Friday, April 29, 2011

A Failed Prime Minister

Stephen Harper set the bar for success in this election. There were only two choices, he said -- a Conservative Majority or Chaos. No one at this point can accurately predict the outcome of this election. But it would appear that Canadians -- as they do so often -- have chosen an outcome that will fall somewhere in the middle.

There would, indeed, be a certain poetic justice if that outcome was a Liberal - NDP coalition. While I welcome what appears to be NDP growth in Quebec, as a former Quebecer I'm bothered by what Mr. Layton has promised the residents of la belle province. I worry specifically about Layton's pledge to reopen the constitution. As a native Quebecer, Layton surely recognizes the risks of such a gambit. And, for all its faults, the Liberal Party of Canada has always insisted -- to the chagrin of many -- that Quebec be at the centre of the action.

In the end, Andrew Coyne -- whose instincts are surely not Liberal -- has it right. As he concluded yesterday in Macleans:

If we return the Conservatives with a majority, if we let all that has gone on these past five years pass, then not only the Tories, but every party will draw the appropriate conclusions. But if we send them a different message, then maybe the work of bringing government to democratic heel, begun in the tumult of the last Parliament, can continue. And that is why I will be voting Liberal on May 2.

It may be that Mr. Coyne is in a minority which amounts to the third largest number of seats. It may be that Mr. Harper will have the largest number of seats. But it now seems clear that -- by his own measure -- Mr. Harper has failed. Perhaps the Conservatives will begin to ponder the future under someone else. It might be good for them. It would certainly be good for Canada.


ChrisJ said...

In many ridings in northern BC, the Tories have, for a long time, been the party of choice, but are behind the NDP in polls. Who'da thunk?

I believe we may have a Liberal candidate running, but I have seen nothing to indicate such: it's bad policy to enter a race then stand on the start line refusing to actually participate.

I am having a hard time deciding this time; I would not vote for the Conservatives under any circumstances, but don't like the Liberal strategy locally this time.

Kirbycairo said...

Where did people get the idea that Layton committed to "reopening" constitutional debate?? People keep saying this but it seems to be entirely apocryphal. A reporter asked him a question concerning whether he thought it was important for Quebec to be in the Constitution. He replied that he thought it was an important issue but was in no way a priority at the moment. Pretty straightforward. Question asked, question answered.

Owen Gray said...

I just got off the phone with an old friend, Chris. He's a Conservative; but he has been calling for Harper's resignation for the last two years.

He says he's trying to decide whether he should vote for the Liberals or the Green Party candidate.

I suspect there are lots of people this time around who are in the same vote.

Owen Gray said...

I caught that answer, too, Kirby. The problem with it is that, while Layton may not see it as a priority, hard nationalists in Quebec will. And they could give him a hard time.

Remember, what has happened in Quebec has changed the narrative in this campaign.

Layton could easily lose control of the issue and it could come back to haunt him.

Western Conservative said...

The problem with voting against Harper is that we end up voting for NDP and Liberal policies. In the end, Canadians must look past the leaders and their styles, and determine who will manage the country in their best interest.

It really is bigger than just the leader.

Policies hostile to business such as the NDP's will ultimately lead to job losses. In Alberta, the provincial government (incredibly a Conservative one) felt the we were not getting our 'fair share' and raised oil and gas royalties, and we watched as the rigs left for BC and Saskatchewan.

We will get what we vote for.

Owen Gray said...

You're absolutely right, Western. We get what we vote for. And, that is certainly true with Stephen Harper.

My sense is that, like Andrew Coyne, there are lots of Conservatives -- particularly Progressive Conservatives -- who are not pleased with Mr. Harper.

Even Tommy Douglas was a fiscal conservative. He knew that, if you want medicare, you have to pay for it.

The problem with Harper's brand of Conservatism is that those who have benefitted during the economic boom bear less of the financial burden -- while Parliament is not given information on what government initiatives cost.

There is another, much richer, vein of Conservatism whose roots run deep in this country.

Anonymous said...

Is Mr. Harper "failed"? Not yet, dammit.

While the Conservatives might consider replacing him if he ends up with another minority, as you speculated, I don't think they'll send him packing.

He was instrumental in forming and shaping the party. He's largely responsible for the party's success. He controls the party. He's the face of the party.He is the party.

If his party fails to form a majority government (and I think it will fail),it might consider a change in its leadership, as you suggested. Perhaps a Peter MacKay could make it more palatable to Canadians and lead it to a majority.

Still, getting rid of Mr Harper in favour of an untested leader does seem like throwing out a gigantic baby with the bath water it dirtied. A win, dirty or clean, is a win.

I've never known a political party to dump a "winner", which however you choose to define one, is what Mr.Harper has been and will be even if he wins another "mere" minority.

After all, a minority win is something any of the opposition leaders would be more than pleased to claim.

Mr. Harper will be a "failed" PM only when he's defeated once and for all. And for the sake of the Country, that can't come too soon.

Owen Gray said...

I admit to a bit of wishful but -- I hope not -- magical thinking. If Mr. Harper wins a minority, his reaction to his opponents will be critical.

If he fails to bend to the opposition, I suspect that the bogeyman he has flaunted will rise to depose him.

One can hope that, between them, the Liberals and the New Democrats will have enough seats to send him to the opposition benches. Then his departure would be pretty much assured.

What I worry about is that Mr. Harper's way of doing business never changes. The story involving Jack Layton sixteen years ago is more of the politics of destruction.

The only thing that has changed is the target.