Stephen Harper’s Legacy

The Sun’s Lorrie Goldstein tweets that a column, in the National Post, by Ken Boessenkool and Sean Speer, who were advisors to the Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is “Harper advisers pretending a loss was a win.” 

Now, I would not be surprised if some Conservatives, looking at the economy, do think we “won” in October 2015 by giving the Liberals a load of crap with which to work, but I’m sure that most of us wish ~ more and more each day ~ that we still had a Conservative prime minister.

In fact, far from claiming that a loss was a win, Messers Boessenkool and Speer lay out a case that Stephen Harper had a broad, strategic, policy based vision ~ “pragmatic conservative principles,” implemented incrementally.

Stephen-Harper-is-a-bigot1“His governing philosophy,” Ken Boessenkool and Sean Speer write,“drew from the best traditions of Western political thought. He understood that freedom and responsibility and liberty and order are competing tensions that must be carefully balanced. Freedom unrooted from customs and tradition and or civil institutions such as the family can become a licence for moral recklessness and social atomization. Yet a preoccupation with order at the expense of liberty undermines individual choice and the economic and social dynamism that flows from the market economy. Thus Mr. Harper advanced a vision that saw order and liberty as two sides of the same coin. This was the foundation for his governing record.”

In other words he drew the necessary distinction between liberty and license and between the “order” part of “peace, order and good government” and  the nanny state, and he rejected both license and the nanny state.

That was and must remain, in my opinion, a foundation of Conservative policy.

On the “liberty” side of the coin, the authors cite several examples of Prime Minister Harper’s good policies:

  • a commitment to market economics, including his historic free trade record;
  • consistent reductions to the federal tax burden;
  • a focus on controlling discretionary spending;
  • respect for federalism and provincial jurisdiction.

All of those are, clearly, accomplishments in which Stephen Harper and, indeed, all Conservatives ought to take pride and satisfaction, and we ought to ensure that we offer Canadians more of all of them.

The article adds that, “the Conservative party became a “big tent” for Canadians from different backgrounds and regions brought together by an inclusive set of values and priorities.” That “big tent” notion is something that I continue to advocate as an essential element of Conservative strategy. In my mind we must be a “big tent” if we ever want to repeat the Diefenbaker and Mulroney accomplishments of gaining 50% of the popular vote, and I suggest that should be our aim. To do that we need to heed the Boessenkool~Speer advice and that of Preston Manning and Tony Clement, too and think beyond “low taxes,” “law and order” and “support the troops.” We have to speak to and address the issues that mater to everyone, including young, hip, gay urbanites, rural seniors, suburban families and students. We have to prove that we do care about equality and the environment and opportunities for young people. Put most succinctly we need to persuade Canadians that their children and grandchildren will have better lives, better opportunities here in Canada that they, the voters, do now. We have to explain how our tax policies and social programmes and, yes, even defence spending all are part of a whole programme aimed at making Canada work.

But there is another side to Prime Minister Harper’s legacy. We didn’t lose the 2015 election just because it was time the “throw the rascals out,” although I remain convinced that did play a big role. The CPC ran a weak campaign and the campaign team were Prime Minister Harper’s trusted confidantes. Also, and without apology, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a very nice, very likeable young man who promised change from a  leader who is introverted and remote, who seems cold and calculating, who was unable to apologize when things ~ like Senators Brazeau and Duffy ~ went wrong. Our next leader needs to be warmer ~ I’ve only met Prime Minister Harper a couple of times, and very briefly at that, and I found him pleasant but he’s not, I think it’s fair to say, “Mister Congeniality” and he didn’t pretend to be. But campaigns are conducted in the blinding lights of the media and personality matters … maybe Stephen Harper was the last in a line, of a type who cannot be elected, again, in this era …

… I’m not suggesting we, Conservatives, should, as I think the Liberals did, pick a “shiny pony” based on charisma. But we do need to be aware that likability is important and winning and having the “coat tails” that help others to win is harder for an introvert than it is for others.

So: let’s keep the best that Stephan Harper’s legacy provides and let’s add to, it, too, so that we can, in 2019, add 10% or 15% or even 20% to our popular vote.

4 thoughts on “Stephen Harper’s Legacy”

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