility that he has moderated. If to you, this is water carrying and lacking in critical thought, than so be it, I can deal with that.

ALW said...

I think this a fair question to ask, but my take on this, as a Tory is twofold:

1) Harper's view on some things have changed and/or softened. This isn't just a byproduct of trying to win a majority (although that is part of it). It is him simply maturing and learning from his past mistakes. You can call this opportunism, or you can call it a good philosophy for life, nevermind politics: go with what works.

2) Harper is a long-term thinker. Majority or minority, he would never govern in such a way as to destroy the Conservative Party at the next election. What kind of things might do that? Things like abortion, gay marriage, massive spending cuts. He is not a 'scorched-earth' kind of guy. He remembers what the Reform/Bloc/PC split did to the conservative cause for nearly 15 years. He won't make the same mistake again.

Of course, none of this means Harper would make everyone happy with a majority - but it does mean that most of the prognostications about how different he'd be with a majority totally misread how Harper 's mind works.

Scotian said...


"But, if you’re telling people to do one thing, and then doing the other, you can forgive people for becoming disenchanted with your leadership. This is not an unreasonable point, in my opinion. But, as always, feel free to disagree" (Olaf, My Blahg post "Have You signed up yet, Chickenhawks? comment #6)

Now why is it you can appreciate that when it comes to dealing with GHG issues with David Suzuki and Al Gore yet cannot grasp why I and many others apply the same standard to Harper and the CPC? I mean really, since he came to power he has been a nearly non-stop example of do as I say not as I do when comparing everything he said even in the period where he was LOO and not going further back than that versus the actions he has taken since sworn into Office starting with Fortier but far from limited to that, hmmmm?

Harper was on the record for denouncing judicial appointments being made to satisfy partisan agendas of a sitting government (all that Liberal activist judges rhetoric and how evil activist judges are and how bad they are for a democractic nation) yet what does he do but make the process more partisan by his changes to the structures (not just the membership, the organizing structures were changed as well) of those committees to give the PM's appointees the majority of the votes on judges instead of leaving them with the minority position they had under the Libs. Isn't that evidence of hypocrisy *AND* evidence that Harper has not moderated as much as you and others wish to claim he has? Apparently not.

I have shown where Harper is a documented liar (the Grewal cover-up) and willing to excuse dishonest, disgusting, and offensive behaviour within his party if it helps him and to not hold anyone accountable (especially not himself, oh no it is always someone else that made the mistake, not Harper) for such when it starts blowing up in his face (again, the Grewal fraud is a perfect example of this, and the idea that he would participate in such a cover-up while in Opposition of a serious scandal within his party and would not do the same while in government is absurd on its face, at least if one is being "objective" and "honest" about it) like with the DND casket coverage of repatriation ceremonies shift last year where first he stops it claiming the families wanted it so, then the families come out and say they were never asked and that most of them wanted the coverage to honour their fallen dead family members, and then pinned it on flunkies with DoD. I can go down the list Olaf, indeed I have many times and most of it you ignore or consider over the top hyperbole and scaremongering.

You are clearly a partisan, if not a blind one. I am not a partisan, I am not backing any party, I am opposing what I see as a dangerous strain of political thought not rooted in Canadian precepts and traditions posing a real threat to the future of this country. You may think I am being hyperbolic in saying so, but I back up why with documentable reasons, with actions and words from Harper himself, and his utter failure to explain his radical transformation from hard right hard core Calgary School devotee into Mr. Moderate Centrist that you and others within the online Conservative community appear to want to believe in.

I would leave you with these thoughts/questions. If you were to find out that you were wrong about Harper and people like myself were right after the fact what good would it do this country? If people like myself are wrong then we just look foolish by being proven wrong, however if we are at all correct then we will be proven right at the cost of losing so much. Now, if you were looking at those two outcomes which would you chose? Would you chose to be willing to assume the benefit of the doubt given someone with as hard core a history as Harper's has suddenly mellowed after several election defeats on that agenda, or would you be unwilling to take that risk and oppose them to the best of your abilities showing others why you think this way? You are willing to run a risk with this country I am not where Harper is concerned, you have no problems with the idea of a PM that spent 2 decades BADMOUTHING Canada at every turn while I find that extremely disquieting and disturbing regardless of political ideology/party involved, and that has made massive flip-flops (to put it mildly) on his core ideological beliefs without once explaining why he was wrong before and is right now.

