Erin O'Toole has resigned from Parliament and from the Conservative Party -- proof that the party is still Stephen Harper's party. Harper has been offering advice to the Conservatives. Susan Delacourt writes:
Harper, on the other hand, offered this advice when he appeared on stage last week at a big conference in Ottawa:
“What I say to Conservative opposition leaders is: your job today, yeah, broadly speaking, indicate a direction you’re going to go, but it’s not to talk about how you would run the country.”
This, Harper said, is the road map to power for current Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre — say as little as possible on the hope-and-ideas front.
Mr. Harper is a master of political bait and switch:
What made Harper’s do-nothing advice stand out in this discussion, though, is that it was at direct odds with their recollections of how they led their parties to prominence and, in Harper’s case, power.
Reform almost single-handedly put deficit reduction and constitutional weariness on the political radar in the 1990s and forced the Liberals to adopt those policies. That is absolutely true. Reform’s pressure created the public-opinion conditions for the Liberals’ budget-balancing measures under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.
Harper, meanwhile, seems to have developed a case of amnesia about how the Conservatives rode to power in 2006 on the strength of five big priorities, which they hammered home with incredible message discipline and clever marketing in the 2005-06 election campaign. They were, for those who have forgotten: a cut to the GST, $100 cheques for child care, the “accountability act,” cracking down on crime and ending health-care wait times.
What Harper has also forgotten — as many have observed — is that he came into office as one of the most media-friendly politicians of his era. He was a regular on TV political panels. He frequently held long, answer-filled scrums as Opposition leader. He spoke often to journalists like me, on and off the record.
It was only after he became prime minister that he became overtly hostile to the media — an approach that Poilievre has clearly adopted in opposition.
Harper, showing that old paranoid-PM streak, warned Poilievre last week that to talk openly about hopes and ideas would be to fall into a trap with the “liberal media.”
There were two Stephen Harpers. We shouldn't forget who the real one was. I suspect that there are also two Pierre Poilievres. What the two Harpers and Poilievres are telling us is that there is no such species as a Progressive Conservative anymore. They are all extinct.
Image: The Toronto Star