Stephen Harper passed his best before date long ago. If he paid attention to history, he would have misgivings about running in the next election. Jeffrey Simpson writes:
Think of the prime ministers with majorities since 1968. Pierre Trudeau served 11 years (1968 to 1979) before being defeated. Brian Mulroney served a bit less than nine years before resigning. Jean Chrétien was prime minister for 10 years and a month before resigning.
But, in our first past the post system, all Harper needs is 40% of the votes to form a government:
He has an unshakable core vote of 30 to 32 per cent of the electorate. These people skew older, rural, male, western Canadian – and they vote. The Conservatives know how to mobilize them.
They have also identified minority groups – Jews, Tamils, Ukrainians – and tied Canadian foreign policy to the interests of these slices of the electorate. They have large amounts of government money in the form of tax cuts and government advertising to direct at other slices of the electorate: single-income families with stay-at-home mothers, parents with kids in athletic programs. And they have a large series of targeted spending announcements yet to be made, on top of the dozens and dozens already made.
It's an entirely cynical approach to politics. And Stephen Harper isn't the first politician who got to where he is by being entirely cynical. But when the people themselves get cynical about their leaders, those leaders go down to defeat:
The most powerful anti-government sentiment in any democracy is the oldest adage in politics: “Time for a change.” The economy can be reasonably sound, the political alternative untried, even shaky, the government experienced and able, but when the largest parts of the public settle on the ill-defined but powerful notion that the time has come to change, there isn’t much the incumbents can do.
Harper is betting that Canadians haven't reached that point yet. 2015 will test just how cynical we have become.