You are being taken/played by the man Olaf, and how will you feel down the road when you finally realize this? I do not oppose Harper and the CPC because I prefer another party, I do not oppose them because I dislike/distrust/hate Conservativism, I do so because their conservativism is *NOT* rooted in Canadian Conservative beliefs but in American ones which are fundamentally different than Canadian ones. The sole reason the Libs get what support they do from me is because I see them as the only viable means to accomplish this goal, thereby reducing/eliminating the power of the Harper/Calgary School within the CPC and allowing a more Canadian rooted Conservative philosophy to come to power in the CPC, at which point I could well end up voting for them. Until that point though I will do all I can to expose Harper for what he truly is, a revolutionary in moderate's/centrist's clothes, who is not only playing his opposition for stupid but many Canadian Conservative voters like yourself Olaf that are too willing to give the benefit of the doubt to someone from your own side. There is a reason most PCPC votes never came to the CPC Olaf, the merger showed itself to be a failure in 2004 when the vote totals of the PCPC and CA were significantly larger than the CPC result, and the 2006 results were far more of a throw the bums out than a I support the Harper/CPC vision result. Part of why I find you so frustrating Olaf is that you have a mind and are yet being successfully played here because it is easier for you to consider Harper to be less threatening because he is supposedly a fellow Conservative. You will find otherwise too late, and while being able to say "I told you so" may have it's appeal, the price for being able to do so is far higher than I would ever want to pay as a Canadian who is proud of this "second rate backwater" nation that Harper has dissed for so long until his "new" government came to power and suddenly Canada becomes wonderful nation...funny how that works.

Olaf said...


Your response really had nothing to do with my post, or my latest comment, and is the same 'Harper is a hypocritical ideologue' and 'anyone who agrees with him is necessarily a partisan water-carrier' rant that I've read so many times. We've been over this, right? Just consider me a lost cause like everyone else who disagrees with you and move on.

knb said...

Interesting discussion.

Olaf, if Harper hasn't changed and Canada goes the route suggested by many here, would you be comfortable with that? I'm genuinely curious.

Benjamin said...


Olaf, if Harper hasn't changed and Canada goes the route suggested by many here, would you be comfortable with that? I'm genuinely curious.

Different people have said different things, and Harper has said many different things over the years, few which are very specific, so there definitely exists no definitive or clear route for me to comment on.

Spell it out for me in point form what you think he might do with a majority government, worst case scenario, and I'll tell you whether I'd be comfortable.

ottlib said...


You claim not be an Stephen Harper apologist and you claim you are not dismissing the concerns of us that doubt his change.

But then you call two of his past statements obscure.

Leaving aside your characterizations of these statements as being obscure he still said them and he meant them.

Has he changed his views? Has he reputiated those statements? Has he indicated in any way that he no holds the beliefs indicated by those statements?

The simple answer is no. However, many Conservatives, including yourself, have decided that his actions in the present somehow indicate that he has. That to me is the short definition of being an apologist.

Olaf said...


That to me is the short definition of being an apologist.

If five paragraphs is the short definition, I'd hate to be subjected to the long one.

And that's fine if you think I'm an apologist for judging someone on recent actions as opposed to past words. I suppose I'm also an apologist for Bob Rae, then, which would be weird.

knb said...

benjamin, with respect, my question was to Olaf. I read him and respect his right to his view, so I'm curious about his answer.

Suffice it to say, that those on the left, throughout this thread, have indicated possible outcomes of a Conservative majority and it indicates a marked shift in this country.

Again, I mean no disrespect and if benjamin is Olaf, I'm afraid I'm a bit confused.

If not, benjamin, it's clearly suggested here what may occur. I'll leave it to you to point form it and tell us if you are okay with that or not.

knb said...

