Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Harper Half-Decade

On the 6th of February, 2006, Stephen Harper was sworn in as Canada's 22nd prime minister. After successfully reestablishing the Canadian Conservative party after long years of internal fracture, he was able to defeat Paul Martin's shaky Liberal minority government amidst a few severe scandals. Since then, Harper and his Conservative Party have been able to govern fairly effectively despite of the fact that they have never been able to garner a majority in the House of Commons.

If you ignore the fact that his first term of office was cut short, the current minority government is the longest serving in Canada's history. Harper is Canada's 11th longest serving prime minister, recently overtaking Lester B. Pearson.

Harper's administration has had a few bumps along the way, but overall, with lack of any ideal alternative, this has been the best realistic arrangement for Canada during this time period. The current administration has coolheadedly guided Canada's economy through the recession while avoiding the insanity that has recently afflicted our neighbors to the south.

The need for stability, and the lack of majority means that the Conservatives were unable to push for any highly transformational and divisive adventures. All while avoiding tax hikes, lowering the much dreaded GST and maintaining equivocal support of Israel.

Perhaps the most controversial set of events is the infamous Coalition Crisis and Harper's decision to prorogue the Parliament. At that time, the highly ineffective leader of the opposition and of the Liberal Party, Stephane Dion, schemed with the far left NDP and Quebec separatists to form a coalition government, a highly unconventional move in Canadian politics. The most ridiculous aspect of this move was that the Bloc Quebecois was supposed to provide outside support on matters of confidence only for 18 months. Without the Bloc, the Liberals and NDP would still have a minority which is weaker than the Conservatives minority government. Of course the left, lead by the labour unions, tried to sell this highly unorthodox move by claiming that this would represent the 'true majority', representing 62% of Canadians. If we look at aggregate votes it is correct, but you cannot forget that even Jean Chretien's most stable majority was attained using a mere 41% of the popular vote.

Harper requested that the Governor General (the Queen's representative) prorogue parliament. While conservatives were keen on the move, which kept the radical left-wing kook coalition out, he was highly criticized by the left. The spin was that Harper is shutting out 'democracy' and running from the debate. Whoever swallowed the spin obviously has never tuned in to the Parliament channel on TV.

As the threat of another pointless election that maintains the status quo is in the air, we can quietly reflect on the last five years. Behind the pointless political banter, we have had a fairly stable, coolheaded government under Harper.


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