Thursday, July 16, 2009

Is Harper Ready to Hang Up His Spurs?

Is Stephen Harper ready to pack it in?

Despite his endless flaws and shortcomings, Steve Harper has outgamed every Liberal team since Martin's.

I don't think Harper will be run out of town. I think he'll leave on his own terms. I would expect that sooner rather than later. I think Harper's horribly inept behaviour lately reflects a guy who's definitely not playing his "A" game.

What would possibly keep Harper in the job except some real prospect of winning a majority and that's not in the cards.

He's so far behind the curve on global warming that, even with the best and brightest at EnviroCan utterly gagged, he can't hide it much longer. He has bought as much time as possible. He's done an excellent job for the Oil Patch. It's not his fault that world prices cratered with the global meltdown. But time is running out.

Harper's hand will soon be forced on the climate change issue. He's going to have to set realistic and meaningful targets and he'll have to begin introducing measures to meet those. Other nations, particularly the United States, will be setting the bar and Canada is going to have to follow suit. To Harper's base that will be like shoving cloves of garlic down a vampire's throat. Do you really believe he, or the right wing of his party, want to be the people to deliver that up to their followers?

What have they got to lose by losing to Ignatieff right now? MI's already shown that he's willing to leave Canada's political centre far to the right (mission accomplished, point- Mr. Harper) and he'll be easy to attack as the successor to Dion when he has no choice but to introduce some form of carbon emissions controls.

Copenhagen is but six months away, the End Times are nigh. I think Harp's ready to pack his bags on a moment's notice and I don't think the Libs are remotely ready to deal with the vacuum he'll bequeath them.


D said...

Interesting post, but I fear that it is horribly off base.

Harper will not just walk away from a minority government to leave his party to the wolves (meaning, Ignatieff and the Liberals, who would surely crush the CPC under the leadership of anyone else). He'll lose an election and bow out.

You seem to give the environment too much weight in factoring Harper's departure from Canadian politics (more specifically, the PMO). Harper doesn't care about the environment and he'll put that issue on the backburner as long as it will take for Canadians to forget about it. Harper's main game: changing the channel. People want to talk about the environment, he'll talk defense. People want to talk about Afghanistan, he'll talk Arctic sovereignty. People want to talk about a ballooning deficit, he'll talk about big Liberal spending in the Gun Registry.

That's how he defeated Dion, he changed the channel. That's how he defeated Martin.

On that note, saying that Harper has "defeated every Liberal since Martin" is a ridiculous statement. It's a non-statement and, quite frankly, not much to brag about. Dion was a weak leader to begin with. Everyone who voted for Paul Martin, or Chretien, saw that Dion would have a lot of ground to cover to get them out to the polls and vote Liberal again. Imagine if you voted Conservative? Or New Democrat? He had no chance on swinging soft Conservative and soft ND votes. Everyone knew that.

Iggy will downplay the environment, much to the suppressed complaints of his own party and progressives everywhere. We can only hope that Iggy runs from the Right and governs from the Left, but that is probably putting too much faith in politicians.

Harper has already gone back on so many promises and campaign pillars that his base ought to have demanded his resignation a LOOOONG time ago. But why haven't they? Because it is better to have a dishonest PM wearing a blue tie, than a red one. Period.

As a Western Canadian, living in the literal back-yard of the Prime Minister, I see this line of thought everywhere.

Harper will be defeated and then he'll resign the same way he came into politics: by framing the discussion not on on himself or his own merits, but by demonizing others and creating a faux ideological war that the party must take up in order to keep Canada, Canada. He'll act like a martyr for the greater Conservative cause, and right-wing Canadians will love him for it.

The Mound of Sound said...

Well Dylan, if he hasn't defeated them did he lose his way straight into 24 Sussex Drive? In any case what I said is that Harper has "outgamed" them. It's his superior strategy that has kept him in power, nothing else.

If you want to see Harper's strategic acumen just look at the last election. When parliament recessed for the summer the Harper government was plagued with scandal. All that was due to be revived in the fall but he called a snap election instead. When he sent us to the polls the scandals had all died down. He knew he had the opposition parties off balance and that let him run a campaign on no real policy platform until the very last week before the vote. He didn't run on his record, he didn't run on a policy agenda, he turned the election (brilliantly) into a referendum on Dion.

Now I didn't say that Harper had defeated Ignatieff but I do stand by the claim that he's outgamed the current Liberal leader. How many times has Harper correctly judged the situation and called Ignatieff's bluff only to force Iggy to run for cover?

You seem to have an incomplete grasp of what's going on in the world right now on the climate change front. The environmental front is going to become huge at the end of summer, leading up to the Copenhagen showdown in December.

Harper is going to look increasingly bad because he's done ...nothing. I think he's in for a rough ride from the Europeans and from Obama. It's not going to be a pleasant time to be Stephen Harper.

I still think he's tired and looking for an out. Couple that with the chance to make the Libs play hardball on climate change and it's hard not to see that as a "no-lose" proposition for the tories.

The Mound of Sound said...

One other point Dylan. You misread Harper if you think he doesn't care about the environment. When it comes to climate change and carbon reduction efforts he cares intensely. It's why he went to the G8 with a plan to fracture European resolve on a global warming pact. Harper has been fighting this quite strenuously but he hasn't succeeded.

I really don't believe he will want to be forced into imposing carbon taxes or emissions controls on Canadian, and particularly Albertan, industry. Whoever is running Canada at the time will indeed be forced to do just that.

D said...

There you go again. Defeated "them." The whole both of them. A sliding Martin and a hopeless Dion. Against a man like Chretien or, in my opinion, Ignatieff, he'll have a hard time convincing the electorate that he is truly the strongest man to lead the country.

Now I'm not one to put on a tin-foil hat, but the media isn't interested in Conservative scandals, and those that you speak of during the summer of '08 are barely memorable to Canadian politicos, let alone the average voter. Which goes to my point of Harper's ability to change the channel and frame the discussion in his favour - something you even pointed out.

But this is all besides the point since I disagree with the thesis of your post: are you really serious that Harper will resign the PMO because of the Copenhagen Climate talks?

The Mound of Sound said...

Do you think he's going to be the man to lower the carbon boom on Alberta - when it's already on the ropes? Would you want to hand the Liberals that gift?

The international pressure on Harper to act is going to be incredible and I expect that to translate into domestic pressure. What's he going to do, shut down the Tar Sands? Is he going to stop development until a working CCS is in place - also known as shutting down the Tar Sands. Or is he going to let the Liberals do that and brand it NEP2?

Look at it this way Dylan. Harper plays wedge politics. Climate change will likely become the defining issue of the next two decades globally and especially throughout the Western world. Harper can't stop that and he's holding a losing hand. He can either fight a doomed delaying action until he's thrown out or he can leave, undefeated, and let the Liberals own the problem.