Not much more than a year ago, I stated in a column that, “Although I’m not exactly a fan of Stephen Harper, neither am I his biggest detractor.” I guess it takes that much longer to really get to know someone.
Until early 2008, Mr. Harper had, in my mind, displayed an unexpected level of restraint in his leadership and had proven surprisingly adept at keeping the more radical elements of his party at bay. No serious signs of the much-feared “hidden agenda” had emerged into government policy.
Unfortunately, neoconservative ideologues weren’t really the threat that many had thought they would be. It turns out that the hidden character of this party was instead right-wing Machiavellianism of a wildly incompetent strain.
This is a group of people who thought, and continue to think, that they can manipulate the public and bully the opposition with the precision and stealth of a panther. Instead, their machinations have proven about as subtle as Garfield at East Side Mario’s.
Over the past year, Mr. Harper has continually shown a complete inability to either understand or care about the consequences which his government’s actions and words will effect.
What other explanation could there possibly be for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s first admission that Canada is in a “mild recession” in February?
Or last November’s budget proposal, unequivocally designed to bankrupt the other, already fragile parties, which brought our whole political system to a halt for six crucial weeks?
Mr. Harper’s obliviousness is equaled only by the confidence with which he delivers such political masterstrokes. Make no mistake, these were both carefully calculated political tactics. These calculations were made with the understanding of an orangutan and the restraint of a bull.
The fact is that this prime minister is out of touch, perhaps willfully, and if so, to the detriment of us all.
The recession was surely not his fault, but an honest appraisal of the expected deficit was in order. Instead, we received promises from Harper and Flaherty of surplus that were at odds with all but the wackiest of economic predictions. In hindsight, this represents delay tactics of a species both low and childish.
On the parliamentary crisis, the Tories’ laughable budget proposal quite literally left the opposition with no choice but to finally shove back or sign off on its own demise. How anyone could have predicted another outcome is a mystery as impenetrable as any, but someone did, and their lunacy cost us more than a month of government.
Worse than these lapses in judgment, however, has been the consistent dishonesty displayed by Mr. Harper and his caucus. Mr. Flaherty’s conduct with regards to the deficit is one example, and there are countless others.
John Baird, who may be the most tactless man on the planet, seems so comfortable spinning half-truths and regurgitating long-known myths about everything from the environment to parliamentary protocol that that one wonders if he possesses any critical faculties at all.
His overzealous demeanor seems purpose-built to avoid telling anyone anything that he might consider remotely detrimental to Mr. Harper, no matter how foolish it makes him look.
Perhaps more tellingly, Lisa Raitt’s apalling comments about cancer and her refusal to apologize for them seem to provide an accurate read on the moral compass of Mr. Harper’s entire government.
It sees everything in partisan shades, with no regard for the human impact of its decisions and apparently no conception of just how hypocritical it can be. I suppose we’re fortunate that the Conservatives have proven so imprecise in their manipulations.
Nonetheless, it is equal parts infuriating and disheartening to see Mr. Harper drag our politics this far down into the murk.
I can only hope that this impression of him does not fade before the next election. Someone of such low moral character doesn’t deserve our trust, our votes or our highest elected office.