The Longer He's Prime Minister

PM-Elect Harper
i snapped this pic on Stephen Harper’s first day as prime minister-elect, the day after the 2006 general election, on his campaign plane winging it back from Calgary to Ottawa. This sight — Harper scrumming reporters on his plane or anywhere else was about to become an increasingly rare sight and, seven years on, is something almost never seen.

I’ve just finished reading Paul Wells’ The Longer I’m Prime Minister, a book I’m happy to recommend to Harper-haters and Harper-lovers alike largely because of the way Wells treats his subject:

I offer no blanket endorsement of the twenty-second prime minister. Much of what he has done makes me angry; much more is open to serious debate. But too many people in this country have spent too much time trying to ignore Harper, or to dismiss him, or, with varying degrees of ineptitude, to defeat him. He endures. I figure it is not too soon to try to understand hi . . . Readers who still cannot bring themselves to believe he is the elected prime minister of this country not only misunderstand Stephen Harper. They also misunderstand Canada..

The Harper-lovers will love paragraphs like this:

If there is a dominant school of journalistic thought about Harper in power, at least among journalists who live between Montreal and Toronto, it is that Harper is a loner with the instincts of a vandal. He came to power by accident and brings no project more ambitious than an inexplicable urge to wreck the Liberal Party.

Remember the fishing vest Harper wore at the Three Amigos summit in Cancun in 2006? Another treat for Harper-lovers:

The Globe and Mail assigned their columnist Leah McLaren to make fun of Harper on the next day’s front page. “Stephen darling, can we talk?” the column began. It was the best laugh the press gallery had had since two days after the election, when Harper walked his kids to school and bid nine-year-old Ben farewell with a brisk handshake. Harper took careful note of the mockery. His revenge on the press gallery smart alecks would be a dish served cold and in bulk.

But there is plenty that Harper-haters will read and go a-ha! at:

… at a conference of Canadian and visiting international public servants, I mentioned, in passing, that all Canadian ambassadors needed approval in writing before they could speak to local reporters in the countries where they were posted. The visitors’ jaws dropped.

or Wells whole section on the defenestration of Statistics Canada and the long-form census or:

the 132-page Economic and Fiscal Statement Jim Flaherty delivered on Thursday afternoon (in late 2007)  still stands as one of the more witless documents the Harper government has ever produced..

And there are many case of what are, in my judgement, wise observations:

[Harper’s] opponents had always claimed that the more power Canadians gave Harper, the further he would stray from Canadian values. He had grown the Conservative vote by proving the prediction wrong—not to the people who had never voted Conservative and would never consider it, of course, not to them; but to a broad-enough coalition of other voters… with a majority, he needed to be more of an incrementalist, not less, because the likelihood of any grand plan being read as proof of some hidden agenda was higher than ever before…

He is the first prime minister in the history of the country who has wanted to leave behind a government that is doing substantially less than when he arrived. That may be the simplest way to explain why he is so polarizing—why he excites so many voters and infuriates so many more.

And finally:

I’m stuck with the evidence of my eyes, which is that Canada, nearly eight years into the Harper era, still looks a lot like Canada.


6 thoughts on “The Longer He's Prime Minister”

  1. I am a fan of Paul Wells, have been for a long time and I believe (and please take no offense) he is the most consequential political journalist in Canada today, I have always appreciated his approach to understanding the subject first than just cheap criticism, trying to make sense of who Stephen Harper is.

    I often feel like him, Stephen Harper pisses me off often but he also is doing a heluva of a good job.

    And this is a great review, as you mention, Harper-haters and Harper-lovers alike largely because of the way Wells treats his subject.

    I’ve purchased a few copies and gladly gave them away to my hardcore conservative friends, who don’t seem to understand the gift of Harper conservatism.

  2. Harper A Do Nothing But Hold on to Power PM has shown nothing but blatant disregard for the majority of Canadians. He has become Imperial and egomanic in his conduct and HAS NOT done much for the Economy, but inflated the defict and his so called Action Plan has only benefited his cronies, his Conservative base but alleinated the rest of us.
    He has been around too long and its time for him to leave-we need term limits for PMs to max 2 terms.
    He does not speak to us-rather he speaks down to us and his managing of the senate crisis is criminal in my view.He should be fired together with those disgraced senators who he appointed

    1. Harper did sign the biggest trade deal in Canadian history. There are others too that have been in the works. But he also saved the Canadian economy from Stephane Dion’s Green Shift. He’s never been thanked for that. He’s only received criticism for proroguing parliament.

      He also was heavily criticized from pulling out of Kyoto and not thanked for standing up in front of the world and point out that without the big three emitters, their collective actions were accomplishing nothing. Imagine giving $12 billion away to accomplish nothing.

      Senate crisis? According to the evidence Duffy’s lawyer cited, his expense claims sound as if they were allowable under senate rules. They just weren’t politically correct. If this is the case, the $90K was a voluntary donation to the Solicitor General. If a scandal under Harper amounts to the government making money, we’ve come a long way. Keep in mind, he never wanted to appoint a single senator. He believed they should be elected with 8 year terms.

      Your comment on benefitting his cronies is rich. Ever hear of the Sponsorship scandal? How about the $170 million in contracts that went to CSL? Shawinigate? Instead of taking advantage like his predecessors, Harper passed laws that would significantly lower his own retirement compensation and that of MPs.

      Harper will, without a doubt, go down in history as the most misunderstood, under-appreciated PM we’ve ever had. It’s because he’s a leader who will sacrifice his personal image and image of his party to do what he believes is right. In Canada, we’re not used to that. We’re used to politicians.

    2. The people who should be fired are the Liberal-biased media who have so misinformed you that you can hold the opinion PM Harper has done nothing for you and our country.

  3. Wells infuriates me as a reader, and I’m so infuriated I read everything he writes. Then THAT infuriates me. KHAAAAN!

  4. The longer Harper is PM, the better off Canada and Canadians will be… be honest, tell me who would be better?

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