The robotic responses of our current prime minister to reporters’ questions about the Mike Duffy affair, and now his preference for a military solution to the refugee crisis — these are images that would seem in sharp contrast to the Conservative campaign ad notion of leadership.
So let’s take a look at Stephen Harper’s claim of proven leadership. Some credible examples of proven leadership: Peter Lougheed, Frank McKenna, Ed Schreyer, Roy Romanow, none of whom rammed legislation through just because they could — they led; also, Lester Pearson, who passed very consequential legislation without a majority — he led.
These leaders were widely respected, and widely supported. Please, where is the evidence for Harper’s proven leadership? Judging purely from the polls, it seems 30 per cent of Canadians follow his lead. Maybe 10 per cent are undecided. But at least 60 per cent of Canadians do not.
So then consider Harper on the world stage. The US could hardly be said to be following Harper’s lead — need I mention Keystone? And with notable exceptions such as the prime minister of Israel, not only do other world leaders not follow his lead, but because of Mr. Harper’s pugilistic approach to international issues, Canada lost a position at the UN it normally would have gotten. Even fewer followers there. So, a catchy slogan, proven leadership, but like much Harper rhetoric, it feels like an empty one.
Or is proven leadership all about who can raise the most money? Who can deny that Harper excels there?
Each and every piece of legislation seems all, and only, about creating a reason to ask the base for more money. Each and every policy seems to be framed to stoke the fires of discontent with the other guy, the opposition, rather than with finding common cause, again in aid of asking the base for money to fight the “enemy”.
Each and every pronouncement seems all about harvesting and storing up more money to run the endless campaign. And, then, once every four years, oh-my-gosh, the Harper government lifts its head, sniffs the air for potential voters, the rest of Canada becomes visible, so with promises of a tax credit here, a tax credit there, everywhere a tax credit, we are promised the use of our taxpayer dollars to buy our votes. But, with another majority, experience suggests — strongly — that most of us would again become invisible to the Harper Conservatives. So, is governing, between elections, to be undertaken purely in aid of raising money to run the next election? An upside-down approach if I ever saw one!
And the opposition has been forced to follow suit after Harper gutted what was seen internationally as a very good system of financing free and fair elections. Now we have, instead, endless tub-thumping from each party in a race to see who can raise the most money. Endless requests for $5, $10, more. So each quarterly cycle is a rising crescendo of pleading for more money to fight the other guy.
This feels like a race to the bottom that soon very few will feel good about. It promises more of divisive uber-partisanship and politicians laser-focused on financial supporters rather than on diverse citizens’ needs — US-style politics, anyone?
More importantly, it feels altogether too much like forsaking Canadian values about the common good. I don’t want Canada to “stay the course” under Harper’s proven leadership on replacing “peace, order and good government” with his fundraising model of governing in Canada. Do you? Do you really, really, want four more years of this?