Conservatism is dead. Stéphane Dion is gone. The economy’s in the crapper. What’s left for the Prime Minister?
Stephen Harper hasn’t given “a single comprehensive speech on the economy, on or off Parliament Hill,” since MPs returned to Ottawa, Chantal Hébert notes in the Toronto Star. His “encounters with the parliamentary media” are brief and rare.
“There is no evidence that the budget has put much fire back in his belly.” Instead he’s been hitting up “carnivals, hockey tournaments and holiday dinners and Hébert thinks she knows why: his team is trying to cast him as a man of the people (because it worked so well during the election!), in contrast with Iggy the Egghead. But it’s just as likely people will unfavourably compare him to Barack Obama, Hébert predicts, who’s “talking up to Americans” in hard times while Harper confines himself to photo-ops.
Harper is not a happy man, sources tell the National Post’s Don Martin. His office is “hemorrhaging senior staff with proven loyalty; his mood is “darkening”; there was apparently “a blowup between a furious Prime Minister and key players last week”; and chief of staff Guy Giorno may be planning yet another shakeup. With little to suggest he’ll win a majority in the next election, an opposition emboldened by its new leader and a tanking economy, and few conservative principles left for Harper to defend, Martin would not be shocked to see him suddenly exit the scene—stage left, naturally—at some point in the not-so-distant future.
Maclean’s Andrew Coyne will tolerate no more of “these astonished little essays” about how awfully difficult it must have been for Harper to bring down his deficit budget. The Reform/Alliance/Conservative movement had been steadily shedding principles since the late 1990s, he notes. By 2004 it was only “vaguely interested in abolishing corporate welfare [and] tax cuts,” and referendums were gone by 2005, by which point “the courting of Quebec nationalists … had begun in earnest.” And now, after “jaw-dropping” reversals “on Quebec, on Afghanistan, on confidence votes, on foreign takeovers, on fixed election dates, on appointing senators [and] on corporate bailouts,” you expect Coyne to be surprised that we suddenly have “a regional development agency for southern Ontario”? Fie! And fie again! “The destruction is total. The failure is absolute.” The net gain is zero. “And conservatives have only themselves to blame.”