John Moore on the election

Written by  //  October 15, 2008  //  Canada, John Moore, Politics  //  No comments

John Moore: Farewell to Stephen Harper, master tactician

Posted: October 15, 2008, 12:15 AM

John Moore, canadian election, Full Comment

If nothing else this pointless election has laid to rest the myth of Stephen Harper as the Bobby Fisher of Canadian politics. The Prime Minister’s acolytes and would-be Boswells have peddled him as a savant tactician, the Quebec whisperer, the man who was incrementally moving the country rightward and diligently building the new permanent majority.

This morning what do we have? The NDP holding firm, the Liberals battered but still standing in their third electoral drubbing, the Bloc resurgent and largely the same Conservative government with an even more limited cabinet talent pool. Not exactly the triumphant fruits of patient political genius.

Harper’s first mandate was not without accomplishment but it was marred by chess moves designed to assemble his obsessively coveted majority. He handed out money to pocket constituencies, made massive transfers to provinces and recognized the Quebecois as a nation (which they have rewarded as per their custom: with nothing). He issued apologies and made two tax cuts that drained billions from the federal treasury but had little discernable impact on the economy. Then he broke his own law by unleashing an election at a time of his cynical choosing.

These were all red meat to political junkies but the verdict on their utility is in and few of them delivered the anticipated returns. Further illustration of Harper’s feet of clay came in the form of one of the biggest gaffes of the campaign. The Prime Minister not only attacked the arts and artists but dismissed the ensuing outcry as a “niche issue”. As Winston Churchill might say, “Some issue. Some niche”.

In its somewhat unexpected endorsement of Stephen Harper (if not his party) one newspaper cited the PM’s capacity to grow as an admirable character trait. Few experiences are more conducive to personal growth than being humbled.

It doesn’t take any complicated analysis to establish that twice now the voters have deliberately chosen Stephen Harper as their Prime Minister. But twice they have denied him latitude to rule as he pleases. If the opposition parties are prepared to show good will the Prime Minister must now build consensus in the house instead of cobbling it together willy-nilly across the land.

It will require that he cultivate in himself a quality that until now he has had in rather short supply: the ability to acknowledge the legitimacy of other perspectives and to occasionally yield to it.

If Harper can accomplish this in his second mandate he easily has the capacity to become one of Canada’s great Prime Ministers. Who knows, maybe he’ll build that permanent majority along the way.

National Post

John Moore is the host of the drive home show on NewsTalk 1010 CFRB. Outside of Southern Ontario he can be heard at www.cfrb.com <http://www.cfrb.com/> .

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