Going forward, Stephen Harper's strategy appears to be ride out the scandals and crow about the economy. If he had any sense of history -- even recent history -- the prime minister might re-evaluate that strategy. He would only have to revisit Paul Martin's tenure as prime minister. Michael Harris writes:
If anyone saved Canada from going into the abyss of Mulroney-era deficits, it was the former finance minister in Jean Chretien’s government. As Preston Manning observed, Canada dodged a bullet in the financial meltdown of 2008 precisely because Martin got the deficit under control in the mid-1990s, casualties and all.
Martin also produced successive budget surpluses, reduced the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio from 70 per cent to 50 per cent and got Canada’s AAA credit-rating restored. Despite this solid domestic record, and international successes involving the creation of the G20, the electorate was unkind. The best Paul Martin could do with voters was a minority government, followed promptly by defeat.
What brought Martin down was corruption. And the irony was that the corruption wasn't of his own making. Harper, on the other hand, is steeped in scandal -- from Mike Duffy, to robocalls, to Arthur Porter -- and his economic record isn't nearly as impressive as Martin's. Like Martin, Harper's claims he is eliminating the deficit. But he is not growing the economy:
As for balancing the budget, it’s being done not by growing the economy but by cutting social services, selling foreign embassies and flogging Canada’s stock of gold coins. It is a shaky plan, premised as it is on the idea that the only thing that matters to Canadians is their pocketbooks.
Despite his management of the economy, Canadians turfed Martin. Mr. Harper assumes he can avoid Martin's fate. But corruption -- more often than not -- trumps economics