Canada’s New Government Turns 8

harper cake
Today marks the 8th anniversary of Stephen Harper’s election as Prime Minister. At the time, a lot of Liberals figured they could turn him into Joe Clark after a quick leadership change. Yet, by this time next year, Harper will have passed Louis St. Laurent, Robert Borden, and Brian Mulroney, to become the 6th longest serving Prime Minister in Canadian history – and most succesful conservative in over a century.

That’s the good news. The bad news for Harper is that it’s hard to fight the “time for a change” bug. Trudeau and King both lost elections after around a decade in power, and Chretien’s own party forced him out of office. Usually, you only get a fourth term if voters don’t trust the other guy and, from where I sit, there are two fairly impressive “other guys” with their sights set on 24 Sussex.

That said, no one expected Harper to last 8 years, so we would all be foolish to under-estimate him.

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4 responses to “Canada’s New Government Turns 8”

  1. I voted Conservative a couple of times, thinking the Reform influence would lead to cuts in the size and cost of government. After their first minority we found out that they spend like drunken Liberals. After that I spoiled my ballot once and voted Green once.
    I would vote Conservative again based on the fact that when the next election rolls around government spending will be at the lowest percentage of the GDP in 50 years. Also the Conservatives have taken steps to clean up a refugee system that allowed things such as tourists to the Vancouver Olympics staying in Canada as refugee claimants.
    Although the Conservatives have had a rough time lately, as one pundit wrote recently the Liberal lead in the polls isn’t that great for all the Tory troubles.
    The Liberal lead will drop further when the soft Quebec support starts to evaporate. Didn’t Trudeau vote against recognizing Quebec as a nation? During an election, Quebec francophone voters (now flocking to the PQ) will ask themselves why the Liberals would select a leader who is so accomadating of Islam but so against Quebec as a nation/distinct society.
    People could simply tire of the Conservatives, but they could also judge them on results, such as Canada recently moving up the second best place in the world to do business.

  2. I used to think that Canadians were more intelligent than this. No matter how terrible and incompetent Harper is, he’s got the tribal 30% of the vote. Our Bush era continues…

  3. I thought about this as well. I’d say Harper’s legacy is not that bad. Even if he lacks some signature institution, he also lacks the colossal failures of some previous PM’s.

    Non-partisan successes (stuff most people like)
    -Harper led Canada through the worst financial crisis since the Depression. He responded with a well-crafted stimulus, and is on track to balance the budget.
    -Canada-EU free trade
    -Balanced Canada’s international contribution in first shooting war, with division/cost of conflict (appointing the Manley commission was a masterstroke)

    Partisan successes (stuff conservatives will like)
    -principled, pro-democracy foreign policy
    -Ended the gun registry
    -Ended national “universal” childcare (sigh in relief when you look at reports on Quebec’s system)
    -Significant decreases in taxes (esp. GST and corporate tax)
    -government spending as % of GDP at low point
    -restored military funding
    -Unified the right, turned it into a winning political force and kept it together (no Tory PM since John A. can really claim that)

    -Did little on the environment
    -Screwed up the census
    -less diplomatic clout within international institutions (but possibly more in places he thinks matter more)
    -Tone (though folks with a nicer tone have caused much division, e.g. Mulroney)
    -Somewhat crooked (though more of the Nixonian type than the Adscam type), e.g. robogate, senate expenses, etc.

    More important than it seemed
    -Decision to not tax income trusts
    -Limiting Chinese FDI in the oilsands
    -[if it happens] openness to an east-west pipeline. Yes, oil matters a lot for the future of Canadian diplomacy and the economy.
    -Omnibus bill re: native issues

    Bottom line
    He is the Prime Minister Paul Martin was supposed to be. Liberals implicitly admit this when they give Chretien/Martin credit for every good thing that happened since 2006. Conservatives implicitly admit this when they declare “you did it too”.

    • I’d say that’s a fair recap. It’s probably due to Harper’s risk-averse nature and incrementalist philosophy that he’s avoided the big failures, all the while missing out of big wins.

      Quite a difference from Mulroney’s record, probably by design.

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