In Macleans recent survey of Canadian Prime Ministers, Stephen Harper occupies the middle ground. He is rated 11th out of 22. Wilfred Laurier comes in first; hapless Kim Campbell occupies the last spot. The top four prime ministers -- Laurier, MacDonald, King and Pearson carefully cultivated the political middle. So it's perhaps not surprising that Harper -- a man whose political raison d'etre has been to eliminate the political middle -- should only be rated average.
However, Lawrence Martin -- in today's Globe and Mail -- claims that Harper has a shot at the top.The recent debate on back to work legislation for Canada Post showcased the country's extremes, Martin writes:
But our harsher political divide is in no way reflected by a polarization in the country itself. As Canada approaches its 144th birthday, rarely have the bonds of unity been so strong. With the success of the Conservatives, western alienation, which spanned four decades as one Quebec prime minister after another led the country, has all but disappeared. For a longer time, the threat of Quebec secession was in the air. But, astonishingly, the near vanquishing of the Bloc Québécois has been followed by another stunner – the unravelling of a Parti Québécois that appeared ready to take power in the next provincial election.
That calm, says Martin, provides Harper with a golden opportunity. He may not be well loved, but
politically, the glue of the old liberal middle is all but gone. With the new harsher mix of left and right, the noises will be louder. But rarely has the country been in better shape to cope and to move forward. The provinces and the regions are quiet. On the national unity front, it’s about as calm as Canada can be.
Martin is one of our best commentators. And, while it's true that the forces which have historically pulled Canadians apart are -- for the moment -- in stasis, my hunch is that there are more primal forces at work. George W. Bush once joked that his constituency was "the haves and the have-mores." Stephen Harper serves the same constituency.
As long as the have-nots accept their lot, Stephen Harper will ride above the roar. But if those who have been left behind in Harper's brave new world decide that they are mad as hell -- and if they take to the streets -- Kim Campbell may wind up looking better than Stephen Harper.