Stephen Harper -- Alpha Male on the Hill

I am not a Conservative. Actually, I have no firm party affiliation and usually vote based on what the government has done, how individual leaders have performed, and what I'd like to see changed. I did want to see a new Prime Minister, and unfortunately voting patterns being what they are, the only new one would be Stephen Harper. Still, I thought this man had learned the lessons from the previous election, the Belinda Stronach defection, and his failures in bringing down the government. Today, I'm disappointed. Not angry, just disappointed that Harper is just another power grabber.

Pundits had proclaimed him a middle-class guy who had never aspired to the Prime Ministership; his career trajectory had seemed to veer away from it, was their reasoning. But I don't believe it. People don't just happen to land in that position and go, "Wow, I can't believe I'm Prime Minister!" He has shown a certain cunning ruthlessness, like Jean Chretien and Brian Mulroney in their successful leadership runs and Paul Martin in ousting Chretien, and way before that Pierre Trudeau during the FLQ Crisis, in his race for the leadership and in his handling of Stronach and Peter MacKay. Prior to Monday, one's overwhelming sense of the man was that what drove him were his principles, his outrage at the corruption and business-as-usual attitude in the Liberal government. But now we see that it's the "Liberal" part of that that had him uptight.

CuriosityKilledtheCat asked in a comment yesterday, "Does Harper have a [political] tin ear?...[Or] perhaps [he is] marching to his own discordant band."

From all accounts Michael Fortier won Quebec for Harper and perhaps was part of the campaign machine that hid Harper's tin ear. But now Harper is in charge. David Emerson and Fortier were not his only choices for those two portfolios -- it is unbelievable that there is not one or two elected Conservative members that cannot competently manage them. That reasoning is just a ruse. They were a means to an end. With Emerson, he has wreaked vengeance on the Liberals for stealing Stronach and Brison and has showed them his superiority by doing it in record time (he, a Christian, obviously decided to conveniently ignore the "says the Lord" part after "vengeance is mine"). With Fortier, he flexes his power muscles to the politicians beneath him and the media who derided him for years -- he is the alpha male -- and as a bonus, aids one who worked with him to further his goals. If the urban vote was so crucial, a Torononian would also have been similarly rewarded. Or perhaps he tried to buy a Toronto Liberal and found them not as power-hungry as Emerson.

Curiositykilledthecat thinks Harper will be brought down before end of summer. I'm not so sure. I think Jack Layton will see first if he can push through democratic reform -- if Layton is smart, as it's the only way to curb such power grabs -- and second how he can work this guy like he did Martin; if intransigent, it may be the summer. But sometimes it's better to bide one's time. After all, power-hungry people tend to get more brazen with time, not less, and he will commit an even bigger political faux pas. In the meantime, this one will disappear from our consciousness once the Olympics begin.

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Aaron said…
I really like what I've read of your writing. I don't even know why I still follow news and politics, but I'll always keep informed at least a bit.

My situation should lead me to vote way left, but I'd prefer a real centrist party in Ottawa, and at the provincial level. At least here in Quebec. I guess it's a dream though as we're supposed to pick someone to believe in, and stick with them. I haven't been able to do this for religion either, at least up to now. So as an agnostic, I also see the good and bad to Quebec nationalism as well, when I should really pick and stick.

Yeah, I wouldn't make a good politician.

BTW, thank you for linking me, and unfortunately I've moved to I hope to have interesting things there at times.
talk talk talk said…
Thank you! One thing I think all us Canadians share is a love of political chat even when it drives us crazy. Thanks also for letting me know about your link. I've updated it.
CuriosityKilledTheCat said…
A few questions which Mr Harper should answer, so that the voters have a clearer picture of the new government:

• How did the Tories know that Mr Emerson might consider changing parties?
• How many other Liberals, Bloc Q and NDPers were approached by the Tories to change parties, who were they, and were they offered any rewards for doing so?

Finally, if notes were taken of those discussions, or the talks were taped, are those notes and tapes going to be made public so that voters might judge for themselves whether the approaches were ethically done?

It would help if any members of the other parties who were approached – by anyone – to consider switching to the governing party, would come forward with details....
talk talk talk said…
I have some guesses!

