Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reach For the Top?

 In Macleans recent survey of Canadian Prime Ministers, Stephen Harper occupies the middle ground. He is rated 11th out of 22. Wilfred Laurier comes in first; hapless Kim Campbell occupies the last spot. The top four prime ministers -- Laurier, MacDonald, King and Pearson carefully cultivated the political middle. So it's perhaps not surprising that Harper -- a man whose political raison d'etre has been to eliminate the political middle -- should only be rated average.

However, Lawrence Martin -- in today's Globe and Mail  -- claims that Harper has a shot at the top.The recent debate on back to work legislation for Canada Post showcased the country's extremes, Martin  writes:

But our harsher political divide is in no way reflected by a polarization in the country itself. As Canada approaches its 144th birthday, rarely have the bonds of unity been so strong. With the success of the Conservatives, western alienation, which spanned four decades as one Quebec prime minister after another led the country, has all but disappeared. For a longer time, the threat of Quebec secession was in the air. But, astonishingly, the near vanquishing of the Bloc Québécois has been followed by another stunner – the unravelling of a Parti Québécois that appeared ready to take power in the next provincial election.

That calm, says Martin, provides Harper with a golden opportunity. He may not be well loved,  but

politically, the glue of the old liberal middle is all but gone. With the new harsher mix of left and right, the noises will be louder. But rarely has the country been in better shape to cope and to move forward. The provinces and the regions are quiet. On the national unity front, it’s about as calm as Canada can be.

Martin is one of our best commentators. And, while it's true that the forces which have historically pulled Canadians apart are -- for the moment -- in stasis, my hunch is that there are more primal forces at work. George W. Bush once joked that his constituency was "the haves and the have-mores." Stephen Harper serves the same constituency.

As long as the have-nots accept their lot, Stephen Harper will ride above the roar. But if those who have been left behind in Harper's brave new world decide that they are mad as hell -- and if they take to the streets -- Kim Campbell may wind up looking better than Stephen Harper.


Kirbycairo said...

It will be interesting to see what will happen with the CUPW court challenge to the Back to Work Legislation. If the SCC is consistent they will throw the legislation out because it clearly violates their earlier decision concerning The Hospitals Employees Union VS the Province of British Columbia. This would be a monumental loss for Harper and will make it clear he cannot win his war against human rights. This will, I think, effectively paralyse the Harper government in many ways because he wants his legacy to be bring Canada back to the 19th century and the only way to stop that now is through the courts. If justice prevails I have no doubt that Harper will be quickly judged as the worst PM much as Bush will eventually be seen as the worst president.

Owen Gray said...

Pamela Wallin's comment on Question period last Sunday was very interesting. Apparently she believes that winning an election gives the "Harper Government" the right to do what ever it wants -- regardless of the Constitution.

The government appears not to have factored the Supreme Court into its plans.

You're right, Kirby. Stephen Harper -- and those who think he has unleashed tectonic change in Canada -- may have to reevaluate the man.