So Trudeaumania has returned to Canada.
Stephen Harper will soon be moving out of 24 Sussex Drive after nearly a decade in office and will make way for Justin Trudeau, who returns to the address his father, Pierre Trudeau, called home for more than 15 years.
Harper had won three consecutive elections, something no Tory had done since Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald during the 1870s and 1880s. The odds of Harper being given a fourth consecutive mandate were long, especially when many key Tory cabinet ministers and potential successors to Harper such as Peter MacKay, John Baird, James Moore, and Diane Ablonczy declined to run this time around. This is never a good sign for an incumbent government. Nor did I think Harper’s decision to make this campaign the longest in Canadian history did him and the Conservative Party any favors.
As most of you know, I began my political life as a card carrying NDPer and the thought of voting for Harper or any Tory would have been anathema. If I still had this outlook and was still living in Canada, I would very probably have a bad case of HDS (Harper Derangement Syndrome).
But that time was long ago. Were I still living in Canada, I would vote Tory without hesitation. Of course with Canada having a parliamentary system, one does not vote directly for the Prime Minister, rather for the person seeking to be a Member of Parliament in their individual riding. But many people cast their vote based on their attitudes towards the leader of the political party in question. In my book, Trudeau does not hold a candle to Harper.
Shortly after young Mr. Trudeau became Liberal Party leader in April 2013, the Boston Marathon Bombings took place. He could have paid his respects to those who lost life and limb that day and left it at that. Instead, young Mr. Trudeau said we needed to look at the “root causes”:
Now we don’t know now if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue. But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded. Completely at war with innocents. At war with a society. Our approach has to be, where do those tensions come from?
Yes, there’s a need for security and response. But we also need to make sure that as we go forward, that we don’t emphasize a culture of fear and mistrust. Because that ends up marginalizing even further those who already are feeling like they are enemies of society.
Stephen Harper considered this nonsense on stilts and took Trudeau to task for his remarks:
When you see this kind of action, when you see this kind of violent act, you do not sit around trying to rationalize it or make excuses for it or figure out its root causes.
You condemn it categorically and to the extent that you can deal with the perpetrators you deal with them as harshly as possible and that is what this government would do if it ever was faced with such actions.
Eighteen months later, a terrorist would shoot and kill a Canadian soldier guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa before making his way to Parliament Hill. On that October morning last year no one, not even Mr. Trudeau, cared if the gunman felt excluded from Canadian society. The only thing to be done at that moment was to deal with him as harshly as possible and House of Commons Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers answered the call.
For his part, Harper called the attack and the one that occurred outside Montreal days earlier for what it was — terrorism. In fact, Harper stated the man who ran down and killed a Canadian soldier with his automobile was an “ISIL inspired terrorist.” NDP leader Thomas Mulcair had earlier blasted Harper for pointing out the obvious. If, heaven forbid another terrorist attack occurs on Canadian soil, I doubt the next Prime Minister will speak with such candor.
Harper was willing to say and do the right thing, even it wasn’t always the popular or trendy thing. With President Obama’s abandonment of Israel, Harper became the world’s most pro-Israel head of government. His outspoken support for Israel earned him an invitation to speak before the Israeli Knesset in January 2014 where he spoke out against the New Anti-Semitism, boldly declaring, “We refuse to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage.” While President Obama made the Iran nuclear deal the centerpiece of his foreign policy, the Harper government actually broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in September 2012. How much do you want to bet that Justin Trudeau will re-open the Canadian Embassy in Tehran?
But like all governments, the Harper administration wasn’t without its faults. The biggest of which is the Canadian Senate expenses scandal. Unlike our Senate, the Canadian Senate is modeled on the British House of Lords and Senators are appointed directly by the Prime Minister. A number of Senators, both Tory and Liberal, claimed expenses paid by the taxpayers for which they were not eligible. At the center of the scandal was Tory Senator (and former CBC News reporter) Mike Duffy, who received a personal check amounting to more than $90,000 from Nigel Wright, a top official in the Prime Minister’s office, to repay his Senate expenses. Although Harper has not been implicated in the matter, there is a public perception that he was aware of the transaction and it did not help matters that Duffy’s trial took place during the election campaign. Nor did Harper’s decision to stop appointing Senators despite numerous vacancies.
Yet when it comes to scandal, the Tories have nothing on the Liberals, especially where it concerns the Sponsorship scandal. This took place during the 1990s and early 2000s when the Liberal governments of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin awarded government contracts worth hundreds of millions dollars to Liberal Party supporters in Quebec without competitive bids and for little or no work. This was one of the reasons Stephen Harper and the Tories came to power in January 2006.
Canadians got a hint of things to come last week when Dan Gagnier, the co-chairman of Trudeau’s campaign, was forced to resign when he wrote an e-mail to TransCanada advising them how to lobby an incoming Liberal government to obtain approval for the proposed Energy East Pipeline. Unfortunately for Canadians, they chose to not to take this hint and will pay the price for it for many years to come.
For these reasons, I lament the departure of Stephen Harper. More importantly, I lament for Canada.