Lord Black on the Man in the Fluffy Blue Sweater:
Controversial former newspaper owner Conrad Black says he fears Stephen Harper has "run out of steam."
Speaking on CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Black praised the prime minister for his competence, but said "I don't see anything original... it's starting to look like a government that likes to be the government but isn't really animated by what it wants to do."
I've been saying that since 2008. Then again I'm not a peer of the realm. Harper is now the 6th longest serving PM in Canadian history having just surpassed Borden and Mulroney. The former fought a major war and the later revolutionized international trade policy. Harper? He abolished the Wheat Board. A sensible thing really. Not a big thing. This is not a government of big things, it is a government of small things. Harper is, as Lord Black has pointed out, a modern Tory version of Mackenzie King.
Now King did fight the Second World War. Sort of. He thought the whole thing rather a bother, getting in the way of his equivocating and crystal ball polishing. The general impression in Ottawa during the early Forties was that CD Howe was running the country. The only time in Canadian history when an engineer was given real power. I neither condemn or condone that fact, I simply point it out.
Harper would, of course, never delegate any important authority. Even the late Big Jim Flaherty was kept on a shorter leash than Paul Martin. A modern day CD Howe, assuming he could get elected, would never last five minutes in the Harper cabinet. Big Prime Ministers breed small cabinet ministers.
This leads to one of the essential problems of quasi-Presidential Prime Ministers. When the King falters so does the Kingdom. The Pearson government bungled along for five remarkably influential years. Mike had little idea of what was going on but with one of the strongest cabinets in Canadian history the business of government carried on.
If the PM doesn't have any new ideas there are plenty of competent ministers more than willing to fill the gap. This is how men like Macdonald and King survived for political eons. How great Dynasties like those of the Tories in Ontario and Alberta were forged. If the King falters there is no shortage of Princes to carry the load.
A question I've often asked of Stephen Harper's career, really of any politician's career, is a very simple one: What was the point? All the fighting, planning and manipulating to get into the Big Chair and finally what good have you done? A prudent manager of the status quo. A bank manager who kept the carpets clean, the lights on and the books balanced. The world needs competent managers. But was it worth?
It profits a man nothing to sell his soul for the whole world. But for a second majority government Stephen?
The very sad thing is that, when the time comes, we will miss him very much. There is a very good chance that what comes after will be far worse. And that is the most damning thing that anyone can say about the politics of Canada today.