When asked this week if he would run for re-election in 2015, Stephen Harper answered, "Of course, yes." It was a pretty flatfooted statement. But Tasha Kheiriddin, one of the prime minister's most steadfast supporters, writes that his answer is open to interpretation:
Some surveys have found that the public thinks the untested Justin Trudeau would make a better Prime Minister than the seasoned Harper. Trudeau is seen to care more, to share people’s values more. Add to this the bad smell of the senate scandal, and Harper will have trouble playing the integrity card, one of his great assets until now.
No, she writes, Harper is more interested in making the Conservatives Canada's natural governing party than he is in achieving personal Nirvana:
Harper is not a revolutionary. His practice of “incremental conservatism,” a term coined by his former advisor Tom Flanagan, has been methodical and steadfast. His eye is on the long game — with or without him in the driver’s seat. The paradox of this “control freak” politician is that he will not risk undoing his legacy by clinging to personal power.
And, Harper -- according to Kheiriddin -- is engaged in succession planning:
There already is some evidence of torch-passing within the Conservatives. Even before the recent cabinet shuffle, soon-to-be-minted or promoted ministers, such as Kellie Leitch, Michelle Rempel, and Chris Alexander, started standing in for cabinet colleagues, making announcements and defending the Tories on television. The process paved the way for their ascension to more senior roles in cabinet. It gave them experience and credibility in the eyes of both the public and the Conservative base.
Kheiriddin's argument rings hollow. Her contention that Harper would play Sydney Carton for the sake of the conservative movement doesn't fit the man. For Harper. self interest has always been a far, far better thing. As Michael Harris wrote last week, the prime minister "has turned conservatism into just another brand of political opportunism — power for power’s sake. It is no longer tethered to a philosophy — just to an individual."
I wouldn't take Stephen Harper at his word, either. But, if he does decide not to run, there will be nothing noble in his decision. He will go for the same reason he prorogues parliament -- to avoid a reckoning.