Exclusive excerpt: Stephen Harper confidential

Paul Wells has won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. Here’s an excerpt from his book

by Paul Wells

Jason Ransom / PMO

No figure in contemporary Canadian politics provokes more heated emotion than Stephen Harper. And yet no leader in memory has worked as hard as Harper does to keep a low profile. As Maclean’s Political Editor Paul Wells explains in his new book The Longer I’m Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006-, that’s part of Harper’s plan. In this exclusive excerpt, Wells describes Harper’s working style, his temper, and the sustained effort he puts into remaining an enigma. “The point of this word craft and image manipulation,” Wells writes, “is to last. The point of everything he does is to last.”

Exclusive Excerpt

“Let’s go through a typical day,” somebody who works in the Langevin Block suggested. “He wakes up and he will do various media reviews with his wife, just by himself. And then he will come into the office for around 8:30-8:40 a.m. and he will meet with his senior staff. And they will then proceed to give him a media review. But he will have a sense of what some people have written already.”

This is striking because Harper has often protested that he doesn’t read the newspapers. He gets what he needs to know, he says, from his staff and the enormous bureaucracy that feeds it. But sometimes he is ahead of them when he arrives at work. Laureen Harper reads the papers, the blogs and Twitter. She will often mention reporters’ work to them when she bumps into them at receptions around town. A recommendation or condemnation from her is probably a big influence on Harper’s reading.

After the media review, senior staff convene a meeting with Harper focused largely on the issues of the day rather than long-term planning, with a strong emphasis on communications. “He will give broad assent and feedback. He may make some comments on memos that have been submitted to him in the days prior. And that will be sort of his morning meeting, which lasts about an hour or so.”

A typical workday for the Prime Minister is hard to define because there can never be such a thing. Sometimes a visitor will show up—Justin Bieber or the recipients of the Canada Vanier Scholarships. Sometimes there is a trip to a factory or a meeting with a world leader. It’s a complex job. But on quiet days, “there is mainly a mixture of meetings in the office; but really there’s work time, where he’s reading memos. The main way he prefers to be briefed is via a memorandum. Obviously, you meet with him and talk to him. But if you want to pitch something to him, a short note is how he likes to be briefed. One or two pages maximum.”

This sounds all right as a way to function until you remember that before a weekly meeting of the priorities and planning committee of cabinet, Harper might have 50 such memos to digest. “And then he will engage with you on that basis. So he spends the day on a few notes, reading things, writing speeches. And then whatever events or roundtables with people outside of the government that get added to his calendar. And then the day ends and he goes home to his family.”

In his early days as Prime Minister, Harper would scribble substantial notes in the margins of the memos sent to him by the bureaucrats. The memos would return to the Privy Council Office dotted with comments. Bureaucrats took the running commentary as evidence that Harper reads closely documents that nobody expected would receive his personal attention.

Once Harper wanted Canada Post to issue a commemorative stamp to mark the anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club in 2008. A memo came to him explaining that the Prime Minister does not normally request specific subjects for stamps, because it is important to keep Canada Post above the partisan fray, or beneath it—or in any event away from it. Note in margin of memo: “I don’t care. I want the stamp.” Sometime later another memo returned to the effect that this sort of thing just wasn’t done, and perhaps somebody on the PMO staff could designate a suitable arm’s-length surrogate who would ask for a Habs centennial stamp. Probably he needn’t fuss anyway, because this was the sort of stamp Canada Post would normally produce on its own. Harper’s note in margin: “Who is not reading my comments?” Today on the Canada Post website you can still purchase an impressive set of 100th-anniversary Habs commemorative stamps.

After a few years in office, Harper’s staff decided the marginal comments left too many hostages to fortune: they might provide proof, for posterity or the Conservatives’ opponents, of Harper’s direct involvement in a file. The handwritten comments disappeared thereafter, although on each page of a memo Harper has reviewed there is still a checkmark and the initials “SH.”

If Harper can be imperious with the mostly faceless strangers of the public service, he is surprisingly collaborative with his partisan political staff. Several people who have worked for Harper say hierarchies tend to flatten in his presence. Just as almost any minister can get up in question period and answer a question on almost any file, similarly, job titles and formal responsibilities matter little within the confines of his office. Hierarchies snap back into place as soon as everyone leaves, but if you are in the room he wants to hear from you. This helps explain how Ray Novak, who began life as a gopher for Harper, wound up as his chief of staff. He was in almost all the meetings. Nobody told him not to talk.

