Any honest examination of Harper’s nine-odd years in office would find a government that wandered all over the intellectual map, boasting of its commitment to balanced budgets while adding $150 billion to the national debt, talking of its respect for free markets while launching 1970s-style industrial-subsidy programs, praising the military while denying it adequate equipment, and so on.
Its defenders point to all the things other governments might have done — a national daycare program, say — that Harper’s didn’t. But we could as well list all of the conservative policies it failed to enact, from privatization to deregulation to reform of social programs. We might talk of how the party’s social conservatives were gagged, or how the party of democratic conservatism became the party of one-man rule.
There was much that it did that it shouldn’t have — a long list that would include abusing the prerogatives of Parliament, packing the Senate with spendthrifts and cronies, and attempting to skew elections via the Fair Elections Act — and much else that it tried to do but failed, from reforming the Senate to building pipelines.
And, Coyne admits, the Liberals are rapidly undoing what Harper left on the books. However, he gives Harper credit for uniting a party which tends to self destruct:
The Diefenbaker sweep in 1958 was reduced to a minority in just four years. The Mulroney sweep in 1984, likewise, carried within it the seeds of its later demise. Both were too sudden to last.
Time will tell whether the Harper Party survives this weekend's convention and beyond.