I’ve just finished reading Paul Wells’ The Longer I’m Prime Minister, a book I’m happy to recommend to Harper-haters and Harper-lovers alike largely because of the way Wells treats his subject:
I offer no blanket endorsement of the twenty-second prime minister. Much of what he has done makes me angry; much more is open to serious debate. But too many people in this country have spent too much time trying to ignore Harper, or to dismiss him, or, with varying degrees of ineptitude, to defeat him. He endures. I figure it is not too soon to try to understand hi . . . Readers who still cannot bring themselves to believe he is the elected prime minister of this country not only misunderstand Stephen Harper. They also misunderstand Canada..
The Harper-lovers will love paragraphs like this:
If there is a dominant school of journalistic thought about Harper in power, at least among journalists who live between Montreal and Toronto, it is that Harper is a loner with the instincts of a vandal. He came to power by accident and brings no project more ambitious than an inexplicable urge to wreck the Liberal Party.
Remember the fishing vest Harper wore at the Three Amigos summit in Cancun in 2006? Another treat for Harper-lovers:
The Globe and Mail assigned their columnist Leah McLaren to make fun of Harper on the next day’s front page. “Stephen darling, can we talk?” the column began. It was the best laugh the press gallery had had since two days after the election, when Harper walked his kids to school and bid nine-year-old Ben farewell with a brisk handshake. Harper took careful note of the mockery. His revenge on the press gallery smart alecks would be a dish served cold and in bulk.
But there is plenty that Harper-haters will read and go a-ha! at:
… at a conference of Canadian and visiting international public servants, I mentioned, in passing, that all Canadian ambassadors needed approval in writing before they could speak to local reporters in the countries where they were posted. The visitors’ jaws dropped.
or Wells whole section on the defenestration of Statistics Canada and the long-form census or:
the 132-page Economic and Fiscal Statement Jim Flaherty delivered on Thursday afternoon (in late 2007) still stands as one of the more witless documents the Harper government has ever produced..
And there are many case of what are, in my judgement, wise observations:
[Harper's] opponents had always claimed that the more power Canadians gave Harper, the further he would stray from Canadian values. He had grown the Conservative vote by proving the prediction wrong—not to the people who had never voted Conservative and would never consider it, of course, not to them; but to a broad-enough coalition of other voters… with a majority, he needed to be more of an incrementalist, not less, because the likelihood of any grand plan being read as proof of some hidden agenda was higher than ever before…
He is the first prime minister in the history of the country who has wanted to leave behind a government that is doing substantially less than when he arrived. That may be the simplest way to explain why he is so polarizing—why he excites so many voters and infuriates so many more.
I’m stuck with the evidence of my eyes, which is that Canada, nearly eight years into the Harper era, still looks a lot like Canada.