Sometimes Harper is just a guy. “I was walking into work,” one former Langevin Block denizen said, “and you go in the west doors. And that’s where the PM pulls up.” A motorcade, several black sedans and minivans deep, will arrive from the south and sidle up to the Metcalfe Street curb. “And there’s a family there, and it must have been tourists. They were an Aboriginal couple. And the PM gets out with the RCMP—it’s a big deal if you haven’t seen it before—and [the tourists] are taking pictures. The PM stops to talk to them. And he brings them into the office and shows them around and spends 10 or 15 minutes talking to them. And I thought that was very touching.” There was a pause in our interview. “He does like junk food.” Any favourites? “Skittles, I think.” “I didn’t know him at all when I got there,” added the person who reported the fondness for Skittles. “People ask me what he’s like and I say, ‘He’s exactly what you think he’s like.’ Very serious, inscrutable. The closer you get to him, the more he yells at you. We use that as a barometer. The new guy always gets a free ride.”

One does get a glimpse of the temper. Several people report that he doesn’t yell at a staffer until the staffer has been around for a while. Clearly, then, he has some control over his behaviour. Swearing blue streaks at a staffer thus becomes a sign of trust. Nor is it wise to try too hard to implement whatever instructions he barks when he is feeling shouty. Sandra Buckler, his first communications director, used to take his tirades as her marching orders. A few days later and several degrees calmer, Harper would issue contradictory instructions. Soon, a colleague says, Buckler learned to take Harper’s tantrums as “cathartic,” not as an expression of his truest self.

Though they change, his moods often last several hours at a time. “He comes into the office sometimes in a bad mood and that will affect how he sees things throughout the day. And if he comes in in a good mood no one can do anything wrong.” The surprising moments of bridge-building and clemency from this government usually come directly from Harper. So do the truly dark outbursts of vengefulness.

When he first became Prime Minister in 2006, he built a staff that could handle the ordinary flow of routine government business. He has replaced almost every component of that team again and again, like George Washington’s axe in the old joke—three new blades and two new handles—often replacing a staffer with somebody very different. Yet the tone of the government changes little over time. The office delivers routine. The Prime Minister delivers surprise, for good and for ill.

He can carry a grudge. “He will refer to things that were said in Conservative caucus when he was first an MP, when he was first elected as a backbencher, and will use that as a basis for judging that person forever. If he forms a negative impression of someone, he retains it more than a decade after the fact, even if it’s based on a trivial encounter.”

Since Tom Flanagan wrote his book spilling many of the secrets of the early Harper years, Harper has continued his grudge against him. He probably won’t change his mind on that. More than two years later, Flanagan turned up at a Calgary Stampede event at which Harper was to address the crowd. While he was speaking, the Prime Minister caught a glimpse of his former chief of staff. Later, in the “green room” set aside for Harper’s use a short distance from the main event, he was livid. “Who the f–k let him in?”

For all the frequent displays of temper, Harper does not, his staff insists, forbid contradictory viewpoints. He asked Bruce Carson to direct the production of the 2006 election platform because, as he told Carson, “You’re a little to my left politically.” (“You’ve got that right,” Carson replied.)

Doug Finley, the Conservative senator who died of cancer in May 2013, ran the campaigns of 2006 and 2008 and organized the government’s defence during the 2008 coalition crisis. He was behind most of the party’s fundraising efforts until 2011, when his serious health problems returned. His wife, Diane, is one of the government’s senior cabinet ministers. I had the chance to ask him for some insights into Harper’s personality. “I don’t really know Stephen Harper,” Finley said. “I don’t socialize with him.”

“He has a profound ability not to care about being hated,” one former ministerial staffer said. He is indifferent to most criticism, and takes considerable pleasure from some, especially if it comes from the elites he’s mistrusted most of his adult life: academics, lawyers and the media. But there was one exception to this general observation. The guffawing that greeted the photo opportunity when Harper took his son and daughter to school a few days after the 2006 election upset him durably. The photos and TV footage showed him shaking his son Ben’s hand, as though they had concluded a real estate deal. Ben was a shy kid, as his father would have been 40 years earlier, and it is hard to do anything the way you normally would when you are being followed by a gaggle of photographers. As it happens, I have since had occasion to drop off children at the same Ottawa school many times. Almost none of the parents hug their kids. They’re dropping the kids off at school, after all, not ushering them into the French Foreign Legion. They’ll see them again in a few hours.

The snark about the handshake took Harper by surprise and, having nothing to do with his work as a political leader, hit him hard. “The notion that he might be a distant or uncaring father hurt him,” a former adviser said. “It’s the only thing I ever saw that did.”