Given that all parties do daily polling and given the results were probably showing no Conservative seats in the big cities, and given that Harper, whatever his other motivations, wants to win a majority next time and needs seats in big cities to do that, he and his advisors probably started to strategize how they would get big city MPs in his cabinet -- before Jan. 23rd.

If it took them only 24 hours to approach Emerson, then they already knew -- before the election -- who they would approach and where; they'd already done their homework on possibilities. The 24 hours was simply a grace period...or they just all needed some rest!

Thinking about it, they probably approached a few, but the only one who was more power-hungry than respectful of the voters was Emerson; that may be why they went with a quickie Senate appointment with Fortier for Montreal. And they probably couldn't care less about Toronto, as no turncoat and no cadging a Senator from here. To me, Harper is behaving more and more like Joe Clarke, who thought so highly of himself and his ideas, he couldn't conceive that he'd be brought down if he didn't learn to work with other (parties).

I like your last point -- I'd like to know too.
CuriosityKilledTheCat said…
Does Harper need new advisors? Or, the Mulroney grocery bag of money and Trojan Horse election:

The PM blew it with the two non-Tory-elected Cabinet appointments.

He moved fast, and some reports say he was not making this decision on his own – others advised him on them.

Does he need new advisors?

He is relatively green to the office of Prime Minister, and his experience as policy wonk and opposition leader does not necessarily equip him to represent all the people of Canada, including those in the large cities which did not vote any Tories into Parliament; therefore the quality of his advisors is rather important.

Are his advisors of the right sort? I spotted a preening Brian Mulroney on TV the night of the election, saying he would not comment on whether or not he was an advisor to the new PM, because he had learned that the easiest way to become an ex-advisor was to say you were one. He obviously signalled that he was one, and Harper is reported to have called Brian Baby often during the election for advice.

• A legitimate question for Harper: Did Brian Mulroney advise you on your two unusual Cabinet appointments (especially the Quebec one)?

• A second question: Is Mulroney the best advisor for a newly-minted PM, given his track record of leading the Conservative Party to the biggest implosion in recorded history?

Rafe Mair of has an interesting snippet about Mulroney and a grocery bag full of money:

“Because of the news this week, permit me to digress. In various newspapers, over the past few years, it's been stated that Brian Mulroney took several hundred thousand dollars in a grocery bag from Karl-Heinz Schreiber, the Mr. Fix-it of the Airbus scandal. When the story appeared in the Globe and Mail about two years ago, it was in the weekend editorial on the second page by editor Ed Greenspon, who reported that Mulroney, far from denying this, begged him not to print the story and offered him a better one if he didn't. Now Mr. Schreiber has flatly denied Mr. Mulroney's statement that this shopping bag full of money was to help him open a pizza business. He says Mulroney was short of money and "…[Mulroney] was very simple and very stupid. Simple as that I gave him 300,000. Stupid in that he denied it…" This money, it's reported, came from a Swiss bank account. This leads to a bigger question. In 1995, the RCMP wanted to examine Swiss bank accounts looking for Brian Mulroney. In order to get cooperation from the banks, they had to compose a letter setting forth the reasonable grounds for the request. This request became public and Mulroney sued the government for $50 million. The government caved in and paid over $2 million to Mulroney in settlement. Some, including me, screamed blue bloody murder over this, but the establishment's captive press did no investigating and let matters lie. Now the CBC, God bless them, through Fifth Estate, have uncovered the $300,000 story and, it is hoped will follow up on the Swiss Bank Account caper.”

One further thought: If Mulroney is an important and trusted advisor of Harper, then have Canadian voters in effect elected a Harper-Mulroney government?

And did voters realize they were doing this, or is it – like the Vancouver and Quebec cabinet appointments – another case of a Harper Trojan Horse policy?
talk talk talk said…
"Harper is reported to have called Brian Baby often during the election for advice."

This would not surprise me as Mulroney did achieve back to back majorities, quite the feat for Conservatives!

Since the appointments reminded me of Mulroney and Bouchard, Mulroney may very well be a Harper advisor and have suggested to Harper that he look outside of elected Conservative MPs.

I doubt though that we have a Harper-Mulroney government. Harper strikes me as a person who likes to be in charge and not be the front puppet for someone else.