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Stephen Harper: Picking Up The Marbles and Going Home?

This will be VanRamblings’ final posting on Decision Canada. In the coming days, the Decision Canada button above will transform to Canada, as VanRamblings will continue to comment on the Canadian political scene.

In the political realm, VanRamblings will return to, and increase, coverage of local Vancouver and Greater Vancouver Regional / Lower Mainland politics, as well as British Columbia politics leading up to the next provincial election on May 17, 2005. Otherwise, over the course of the summer, VanRamblings will refine our publishing schedule, introducing a weekly New On DVD feature this Thursday, while maintaining the Tech Tuesday feature and Saturday night’s Unbelievable Truth badinage feature.

Harper Raises Possibility Of Stepping Down

HARPER-SMILE
Down for the count?

Late last night, in a story published on Calgary’s CFCN CTV website, Conservative leader Stephen Harper suggested that he is considering the possibility of stepping aside, after leading his party through a disappointing election campaign. This follows on the heels of an earlier Globe and Mail story suggesting Harper was “mulling over” his future.

VanRamblings has felt for some time now — dating back two weeks just subsequent to the live television campaign debate — that Mr. Harper seemed ill at ease, out of sorts. We have wondered to ourselves as to whether the Tory leader wasn’t suffering from some sort of dissociative disorder, a pervasive sense of melancholy, impairing his ability to function.

In the first two weeks of the federal election campaign, Mr. Harper was voluble, aggressive (in the most positive sense), directed and seemed eager, always, to speak with the media, in order to communicate directly to Canadians. In the final two weeks of the election campaign, though, the Conservative leader appeared almost to be in hiding, was rarely available to the press, as he took days off at a time, staying almost hermetically sealed inside his political bubble and speaking only to groups of supporters.

All the hyperbole published on VanRamblings about Mr. Harper and the ‘new’ Conservative Party aside (we’re hardly unaware that the attacks on Mr. Harper and the Tories were often visceral), we have felt these past almost three weeks that Mr. Harper seemed to be in some sort of trouble psychologically and emotionally.

Gone were the ready smiles, replaced by bizarre attacks on the issue of child pornography directed at opposition leaders. Gone was the energy that defined not only the Conservative campaign, but the campaign itself, in its early weeks, replaced by the braggadocio talk of a Tory majority. With each misstep by a Tory social conservative, from Cheryl Gallant’s ravings on abortion to Randy White's musings on invocation of the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause, Mr. Harper seemed more and more deflated.

And now, Mr. Harper is pondering resignation from his post as Tory leader? Where has Mr. Harper’s fight gone? Is the Conservative leader honestly suggesting that he will not lead the opposition party in the 38th Parliament?

Commentary From Various Quarters

Perhaps the most incisive commentary VanRamblings read in the period just following the posting of election night results appeared in the Toronto Star, in Thomas Walkom’s column ...

Martin came to the prime minister’s office six months ago like the hero of a classic Greek tragedy. Successful, popular, powerful, he seemed blessed ... he was a man who talked of vision but lacked one, who lauded ideas but who, in the end, had none to offer. He was the classic emperor with no clothes. As finance minister he had been self-assured. But as PM, he was too often an empty vessel, echoing platitudes.

For 11 years and through three elections, the Liberals played a cruel hoax on this country. At election time, they campaigned to the left. They promised to right the wrongs inflicted by the Conservatives of Brian Mulroney. They vowed to protect social programmes from the depredations of Preston Manning’s Reform Party and Stockwell Day’s Canadian Alliance. And then, once elected, they stole the ideas of the parties they claimed to oppose and governed to the right. They were cunningly hypocritical. And finally, people caught on.

(As for Stephen) Harper, he is smart and serious. He does have ideas. But he's a radical in Canadian terms who would devolve power to the provinces and who would dismantle the protective state. While he tried to play that down during the election campaign, enough voters figured him out to deny his party power.

As for his new Conservatives, they are not new at all. Rather they are a hoary, old bunch — a coalition of convenience, dominated by hard-edged Republican clones and sprinkled with old-time Mulroney fat cats. Their economic ideas are pre-1914, their social ideas pre-Cambrian. Eventually, the voters figured out that, too.

COLBY-COSH

Of course, there is more punditry and commentary. National Post columnist Colby Cosh (quickly becoming one of my favourite columnists) writes with wit, intelligence, humour, humanity and insight, and is well worth a read.

Andrew Spicer weighed in with a point form analysis. Ian Welsh and Kevin Brennan continue to wrap things up nicely at Tilting at Windmills, while Conservative apparatchik Norman Spector offers a series of readable links.

Don, at Revolutionary Moderation is certainly the most passionate commentator, as he tackles the reasons for the NDP’s poor showing (VanRamblings had earlier offered advice to both the NDP and the Liberals, on the issue of the urban vs suburban / rural split).



Posted by Raymond Tomlin at June 30, 2004 1:10 AM in Decision Canada

   

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