Stephen Harper likes to claim that Conservative values are Canadian values. But, if the two provincial elections which have taken place this week -- and the one which will take place in Ontario tomorrow -- are any indication, Canadians are far from Conservative.
For the moment, they may be conservative -- with a small "c." The country's mood seems to be the same as the one that gave Harper his majority. Canadians are choosing to stay the course and do not wish to make any radical changes. But, on the theory that they know better than voters what's good for them, the Harperites are busy passing all kinds of radical changes -- an omnibus crime bill, the abolition of the Canadian Wheat Board, abolition of political subsidies, etc.
They are in a hurry to change the country before Canadians wise up. But, Chantal Hebert writes in The Toronto Star, Canadians have cottoned on to Mr. Harper and are checking his drive for power by establishing a strong -- and progressive -- opposition in the provinces.
In Alberta, the Progressive Conservatives have elected a Red Tory as their new leader and Premier. In Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois may have imploded; but the election of a strong NDP caucus illustrates that Quebecers have no intention of abandoning their social democratic roots.
Because fate intervened and the NDP lost Jack Layton, Harper faces a weakened opposition in Ottawa. However, writes Hebert,
Even in profoundly conservative environments such as Alberta, Canada’s progressive streak is alive and well enough to change the rules of a game Harper was expected to dominate unchallenged for the foreseeable future.
The next four years are going to be difficult. No one should view them through rose coloured glasses. But, as the threat of social unrest grows in Europe, and as the Occupy Wall Street protests spread to other American cities, Stephen Harper's vision of a Conservative Canada is beginning to look more and more like a pipe dream. Still, he will try to make that dream a reality.
He would be wise to remember -- and wisdom is not his strong suit -- that he has always been prime minister by default.