Friday, August 23, 2013

Can We Take Him At His Word?

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.


CK said...

This is one time I actually do take Steve at his word. He will definitely run again. He has one last dragon to destroy -- a Trudeau. Justin is his last hurrah. He must beat him.

Now, with Justin's admission that he smoked pot as recently as a few years ago at a dinner party, Harper may think he had a gift dropped on his lap. Now, we'll just have to see exactly how puritanical Canadian voters are.

I have been reading comment boards as well as listened to a few radio announcers and pundits, like Jean Lapierre, who is all up in arms and thinks it's terrible. James Mennie came on about 10 minutes later, basically laughing and shrugging it off. The comments also vary.

Harper has already hinted that his next Trudeau attack ad is being written as we speak -- that for Justin, legalizing pot is top priority, as well as a sitting PM who is a criminal. Not that it was a serious crime compared to what Steve, his people and other politicians of any stripe before them have committed, but Steve's communications people like Jenni Byrne (she's baaack!) and Guy Giorno (bet on it, he will be back) and Fred Delorey who will make it look like Justin is cohorting with the worst drug dealers of the bikers of Montreal.

Plus, the riding redistributions and 30 new seats in Ontario, BC and Alberta -- Steve likely drew the new electoral maps himself so he can't lose.

And there's the opposition that keeps splitting the votes.

Polls can say anything, but the numbers that really count, are fund raising numbers. Harper is still raising money hand over fist and out fundraising them all...combined.

Steve will run again, and sadly, unless there is a miracle, he will win again. I'm afraid the best we can hope for is a Harper minority by 2015.

Owen Gray said...

He will run again because he thinks he can split the opposition, CK -- and, so far, that strategy has worked.

Something tells me that, as much as they try to whip up the flames against Justin over the pot issue, Canadian voters -- for the most part -- will shrug it off.

What will be interesting will be whether or not Mike Duffy starts any fires of his own.

CK said...

Mike Duffy starting any fires of his own? Highly unlikely. Sure he has an inflated ego that just got bruised temporarily, but one thing is clear from the media coverage--he obviously has financial issues. Don't ask me how, given his senate salary and his salary at CTV News before then and whatever pension he's likely receiving from CTV, does he get himself in financial trouble, but that seems to be his underlying story. He needs money that much, Somebody else from the PMO will give him hush money -- enough for the rest of his days and to keep Heather happy too. This time, when they do pay him off to go away...permanently, they're'll be far more careful than Nigel Wright was and not get caught. There is too much at stake right now for Harper.

Speaking of the senate. There is a theory that has been thrown, I'm sure you've seen before. Supposing Harper, before 2015, kills the senate. Then says see? I killed it! no more scandals. Suppose all those scandals were deliberately engineered in an effort to get Canadians on board with scrapping the senate? Lastly, given how C-377 was defeated, Harper is likely even more motivated to be rid of them. Canadians are too. He beats Mulcair to the punch...Mulcair who says he'll abolish the senate but when asked by journalists, if he became PM will he abolish really? Or appoint his own senaters, he wavered. Harper also gets Justin out of the way because he supports the senate--as is.

Owen Gray said...

I'm sure, CK, that if Harper could get rid of the senate he would. I've heard the stories, too. All the scandal helps Harper kill it.

But killing the senate won't be easy, for either Harper or Mulcair.

As for Duffy, a lot depends on the RCMP investigation -- and I'm not making any predictions about that.

Lorne said...

I tend to agree with your analysis, Owen, that if he decides not to run again, it will be to avoid a reckoning. Opinion polls, I suspect, will play an important role in his ultimate decision.

Like Brian Mulroney before him, I suspect his ego would not handle a defeat well. And like his ideological twin, the despised former Ontario Premier Mike Harris, I suspect he will cut and run if he thinks the odium in which so many hold him will translate into humiliation at the polls.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Lorne. Despite the brave talk, if Harper faces defeat -- or even a minority government -- he'll find a way to exit the stage.

He may deserve humiliation. But he'll find a way to avoid it.

Kirby Evans said...

I suggest to Lorne that Harper's ego would lead him to not handle defeat at all and he would attempt to cling to power through some sort of coup.

The argument you cite not only ring hollow because of Harper's ego but because of more important ideological issues. Harper's career has never been about conservatism really. Oh, it has been, of course, about one man's hatred for the people of Canada and their culture. But more importantly it has been about putting an end to the Liberal model of Capitalism with a human face. Men like Paul Martin are much like the Whigs who brought about the Reform act of 1832 - these were men who understood that putting a human face on Capitalism and Elitism was the only way to avoid total disaster or even revolution.

Thus, I would say that Harper's goal has not been incremental conservatism but an incremental return to profound elitism and early 19th century capitalism. But ultimately he is on the wrong side of history. He will never leave voluntarily for the same reason that Senator McCarthy wouldn't - a fanatical, misguided, ignorant, misunderstanding of human society, history, and sensibilities.

Kirby Evans said...

@CK - I have heard that theory but it seems ridiculously wrong for the simple reason that anyone who understands the Westminster system of government knows that any attempt to "kill" the senate without the agreement of all the provinces as well as the senate itself would lead to a huge constitutional crisis and potential civil war. And for anyone who doesn't believe that civil war could come to Canada I have one word - VUKOVAR!

At the very least this attempt would very probably lead to a breakup of the country into several separate nations. There is not a change in hell that Quebec or the Atlantic provinces would abide such an unilateral act.

Owen Gray said...

You're right about the constitutional implications of trying to kill the Senate, Kirby.

The provinces with smaller populations rely on the Senate to balance their power in Ottawa. They will not agree to the abolition of the Upper House.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Kirby, that Harper is very much a nineteenth century man. He believes in privilege and is motivated by a deep sense of insecurity.

It's Harper's own demons -- not the well being of the nation -- that drive the man.