More Mulroney Than Manning
While those on the right will try to glorify Harper’s achievements and those on the left will try and slag him, I think the take home message from the first year is that Harper really isn’t any different than Chretien or Mulroney. He’s made it abundantly clear that, despite his five priorities, this government has one priority and that’s re-election; re-election by any means necessary. Need to lure an MP onside with a Cabinet appointment? Sure, why not! Need to cut a deal with the NDP to stay in power? Let’s talk! Need to steal some Liberal policies to cut them off? Hell yeah! Harper has methodically been taking issues off the table he wants nothing to do with (ie. Same sex marriage) while offering a few tax cuts here and there as proof that the new boss is at least slightly different than the old boss.
So while there may be a few token musings about Senate Reform to appease the base, any doubts that the CPC was really the old Reform Party died when Harper stood up in the House and whipped his caucus into declaring that Quebec was a nation. With rumours abounding of Boeing contracts being shifted to Quebec and of equalization and environmental decisions which will hurt the West, it’s clear that Canada’s right wing has completely abandoned its raison d’etre. After helping tear apart the old Mulroney coalition, Harper appears to have re-assembled most of it and has governed in much the same way Mulroney did.
As for an honest evaluation of the first year. Well, he checked off 80% of his priorities, but several major flip-flops will no doubt make the “promises made, promises kept” mantra a lot harder to campaign on next election. Unpopular decisions in foreign policy and the shocking rise of the environment as a major issue will also make Harper’s re-election harder than most imagined it would be twelve months ago. That said, by hugging the centre, silencing the extremists, and playing “get elected” politics, Harper has certain proven he’s not the scary kitten eater he’s been portrayed as in the past. So, with an election no one can predict the outcome of hanging over out heads, the year ahead promises to be quite eventful indeed.