Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Incredible Shrinking Man

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Abroad, Canada has withdrawn from the bombing campaign against ISIL.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.



lungta said...

a petty tyrant
with death by a thousand cuts policy
in the end he had offended just about everybody
i'm still waiting for justin to re-establish the environmental protection on those 1.2 million bodies of water tho
his legacy might just be a "waste of time"
the time lost diversifying out of oil
rather than all in on oil and damn the scientists
or consider the 43? trade deals signed with TPP to follow (we keep our word)
harper will have a legacy
and the rape and mutilation canada has suffered will last a long time
or as the doctor told my friend
"if you had just come in a few weeks earlier"

Owen Gray said...

It will take years to repair the damage he did, lungta. But the official policy which caused the damage is on the way out the door.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Harper spent much of his 9+ years Owen trying to destroy the legacy of Nation Building by previous Prime Ministers, especially Pierre Trudeau's legacy.Harpers tool used in dismantling the welfare state of Trudeau, Pearson and other PM's was Neoliberalism.The two vehicles he used to implement Neoliberal rule were legislation, preferably wrapped in omnibus bills and "trade' deals, signed in secrecy. The Supreme Court is busy striking down much of his legislation, but the "trade" deals so far are remaining.If the deal with China, CETA and the TPP stay, with few amendments, then an important part of Harpers democracy destroying legacy will remain active and this will be achieved not by Harper, but by Trudeau. Not all of the damage Harper did is being repaired. In fact the most serious damage,the damage to our sovereignty, via these "trade" deals may very well be kept. The "official policy which caused the damage" is not out the door. Neoliberalism was the official policy and it may very well have found a new home with the liberals. This has not yet happened,I am speculating on what I think will happen, so I fervently hope you turn out to be the one that is right.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Pam. The Liberals' attitude toward Harper's trade deals is very troubling. If the Investor Settlement Dispute Mechanisms -- which are part of all the trade deals you mentioned -- are allowed to remain in place, then the neo-liberal juggernaut will continue apace.

Steve said...

He poisoned all the toadlickers

Owen Gray said...

He believed that government was the enemy, Steve. And he worked very hard to make it precisely that.

The Mound of Sound said...

Harper has no legacy. His former best friend, Flanagan, explained this years ago when he described Harper as a man who eschewed "vision." Harper did not want to look to the horizon, he did not want to lead the Canadian people to some better place. He was a technocrat who wanted to rule, not lead, and that manifested in his practice of "incrementalism" by which he affected change by taking many very small steps that he intended to pass unnoticed. When you do that you're not looking to the horizon. Your attention is focused on your feet.

What Harper left in his wake was easily cleaned up except for the hard stuff and, on that score, Trudeau has done a remarkable job of taking Harper's policies and making them his own.

Owen Gray said...

And on the trade front, as Pam MacNeil says, it look like Neo-liberalism still rules the roost, Mound.

Anonymous said...

Why Are We Still Building a Monument To Stephen Harper?

Owen Gray said...

I'm puzzled, too, Anon. I thought we had put that monstrosity to bed.