Tom Walkom writes that the Harper government is not what we used to call a Conservative government. It does not stand for what Conservatives have traditionally stood for:
The old Conservative brand, associated with prime ministers like John Diefenbaker and Joe Clark, emphasized practicality melded with compassion. The new one focuses on pride, patriotism and toughness.
Compassionate conservatism disappeared soon after George W. Bush -- who claimed that's what he stood for -- became president. Taking its cue from George W, the three hallmarks of the new conservatism are on display twenty-four hours a day:
Martial valour is an integral part of this new image. From that stems Harper’s emphasis on the military, as well as the alacrity with which he sends Canadian troops to wage war in unlikely countries like Libya.
Toughness is expressed by the government’s emphasis on jails and mandatory sentencing, as well as its take-no-prisoners approach to political foes.
But above all, the Conservatives want to brand themselves as the party of patriots. Hence the reinvention of old symbols —such as putting the word “royal” back in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
What it all adds up to, writes Dan Gardiner, is "the politics of ruthlessness." It is the product of a man who has spent all his life in politics, and who spends all his time on politics:
When politics is everything, when opponents are enemies, when there’s hatred in your belly, certain things follow. Ruthlessness, for one. Personal attacks. A refusal to accept the legitimacy of different views and to work with those who hold them.
Stephen Harper is only one man, of course, but unlike every Liberal prime minister his dominance of his party is total. He effectively built it from the ground up. It is his party. And its personality mirrors that of its creator and master.
As others have pointed out, the government is controlled by the Harper Party -- whose raison d'etre is control. It is, quite simply, opposed to democracy.