When you are Stephen Harper, and the National Post has commentators tearing you a new asshole in an article that seemed to shock even veteran Ottawa insiders, you know you may have crossed the line. That is, if Harper cares. Which a fellow blogger at Far and Wide argues is exactly the problem: he doesn’t, and likely never did. Armed with his majority government, Harper will now not only rule with impunity, but can afford to act callously, ruthlessly even, because he knows something we all don’t want to admit – he can get away with it.
Scott Stinson’s savage article in the National Post (‘Harper plays Canadians for suckers’) is most alarming, coming as it does from a conservative newspaper. Not Toronto Sun-Conservatives-can-do-no-wrong conservative, but the respectable kind. The kind that you can disagree with, but still respect because nine times out of ten, you still consider them sane, just misguided. Stinson rants with the anger of the betrayed: he writes that “as Wednesday morning’s events in Ottawa have made brazenly clear, the Prime Minister is not about to do a damn thing differently. Those of us who thought he might? There’s a word for that: suckers.”
He, like Liberal-blogger SteveV at Far and Wide, outlines the extent of both left- and right-wing outrage at Harper’s appointments to the Senate on Wednesday afternoon, in which three former-Conservative candidates who had been rejected by the voters on May 2 were awarded their failure with new jobs. The cushiest of the cushy political jobs in Canada. The condescension and Father-knows-best attitude is stunning, what Stinson calls “more patronage, less respect for democracy and less accountability,” and SteveV calls “one of [Harper's] most outrageous acts.” And that’s saying something.
As a conservative, and likely a Conservative, Stinson is outraged that as a politician, Harper seems to have been changed by the spoils of power, moving ever further away from the Reform ideals on which he cut his political teeth. Lip-service is paid to the bedrock ideas of modern conservatism, but the reality is more patronage appointments is bigger government. “As conservatives wait for Conservatives to show any sign that they haven’t forgotten the meaning of the word,” Stinson writes, “Mr. Harper intends to govern like the politician he must have once intended to be — back before he had the balancing act of a minority government to worry about.”
What it all comes down to is what both commentators seem to realize in the end: acts like these simply show the Canadian public what it likely already knows: that the autocratic, disrespectful and bullish manner in which Harper runs his party and this country is not some aberration from how he would like to run Canada if only he did not have a minority government – this is who he is! This is what he believes in! As Stinson writes, “if this is the way the Prime Minister chooses to begin his majority rule, in one hypocritical, undemocratic, and unaccountable swoop, then there’s another conclusion to reach: maybe these are his principles.” And for SteveV, this act perfectly “encapsulates the political reality” in Canada today.
I question why it took Stinson five years of minority rule to figure this out when it was so clear to millions of Canadians from the beginning. But better late than never. And I find Stinson’s disillusionment with Stephen Harper particularly gratifying, as it leaves me hopeful: if conservative pundits in the National Post can begin to see Harper for who he, there is hope for the rest of Canada.