The staying power of Stephen Harper.
Susan Delacourt writes this weekend on how the durable Harper Conservatives are here to stay. (Toronto Star). I beg to disagree with my esteemed Star colleague, whose point of comparison is Mulroney's Tories. They lasted nine years - not bad, given that the natural lifespan on governments in democratic jurisidictions is a decade or so.
When someone says anything is here to stay, reach for your wallet.
The "permanent governing majority" Karl Rove worked so hard to create, twisting the Constitution all out of shape in the process, lasted all of five years.
A few weeks after Obama won the WH, his party having two years earlier captured both houses of Congress, an esteemed publication and author that will go unnamed had committed to print a tract on "The Death of U.S. Conservatism." Uh huh. A year later we had the Tea Partiers and the Dems lost their filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate, and a year after that had lost the House.
Decades later, I still haven't seen an improvement on then U of T professor Abe Rotstein's conviction that "Every dogma has its day." And every democratic government too, to the extent it's driven by a dogma or set of values and practices.
At his best, Harper is a competent administrator.
He too often is not at is best, as in the boneheaded decision to scrap the long-form census for no better reason that to placade a small ultra-libertarian element in his base that regards the census as an invasion of privacy. Real leaders do not cater to the fringes of their parties, as Bush did in vetoing stem-cell research in 2001, ushering in eight lost years in one of the world's most promising fields of scientific inquiry. Actually, the (formerly) world-class Canadian census is (was) a tool used primarily by business to understand the market it's trying to sell to. So Corporate Canada can thank a handful of hicks in the supposedly defunct Reform wing of the current CPC for that setback to its profitability.
Harper's undergrad is in economics (he has no post-grad experience). Yet he cut the regressive GST, in 2006, rather than the progressive income tax, which the overwhelming consensus of economists said was the far better thing to do in relieving Canadians' tax burden. That was bad economics, as Harper should have learned the first year of his University of Calgary studies.
Again, that was bone-headed, and there are too many examples of that - including our U.S. lapdog foreign policy in Afghanistan and near climate-denialism in Ottawa - to qualify Harper and his government as being either on the right side of history or particularly long for this world.
The man has no vision for a greater Canada or what Obama (80% approval rating in Canada) has long described as "a perfectable union," echoing the Founders's own commitment to progress. As the Scriptures tell us, "Where there is no vision the people perish."
I get genuine conservatives, who conserve the best of the past and are wary of what the path of good intentions might be paved with, yet who strive, when the proof finally is compelling, to advance our progress. I'm one of those folks myself. What I don't get is people like Harper who devote their entire adult lives to government, mostly informed by a distrust and even loathing for it.
Harper, as it happens, has forgotten more about the NHL - about hockey generally - than most NHL coaches, players and owners know. My prayers would be answered if he took up the NHL history he's long been working on full-time, and left national governance to folks determined to make a reality of our potential brighter future.
As it stands, his prime ministerial epitaph is going to read: "He was around for awhile." I don't mean to be gratuitous, because a head of government could do much worse (Bush 43, for instance). Most PMs and presidents have been mere caretakers, and that's not so bad. But this country's poised for much better, more daring, more innovative and, for close to two-thirds of voters, more progressive times.