BTW, is anyone else having trouble with this Blogger II thing.

Personally, I have to sign in far too often and always have to type the word verification at least twice.

Miles Lunn said...

I should add, while I do worry somewhat about decentralization having grown up in the West, I can see where people like Harper feel that way. Since Central Canada has over half of Canada's population, people feel decisions will be made to benefit Central Canada rather than the whole country. I don't support decentralization since it is tough to undo, but we should still consult with the provinces and try and seek consensus where possible rather than imposing an agenda on them. Lets remember, all ten provinces signed the childcare agreements, support the Kelowna Accord, and signed new deal for cities so it can be done.

Olaf said...


Sorry, my friend Ben signed into his Gmail, and I responded to your comment without looking whose name I was under.

Anyways, as to "it's clearly suggested here what may occur", I don't think it is clearly suggested anywhere, the comments are all over the map. That's part of my frustration.

I mean, Buckdog seems to think it's scary as hell that Harper would support private delivery in health care, which I assume would be just as terrifying coming from Bob Rae and Liberal Senator Michael Kirby.

No one has suggested what they think would actually take place if Harper got a majority. So that's what I'm asking you to do, so that I can respond. I'm not going to respond to the greatest fears of 10 people.

Steve V said...


I have to sign in all the time. Is it just this blog or all of them using this "new and improved" system?

knb said...

Olaf, thanks, I thought it was a bit weird.

I have to do dinner my friend, so I'll try later, but I'm not going to anyone else's homework, lol. We're having wine, btw, so not sure I'll be in any shape to discuss.

Steve, it's not just your blog, but seems to be the blogger 2 people, which I think we've all been forced to be. It's really annoying.

doug newton said...

If someone would be so kind, I would like to know your opinion on the specific policies Stephen Harper would pursue if he had a majority government.

small 'l' said...

The waste since this 'new' PM took office bothers me. I know single mothers who have no 'choice' for daycare. No spaces, no choice not to work. I mourn the waste of all the consultation that led to Kelowna, Kyoto, Energuide, etc. and the chidcare program. You see, people like me depend on the gov't to create a climate that allows us and our children to participate fully in Canadian life. PM Harper sure doesn't like the working class.

Miles Lunn said...

Here is my speculation on what Harper would do with a majority government. He no doubt believes in smaller government, but I think he realizes if he cut too fast it would backfire. My guess is he will first go after the programs that are seen as wasteful and useless and gradually pick off each program one by one. Lets remember the United States in the 60s was more liberal than Canada today, while today the United States is further to the right than even Alberta and well to the right of Canada. This didn't happen overnight, it was through incremental changes. In some ways I would almost rather he did it rapidly since it would backfire whereas if done incrementally it might actually succeed. That is why he has gone after things like the Status of women and Court Challenges Program (which many Canadians know little about), Gun Registry (which even many supporters of gun control think was very wasteful and ineffective) and the Canadian Wheat Board (where the ridings affected were all won by massive margins so he can afford to lose a few votes here and still not lose any seats over this), whereas he hasn't gone after Supply Management (since it would cost him dearly in Rural Quebec and Rural Ontario), CBC, health care, ACOA (would kill the party in Atlantic Canada) and bilingualism (would kill the party in Quebec, parts of Eastern Ontario, and parts of New Brunswick), even though we all know full well he would love to junk those programs if he could. On health care though he might simply not enforce the Canada Health Act since in the case of Quebec and British Columbia, there are several private clinics that violate the Canada Health Act and no one ever went after them. In addition I am not worried about the end of health care since 82% is funded by the provinces and all premiers support universal health care so if the feds ended their role, it would lead to a deterioriation in health care, but not the end of it.

On foreign policy, he would no doubt align us more closely with the United States and promote a more militaristic policy. The only good thing is this can easily be changed, however the damage in international reputation may take years to overcome. For example, I don't think the US will restore its trust and credibility with the rest of World by 2012 even if Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama become president.

