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First, the prime minister became a strong proponent of "incremental conservatism". Tom Flanagan, a University of Calgary professor (and former Harper confidant), defines this as "endorsing even very small steps if they are in the right direction, and accepting inaction in areas that can't feasibly be changed right now, but opposing government initiatives that are clearly going the wrong way." Second, Canadian conservatism gradually morphed into  a new phenomenon, which I have called "Harpertism". As I explained it in the Ottawa Citizen, Harper "became the figurehead for Canadian conservatism, adjusted it, modified it, and rebranded it as a moderate — and heavily watered down — version of fiscal conservatism. In my view, Harpertism is neither good nor bad; it just is what it is. Yet the way it occurred was simply brilliant: it developed under the radar, caught most people off-guard, and led Conservatives back to the promised political land." On a personal note, while I've been critical of Harper for his reduced commitment to fiscal conservatism, there's no denying that his strategy has worked.

Harper's quest was therefore to shift conservatism from being perceived as a long-standing negative philosophy into a positive force for change. To do so, an informal ten-year plan was established to create a "conservative Canada". This would involve removing decades of extensive left-wing brainwashing about the need for a nanny state. In both minority and majority governments, the Harper Tories have consistently taken a slow, methodical approach to running the country effectively as well as removing archaic Liberal values. They have demonstrated that the Left's long-standing description of the "scary" Conservatives and their "hidden agenda" was nothing more than tomfoolery designed to frighten the public at every turn. 

So, the Tories instituted a moderate fiscal conservative economic plan that would appeal to a wide range of individuals and groups. Targeted tax cuts were favoured rather than broad-based tax relief, and while small reforms to private healthcare were championed, a commitment to universal healthcare was maintained. At the same time, foreign policy positions got stronger. Canada took a leadership role in Afghanistan, and publicly condemned despots and totalitarian regimes like Syria. Israel was strongly defended, but a two-state solution was endorsed in various speeches. Walking out of the United Nations when a tyrant like Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was speaking was encouraged, but suggestions of leaving the UN were barely uttered.

The transition didn't always go smoothly. Harper, a strong leader who rules with an iron fist and demands fierce loyalty, ran both the 2006 and 2008 minority governments as if he had a majority. Coupled with the fact  that the Tories have no natural allies in the House of Commons, parliamentary sessions went through wild fluctuations of compromise and aggression. Opposition parties often threatened to bring down the government but Harper rarely blinked, telling them to go ahead. In December 2008, it nearly happened: there was an attempt at a coup, in which the opposition signed a deal in principle to bring down the government. But Harper was able to prorogue parliament at the last minute and the opposition alliance quickly dissolved.

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Leon Haller
February 14th, 2013
4:02 PM
The real issue WRT Harper is that he has done nothing to stop the Third World colonization of Canada via completely unnecessary immigration, the curse of the whole Western world. In this sense, Harper is a moderate liberal, not a true conservative.

January 17th, 2013
1:01 PM
As an interested observer from the other side of the Niagara, I have been impressed by Harper's political genius. A principled and practical politician, who realizes that politics is the art of compromise and steadfastness: compromise on those things you cannot change, and move incrementally in the right direction, while being steadfast where you cannot compromise your principles. It is unfortunate that Canadian immigration policies disfavor US emigrees; for if it were a choice between Texas and Toronto, I'd much prefer the later as an option for retirement.

Lynne T
January 3rd, 2013
2:01 PM
Funnily enough, long time Conservative Party supporters don't like Harper, possibly because they were "red Tories", aka "Progressive Conservatives" and Harper is decidedly "small c". Perhaps more than a bit of Harper's success has to do with the Liberals first chosing Stephan Dion and then Michael Iggy Ignatiev (originally an enthusiastic supporter of the invasion of Iraq, who later recanted in the most pathetic way) to lead Liberal Party after Paul Martin's retirement along with the hesitance the majority of Canadians have to elect an NDP government federally.

robert quinn
December 26th, 2012
4:12 AM
Summarily dismiss Anonymous' assertions. I've not the time to rebut them all, but I can assure you it's crackpot raving. (Full disclosure: I've relished seeing Harper put the boot into the Liberal Party, not to mention the meretricious Media Party that supports them. Canada's foreign policy (pre-Harper) could be summarized as a march of the milquetoasts. Absolutely nothing to be proud of. At home, there's still a great deal of smothering nanny-state shite to be consigned to the ashcan. The danger is the federal bureaucracy. Their's is the ox to be gored. Naturally, they're resisting. But fingers crossed and all that.)

December 23rd, 2012
10:12 PM
There was a good reason he won the Statesman of the Year Award. Too bad the negative left cannot admit to his success. We should be grateful that PM Stephen Harper has been at Canada’s helm during this global financial crisis.

December 23rd, 2012
9:12 PM
Excellent article right on point. Fortunately PM Harper is no 'religious zealot', but this type of comment only highlights how far behind the left is. They are still trying push the 'hidden agenda' theme which has never materialized. Neither did warantless wire tapping, which never was BTW. Don't believe everything you read in the media. He does fail to mention Mr. Harper's successes with native people, not mentioned anywhere much in the media, and there are more than previous governments.

November 22nd, 2012
1:11 PM
No mention here of the undermining of Canadian civil liberties through warrantless wiretapping - despite the documented fact that crime in Canada is in decline. And this from a prime minister who, while posturing about being hard on crime, dismantles the gun registry. Consistency is vastly over rated, eh?

Mike the Expat
October 25th, 2012
5:10 PM
I totally agree with your assertions and thesis that Conservatism can have beneficial effects especially flying in the face of years of laissez-faire, hyper Keynesian thinking. When you add in a true nany-state mentality it doesn't take long to recognize that Canadian liberals focus too much on Joe Unemployed as opposed to lunch bucket Joe who grinds it out every day. One word of caution, if I may. Don't even begin to compare the Canadian Conservative movement to what we are experiencing here in the United States. Gone are the days of moderate, fiscally conservative, small government conservatives like George Bush Sr., Christy Todd-Witman or Chris Shayes of Connecticut. Today's right consists primarily of irresponsible uber interventionists (see Neo-Cons)religious zealots who believe in big government when it comes to affairs of the bedroom and no-rules of the road for big business. I'll take Harper 7 days of the week twice on Sundays before this crowd down here.

October 25th, 2012
4:10 PM
Mr. Taube, Thank god you do not speak on behalf of all Canadians. Your assessment of Haper, particularly with regards to foreign policy is utterly wrong. Canada has lost much of its international influence under Harper's regime. Concepts like the responsibility to protect which won us great acclaim internationally as a nation with a strong peace keeping pedigree have become completely dismantled by this government. Our unwavering support for Israel at a time when even the US has been critical of Israeli policies have not won us any popularity contests. Perhaps Harper's biggest failing was trying to secure a seat in the UN security council. As such a successful middle power, how did we lose out to the like of Portugal? Canada has never been less relavent on the international stage. You fail to mention all the international successes under Liberal governments like keeping us out of the war in Iraq, the Ottawa convention on land mines and R2P. Harper's majority governments can be directly attributed to an antiquated electoral system which does not include proportional representation. Mr. Taube, please do us all a favour and keep your glory days and reminiscing to yourself.

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