To our delight or dismay, we’ve been seeing and hearing about former Prime Minister Stephen Harper an awful lot lately. He has been making the rounds to promote his timely book on the rising tide of populism in our midst. During his travels, Harper sat down with the noteworthy American conservative pundit, Ben Shapiro. The exchange between the experienced politician and the prominent thinker was insightful, covering such topics like the difference between Canadian and American conservatism, the ethics of trade wars, the merits of populism, and the reasons for the Left’s backward views on foreign affairs. Viewers certainly came out of the one-hour long conversation more enlightened.
Harper's lingering impact on politics
What can also be taken away from this is Harper’s lingering impact on international politics---an area in which he left an endearing legacy. Between his stance against the Iranian regime and Putin’s actions in Ukraine, along with his unwavering support for Israel in a time when such an allegiance isn’t so fashionable, it’d be hard for his most fervid opponents to argue that he wasn’t tenaciously effective for Canada on the world stage. It ‘s also a sign of the nostalgia some feel for the time when he led the Conservatives. As J.J. Mccullough writes in the Washington Post, there is a “crisis in Canadian conservatism” where “Harperite Conservatives still have an active interest in promoting a controlled narrative of Canada” that despite Trudeau’s follies, positive outcomes of Harper’s policies are still evident. Thereby maintaining the favorability of the Conservatives going into the 2019 election. In a sense, he has been turned into an icon and a rallying device for the Conservative movement.
He's a frequent target of the Trudeau Liberals
Contrarily, his name is frequently brought up by the Liberals to stifle any criticism of their conduct in office. When it comes to all the blunders, all the mishaps, the misguided initiatives, the origins of Trudeau’s flawed enterprise lie at the feet of one man whose initials are SH. Strange as this is since he hasn’t held the reins of power in over three years, Harper’s name is weaponized almost every time the Conservatives show their temerity to second-guess the wisdom of the Trudeau government on whatever the problem of the day might be. The latest display of this sort of deflection was on Tuesday during Question Period when the discussion turned to energy projects.
Trudeau blames Harper for his own failures
Andrew Scheer asked the Prime Minister if he would “throw a lifeline” to the Northern Gateway Project to help with the ongoing situation in Alberta. Trudeau ostentatiously rebutted with charges that Harper’s government is the one responsible for “the oil patch hurting” by failing to sustain access to markets. But this doesn’t hold up to scrutiny since there is a tangible connection between the plight of Albertans and a contentious decision by the Federal Court of Appeals that earnestly criticized the way in which the Trudeau government had consulted with indigenous groups, delaying pipeline construction in the process. Nevertheless, Liberal ministers deliver frivolous monologues that denigrate Harper and his band of malefactors to divert from questions with which honest engagement could inflict major political harm. For instance, when catechized by Conservative Finance Critic Pierre Poilievre about the cost of the carbon tax, Liberal MP Catherine McKenna chastised him and subjected Parliament to a homily about the “costs of pollution,” denouncing the Harper government as one who had “no plan on climate change.” The validity of the claim aside, the actual cost of the tax—which Poilievre had been seeking—was still difficult to identify after about the sixth time McKenna reiterated the point. When Scheer took him to task for his affrighting proposition to allow ISIS fighters to return home, Trudeau erupted a paroxysm of condemnations stating that Conservatives hadn’t learned from Harper’s campaign of “snitch lines against Muslims” and “Islamophobia.” Substantive explanations of Trudeau’s practices, however, are still nonexistent. But yes, the culture that was supposedly cultivated by his predecessor is to blame for the wariness of Islam and the trepidation about the return of people who were members of an organization from which some of the most brutal radicalism has emanated.
He is likely to come up during the elections
As 2019 approaches, the different ways Harper should have a looming presence will be interesting. Scheer’s campaign will surely be his best possible rendition of one Harper would have run, albeit lacking the same discipline that made Harper successful for so many years. On the other hand, it will be hard not to watch with the expectation that Trudeau will use Harper as an antagonistic character, loosely dropping his name in a debate to avoid responsibility for his own policies. It may help him stumble his way through Question Period, but it will showcase a brazen lack of character on that debate stage, and Canadians shall respond accordingly.