Stephen Harper has disappeared. And, Andrew Cohen writes, his legacy is disappearing as quickly as he did:
Stephen Harper was a failure in power. He created nothing lasting. Of prime ministers since 1945 who served a full term or more, his is the thinnest record.
Harper took on none of the big social issues – abortion, gay marriage, capital punishment – which animated his loyalists. He championed no constitutional reform and established few innovative programs. He proposed no new national initiatives – museums, pipelines, high-speed rail – or declared a projet de société.
When compared to his predecessors, Harper comes away looking pretty small:
John Diefenbaker passed the Bill of Rights. Lester Pearson created Medicare, the Auto Pact and the flag. Pierre Trudeau patriated the Constitution and entrenched the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Brian Mulroney brought free trade and a national sales tax. Jean Chrétien established the Clarity Act and reset national finances.
On criminal justice, the Supreme Court has struck down his laws on mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and limited credit for pre-trial detention. His changes to the parole system and prostitution laws may be next. The Court Challenges Program dismantled by Harper has been restored.
The long-form census has been restored. Ministers and diplomats can talk again. The Anti-Terrorism Act and Fair Elections Act will be amended. There is new money for culture and aboriginals.
Abroad, Canada has withdrawn from the bombing campaign against ISIL. We’re seeking the seat on the UN Security Council the Conservatives lost, and we may return to peacekeeping. We’ve taken a leading role in combating climate change in ways Harper disdained.
In the end, he will be remembered as a prime minister who truly didn't understand his country:
Stephen Harper misread the country. His instincts were dark and conservative in a decent, progressive country. When Canadians had a choice, they discarded him. Now they’re discarding his legacy.
He is the incredible shrinking man.