This of course is the question Stephen Harper asks himself everyday.  One would therefore think he would implement policies that conform to what Canadians support, as well as adopting a leadership tone that comports to more traditional Canadian values such as tolerance and inclusion.  Instead he seems to consistently run perpendicular to such approaches in trying to realize his vision of what Canada ought to be and what Canadians ought to believe as opposed to what they actually believe. This isn’t an easy thing to do as recent events suggest.

Over the summer the PMO has attempted a couple of odd policy implementations.  One was the scrapping of the long form census on the alleged basis of thousands of complaints by Canadians about the intrusive nature of the form and the potential for criminal penalties for non-compliance.  When no such volume of complaints could be substantiated, Industry Minister Tony Clement finally conceded that his office could only verify one or two such complaints.  Remarkably, Clement then went on to say that these one or two complaints were enough to scrap the form since it was the right thing to do anyway.  Huh?  This was long after he said StatsCan agreed with this policy when in fact it did no such thing, not to mention the overwhelming and authentic outcry of Canadian agencies and municipalities demanding the census form continue since the data collected was essential and irreplaceable for their planning and budgeting.

Then came the expanding need for new private prisons to accommodate the out of control crime rates in Canada despite the statistical reality of falling crime rates.  Minister Stockwell Day confronted this reality with the unusual claim that crime rates were indeed going way up due to all the hidden crime in Canada.  It’s there, but we just can’t see it, rather like the complaints about the census.

Both of these examples expose a lot about the way Harper thinks.  He starts with the policy he wants, invents a rhetorical strategy to sell it to the public and literally ignores the facts on the ground contradicting the usefulness and consequences of the actual policy.

In his new book Harperland, Lawrence Martin consolidates the opinions of a variety of ex-Harper insiders who offer a revealing consensus of Harpers’ personality.  It seems that he is very smart, organized, disciplined and thoroughly ideological in his thinking.  He apparently has a primal loathing for all those who oppose his views and policy preferences. 

Don Martin of the National Post makes a great point in his analysis of Harperland by stating the obvious: If Harper wants to have his majority then he has to lighten up and let go of his rigid ideological style to expand the political tent, not constrict it.  I’d be happy if he would just acknowledge facts when trying to carry out public policy.

But will Harper do this?  It just doesn’t seem to be in his nature.  For sure by now this much is clear to him:  Thus far a majority government has eluded him precisely because he chooses to ignore the political centre of Canadian society.  One can’t do that forever and expect a different result come election time.  It therefore seems the only way he can achieve his majority is if the political centre of the country collapses, in which case we all lose.

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