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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Stephen Harper Pragmatist

Trade Minister David Emerson's Belinda/Scott style defection has driven Liberals, writhing in righteous indignation, to the rooftops screaming that he's just like the rest of us". Stephen Harper has morphed into a pragmatist. Until reality struck, Stephen Harper never lusted power after power - he didn't think he needed it - he, himself, was, and is, in his opinion, the smartest person he's ever met - surely it wouldn't take Canadians long to beat a path to his door. His ambition was to set himself up as a simple professor - soon he'd become an oracle - the Christ, the Prophet, if not the God, of his religion - economics.

As, over the years, a scant few Canadians paid much attention to his ideas and, especially, after the 2004 election, Harper came to realize that H. L. Mencken was right: "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American [or the Canadian] people." And as Emerson (not David - Ralph Waldo) put it, "Ideas must work their way through the brains and arms of men, or they are no better than dreams." So Harper put his ideas, themselves, on the back-burner and his focus turned to the power to implement those ideas.

The road to power in a democracy is pragmatism - it's all about "team-playing", sucking up, manipulating, mediating, understanding and gratifying (often the darker side of) human nature - easy for a pragmatist - a Brian Mulroney or a Lyndon B. Johnson. But all very difficult for Stephen Harper, a sarcastic, arrogant Trudeau type, a truth-loving academic, a shy loner who neither liked team sports nor suffered fools gladly.

Harper's three main ideas (thank God there are only three versus the three hundred and fifty or so bouncing around in Junior Martin's tiny noggin).

  1. Decentralize Ottawa and Bay Street's existing Canadian empire.
  2. Build U.S. style democratic checks and balances into Canada's feudalistic/bureaucratic system of government.
  3. Bring free-market economics into the over regulated, over-subsidized Canadian economy.

Was there any mention of any of the ideas in Harper's 2006 campaign? Harper only talked of decentralization in Quebec where decentralization talk produces votes big time. Senate reform got scant mention and no mention in Quebec. There was no talk of hauling Canada's bureaucracy out to the woodshed. There was not a whisper of desubsidizing Bombardier or Power Corp or ridding Canada of the CRTC.

On the road to power, Harper's only half way there. To deal with a minority parliament, to wield a long knife to the gnomes of Ottawa, to Stockwell Day, to Art Hangar, to Doug Christie, to bring Quebec on side, Harper will have to suck up to more pinheads and more knuckleheads, dissemble like Mulroney and save his powerful sarcasm for the Americans. It won't be as easy, he'll, find as appointing David Emerson to the Cabinet. And the Emerson case shows that, of pragmatism, Harper is missing one essential element - the art of sneaking up - approaching indirectly - in your face's a no-no - before you commit the crime, don't warn the victim.

But, what if Harper succeeds? Let's hope he puts his ideas (all in the Eye Opener's opinion excellent ones) back on the front burner. But, let's hope that Harper doesn't become addicted to power. We fear that human experience will triumph over our sincere and idealistic hopes.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Lord Acton

Let's hope that Lord Acton was wrong.

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