By the evidence offered in his latest article for McLean's Magazine, writer Paul Wells is engaging in significant hallucinogenic substance abuse. What else could possibly explain his bizarre attitude toward Stephen Harper's recent behaviour. His article is, for the most part, uninspired an uninteresting. Despite all appearances to the contrary he claims that Harper has been, on this campaign trail, a brighter and bubblier character than he has ever been before. He claims he is having a rip-roaring time out there on the hustings. "He stands straighter, delivers his lines with more élan, and seems in a far better mood than four years ago, when he slouched and grumbled his way to a third consecutive election victory." I don't know about you guys, but having watched this Prime Minister carefully four years ago as well as in the past few weeks, and I can only think that Paul Wells has been dropping some acid or overdosed on his prescription of Xanax.
But I maybe Wells is only engaged in some wishful thinking enhanced by some excessive intake of caffeine on the campaign trail.
What is even more bizarre than his image of a happy-go-lucky, devil may care sort of Harper, is his notion that Harper has been a leader who has been carefully considering his legacy and his future image in this country. "But, unlike most leaders," Wells tells us, "Harper has grown used to thinking of his party's future after his own leadership ends."
Ok, upon reading this line this morning, I almost lost by breakfast through my nose! I can think of no political leader in the past forty years who has thought less about his party's future than Stephen Harper. First of all he has successively and intentionally filled his cabinet with people who are barely competent, comically obsequious toward him, and have been systematically starved of leadership chances by Harper's centralizing control. Harper has clearly operated on the assumption that if he keeps potential leadership challengers out of the way, he will last longer as leader. In other words, instead of thinking about his party's future, Harper has always made a very clear effort to make himself the party, to make the party so dependent upon him that at the point of his eventual departure, the Conservative Party will be like a lost child, with no idea what to do or where to go.
But perhaps what has been more dramatic than his hollowing out of the party's leadership in favour of his near total control, is the way Harper has systematically destroyed his party's eventual effort at moral leadership in opposition. Unless he really intends to make Canada into a one party state, we can reasonably assume that a party other than the Conservative Party will eventually be in government. Everything that Harper as done as PM seems to have been designed to undermine his Party's position when that time comes. Future Conservative leaders in opposition will have no legitimate position from which to criticize, for example, a future government from proroguing parliament on a whim, or for creating hugh omnibus bills, or shutting down debate, or for ignoring every and all efforts at cooperation, or for refusing to include opposition members in any international efforts, or for hiding government financial plans and projections, or for any other countless numbers of power abuses. Harper's Conservatives have centralized power so obsessively, and so thoroughly, that it will be a generation before they can criticize another party for similar abuses. Rather than thinking about his party's future after his departure, it seems almost as though he has (consciously or unconsciously) tried to set his party up for future failures. Once this government is gone, I believe that it will become for many many years into the future the very symbol of the kind of government Canadians don't want. It is the poster-child of secrecy and abuse, and will be perceived that way for a generation to come.
It seems to me that far from trying to orchestrate a soft landing for his party he has, like most oligarchs, robbed his party of the status of being a party that seeks to lead the nation, and has created a party that is perceived as narrow, mean-spirited and interested only in itself and its drive for power.
Contrary to what Paul Wells would have us believe, Harper has not led this campaign in order to soften his party's image or orchestrate a soft landing for his party. Rather, he has led it because he is obsessive about power and doesn't want to give it up. The best evidence for this is that he has, by Wells' own admission, receded into an ever smaller bubble of blind supporters ready to do anything he asks. A man concerned with his party's future would be busy broadening his own and his party's tent, surrounding himself with and grooming competent potential successors, and softening his party's most hardline positions. And anyone who thinks he is doing those things really is high on something!