I really hope that John Ivison, writing in the Calgary Herald, is correct, and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper will remain “above the fray” in the forthcoming Conservative leadership race. People who are close to Mr Harper told Mr Ivison that “the whole business model of his firm Harper & Associates is built on remaining above the fray … [and] … he is happy to stay on the sidelines of the leadership race.“
Mr Harper has a special place in both Canadian and Conservative history.
He was one of Canada’s better prime ministers; he managed Canada through the nightmare of the financial meltdown in 2007-08 and the Great Recession, and he kept Canada in the longest war in our history without harming national unity or provoking undue civil unrest. he was, in my considered opinion, the best Canadian prime minister since Louis St Laurent and the best Conservative PM since Sir Robert Borden.
He is, of course, the father of the modern Conservative Party of Canada. Oh, it’s true that the CPC would not be here, in its current form, without Peter MacKay, in 2003, but it was Stephen Harper’s vision, Stephen Harper’s plan and Stephen Harper’s leadership that brought the two former parties together and then kept them together, through thick and thin.
Canadians never developed the sort of fondness for Stephen Harper that they had for e.g. St Laurent, Diefenbaker, Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, Mulroney, Chrétien, Martin and Justin Trudeau. I read, just recently, something about Prime Minister Trudeau’s enormous EQ ~ his Emotional Quotient. Canadians will forgive Justin Trudeau almost anything, even obstruction of justice and wearing blackface just because he is so likeable, so personable. Prime Minister Harper has a low EQ, I’m afraid, he’s not terribly well-liked. Respected, to be sure, admired by many, around the world, feared a little, but not well-liked.
But that aside, if John Ivison is right then Mr Harper is, once again, going to do the right thing in the right way. He will do things right, I believe, because he is both a patriot and a pragmatist. As a patriot, he wants Canada to have the best possible government and he knows, as do I, with 100% certainty, that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party cannot provide that. Therefore he wants to elect back-to-back-back majority Conservative governments. As a pragmatist, he knows that Canadians don’t want a Conservative leader who was picked by the backroom boys, even if they might be the ones best equipped to select the best leader.* As a pragmatist, who wants what’s best for Canada and the CPC, I expect that he will offer his support, behind the scenes, to one of the leadership candidates. I expect other senior Conservatives will, too.
The Conservative leadership race needs to proceed in the open, in full public view, and without the appearance of the great and famous, not even Stephen Harper, dictating the outcome.
For Canada’s sake, the outcome of that race needs to be a leader who can win in Ontario, especially in the suburbs around Toronto (Brampton, Mississagua, etc), Ottawa, Hamilton, London and Windsor and, simultaneously, keep the loyalty of the voters in the Party’s Western base and, hopefully, gain a handful of additional seats in Québec and Atlantic Canada, too.
* I will have more to say about that in the coming few days.