The biggest Canadian political story of 2007 – hiding in plain sight

January 3rd, 2008
Email This Post  Print This Post  

In this National Post column, Lorne Gunter extends and elevates a thread I began in this not-so-distant Calgary Herald column (headed “A Rainbow that’s Anything but a Coalition”) on the remarkable success and longevity of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

The disarray on the Left, and Harper’s brilliant exploitation of it, was the focus of my column. Small “c” conservatives might well fluctuate between grumbling and speechless shock at the government’s pandering to causes of the Opposition – all of them left-of-centre to left-wing parties – the most outrageous of which to me was the plan to ban the light bulb.

Still, I argued, it was testimony to Harper’s ingenuity that weeks and even months could go by in which the ordinary person could be forgiven for thinking that Canada was governed by a normal, regular, majority government. Minority governments typically lurch from crisis to crisis on an almost daily basis, with party members and ordinary citizens getting up in the morning not knowing whether their country would even have a government by early afternoon. But Harper’s minority has proved remarkably resilient, and the PM himself generally calm and appearing in firm control. Again, more akin to a party leader holding a majority of seats.

Gunter’s column moves the analysis up by several levels. Some of the best points:

Somewhere around Nov. 1, Stephen Harper’s government became the longest serving Conservative minority ever – by a factor of three. No other Conservative minority – there have been four previous ones since Confederation – has managed to last as long as seven months. In early November, Harper’s entered its 21st month. It is now almost 23 months old…

Liberal minorities often produce a lot of new policies, while Conservative minorities are seldom around long enough to decide what they want to do, much less accomplish anything.

Lester Pearson’s two consecutive minorities in the mid-1960s produced the Canada Pension Plan, medicare, federal student loans, a new flag, the beginnings of bilingualism and multicultural-ism, the 40-hour work week and a new, more comprehensive minimum wage.

And, as the Edmonton-based pundit points out, Liberal minorities always benefited from the support case their way by an allied party of the Left. Harper has had no such help. All the Opposition parties are ideologically distant, yet the Conservatives have managed to bring in a solid handful of important and distinctly centre-right policies.

Gunter’s explanation: “He has mastered the art of manoeuvring his opponents into corners from which they cannot escape and without their noticing until it is too late.”

In Gunter’s view, this was arguably the most under-reported political story of 2007. But none of what he discussed is secret or even insider gossip. The entire analysis was hiding in plain site. The many journos who despise Harper have grown so warped that they didn’t recognize it, or so biased that they simply wouldn’t report it. Good on Gunter for doing so.

This piece should be read by everyone. That it ran on New Year’s Eve will mean that it will probably reach an even smaller audience than the Post’s usually weak Monday circulation. 

Blogmarks BlogLines Digg Facebook Google Google Reader Magnolia Yahoo! MyWeb Newsgator reddit SlashDot StumbleUpon Technorati