On social policy - I don't think Harper is a hard-core social conservatism, but he is more than willing to pander to them if they are needed to win a majority. How far he would go here would depend a lot on the composition of his caucus. If there is the strong rural/urban divide as there is now, then yes I would be worried, but if it is more along income levels, I would be less worried as the wealthy urban types usually aren't social conservatives, while the poorer rural communities often are.

As for decentralization, this is a major worry, however I think if we get back into power, we need to really work on cooperating with the provinces so this idea of needing to build firewalls will have less appeal. Many in Ontario may think this sounds extreme, but as someone from British Columbia originally, I can tell you it is not just your right wingers, many centrists feel the government governs too often for Central Canada rather than the country as a whole. After all any government that screwed over Ontario would be tossed in the next election, but one that screws over the West or Atlantic Canada could still be re-elected. In Alberta much of the support for decentralization is reaction to the National Energy Program, which despite being over 20 years ago, many Albertans still haven't forgiven the government for it. I agree this is very worrying and could weaken our nation, but we need to put the flames to the fire out, not just defeat those who want to do it.

On the environment, there is no doubt Harper would do little there.

doug newton said...

Thanks very much Miles

Anonymous said...

I will have fun here. This is how I will say Harper's majority mandate will go:

Year 1 - Bring forth income splitting in budget. Law and order bill that fails to go through in the last Parliament passes. Abolishes gun registry.

Year 2 - Democrat Presidency in the US coupled with a Conservative majority in the UK. Extends mission in Afghanistan. Speaks about "compassionate conservatism" and becomes best friends with David Cameron. Tries to water down the Canada Health Act by allowing the use of private clinics.

Year 3 - Tries to get Senate reform through by getting the Premiers to amend the Constitution.

Year 4 - Tries to get re-elected.

Pretty uneventful on the most part with the exception that Jason Kenney becomes more shrill and Peter MacKay gets sidelined by Bernard Lord. Of course, Afghanistan may derail Harper's mandate and many pundits agree that it may happen. In that case, Harper will use a crass nationalism to bolster his wavering mandate.

rockfish said...

If Harpor received his majority he would act in the same manner that other 'new governments' that took over from their rivals -- implement the majority of their ideological policies first (massive cuts to social programs - Campbell BC 2001-02/Harris Ont) then moderate his message over the next 2-3 years prior to the next vote.
The trouble is that, unlike both those examples cited, the economics Harpor was left were incredibly strong. He can't use 'budgetary deficit' (unless Flattery repeats his bad math) for the major changes. What would his modus operandi be? We've already seen how quickly he ejected health care -- which has been at or near the top of every poll in the past 15 years -- for national security after the arrests in Toronto. When polls and focus groups gave him the answer that Canadians were fairly confident in their police services and also willing to wait to see justice served before pouncing on the accused, he pulled back. But security is now a regular part of the meme, despite the fact that Canada has a very strong record. But as we've seen in recent acts, he has no qualm over pushing the charter if he can promote that sure-fire vote getter 'fear.'
As to whether Harpor is a 'changed man'... C'mon.
Look who he is listening to - Flanagan, that Republican dude who came up for a 'secret meeting.' Then look at who isn't supporting this new Conservativism. Call him what ever you want, but Joe Clark was a strong leader who believed in modern Canadian Progressive Conservatism. He has nothing to do with Harpor. The list is not short.
The guy's kicking sand in the face of anyone who publicly disagrees with him, no matter their party association. He had to bite his lip to not snipe at the parent of a dead soldier, for goodness sake. He spends so much capital in trying to bury his opponent, while Chretien and Mulroney both were able to separate politics from the people. What life-altering event occurred to inspire him to reconsider his far-right ideas of firewalls, massive surgery to public health care and how the federal gov't deals with social issues. He's not only tried to control the message, but the media too. When a group becomes vocal, he snubs them (AIDS, women's centres etc). Some of the minor tinkering that today we are decrying (accountability that only seems to be targeted as a smear and not effective act; making major change to judicial appointment committees; despite a federal surplus, cuts to childcare and social services like literacy, first nations and women's centres) are just like the initial blue flame from the stove being lit: Canada that we know is the lobster. A majority will see Harpor and his ideologues reach full boil and then it will be too late.