Lawrence Martin, in this morning's Globe and Mail, makes a strong case for the ascendancy of Stephen Harper. Rarely have the stars aligned themselves so thoroughly in a Prime Minister's favour. He controls the House; he controls the Senate; he has absolute control of his party. Even the Parti Quebecois -- the bane of so many other Prime Ministers' existence -- seems to be imploding before him.
And, writes Martin, Harper is not going to tamper with fate by presenting the country with a grand vision and grand promises:
Lifelong politicians think first and foremost of politics. This Prime Minister is a lifelong politician. Policy is not his top priority; stacking the political deck is. Brian Mulroney and others have urged him to do something grand, and a case can certainly be made that now’s the time to do it. But you get the idea that Mr. Harper has developed a strong sense of what governments are defeated by and that he will devote much energy to avoiding those traps.
Mr. Harper has been very good at stacking the deck. However, that is also his weakness. His government -- and yesterday's budget -- favours winners. The last thirty years have seen an international order which favours winners. Harper has not come to power by rowing against the current. But, as several commentators -- including the Globe's John Ibbitson -- have pointed out, things change once the people who have been dealt a lousy hand organize:
In the past, when governments have swung the axe aggressively to save money, people have taken to the streets. Labour has brought its workers to the lawns of legislatures. Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris faced major demonstrations and public-servant strikes.
But people don’t seem to demonstrate against the Harper government, apart from the odd smatterings of curmudgeons who show up at this event or that. The unpleasantness at the G20 summit last June was more about globalization in general.
"Will people take to the streets?" Ibbitson asks. Regardless, the Conservatives are hell bent on making drastic cuts, while they spend huge sums for jets, overseas military bases and jails for "unreported" criminals. It's pretty clear that the budget cuts will hit the youngest the hardest. The deck has been stacked against them. That's what Brigette Depape's act of civil disobedience was all about last Friday.
In this age of social media -- which Ms. Depape and her generation understand very well -- it would be wise to recall the summer of 1968.