What’s his speech-writing process like? My source named the four-person speech-writing staff, led in recent years by the former Calgary Herald columnist Nigel Hannaford. There has been a lot of turnover in the speech-writing office. It doesn’t sound like rewarding work. Harper “likes his drafts early and he likes to spend a lot of time reading over and commenting on drafts, especially on speeches. He likes to have a lot of time. He likes to go back and forth and make a lot of changes.” It is the speech-writing staff that serves in this tennis match. Harper likes a draft he can react to. Then he reacts in detail.

“I think the ‘Harper as micromanager’ notion is wrong in a number of ways, but at the speech-writer end it’s definitely that. It’s not that he likes to deliver deep and profound speeches. It’s really rare that he will deliver a really meaningful speech.”

I suggested that perhaps, because it is still hardly clear to anyone—including members of his own cabinet—what Harper conservatism really is, Harper takes pains with his language because whatever he says becomes the song sheet for an entire movement. No, my source said. That’s not it at all. Harper doesn’t spend his afternoons trying to find potent expression for his ideas. He works at removing memorable turns of phrase and identifiable ideas from his speeches. He puts great effort into flattening the prose.

“I find that oftentimes he makes his speeches more platitudinous rather than more [potent]. A good portion of his edits are taking out either superfluous phrases or ideas that people are trying to put into his mouth . . . He tries not to make news with his speeches, even with speeches with which we would want to make news. I can’t explain it because I don’t understand it.”

I had a hunch. Another former adviser confirmed it. “All the stuff that sounds good in speeches—‘We must,’ ‘I will never,’ ‘Mark my words’—all that becomes a line in the sand. It gets held against you later. So that stuff’s coming out. If it makes the speech-writing staff feel bad, well, they’ll live.”

There is a secondary reason for Harper’s penchant for literal self-effacement. He wants to be damned sure which line in a speech will get quoted in the papers. So he repeats it in French and English, and to make sure that one line sounds interesting, he makes sure the rest of the speech doesn’t.

Jean Chrétien mostly left speeches to staff and had no strong opinion about how much personality his writers should make him seem to have. He would grind through the text like a millstone through oats, haul a well-worn cadenza off a mental shelf to get a belated rise out of the stultified audience (“Millions of people would give their shirts for our so-called problems”) and call it a night. Brian Mulroney and Paul Martin were obsessive about reworking speech drafts to insert their own voice. Only Harper spends hours subtracting a voice from his speeches.

Formlessness makes Harper both harder for his detractors to hate (although never all that hard) and, paradoxically, easier for his admirers to like. Scholars of the storytelling craft tell us that when we know little about a protagonist it can actually be easier to identify with him. In his 1976 book The Uses of Enchantment, the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim examined the structure and enduring power of fairy tales. “The fairy tale makes clear that it tells about everyman, people very much like us,” Bettelheim wrote. In Beauty and the Beast, you never learn much about Beauty. “The protagonists of fairy tales are referred to as ‘a girl,’ for instance, or ‘the youngest brother’ . . . fairies and witches, giants and godmothers remain equally unnamed, thus facilitating projections and identifications.” If a stranger rides into town, we imagine he must be like us—that, in fact, he is us. If he is a blond stranger with a Flemish accent and henna tattoos, not so much.

When Harper first ran for prime minister in 2004, his name was so meaningless to Canadians that he sought to pour meaning into it with those issue-based television ads that ended with the oddly insistent “My name is Stephen Harper” tag. By 2006 his name had become a problem. His opponents had defined him, and he had been rather more successful at defining himself—as a jerk—than he wanted. So he kept his name out of his campaign advertising. Eventually he won the election, and then sought to reduce his presence in his own government. Some readers will recall that public servants have been told to refer systematically to the “Harper government,” but that didn’t begin until he had been the Prime Minister for nearly five years. At first they were told to call it “Canada’s new government.” Thus facilitating projections and identifications, Bettelheim would say.

I used to be surprised by emails from readers who, when they were not critical of Harper, were sure he was bold or compassionate or brilliant. On some days he has been all of those things. But on most days he is not, in public, much of anything. Observers looking for something to dislike get less fodder than they would if he were a loudmouth, although they manage with what’s available. Observers looking for a hero draw the hero’s chiselled features in the outline Harper leaves blank.

The point of this word craft and image manipulation is not to amuse a bored Prime Minister, or to help him cope with shyness, or to mess with the press gallery’s head. It is to last. The point of everything he does is to last. The surest rebuttal Harper can offer to a half-century of Liberal hegemony is not to race around doing things the next Liberal could undo. The surest rebuttal is to last and not be Liberal. “He always says, ‘My models aren’t Conservative prime ministers,’ ” one of his ministers told me. “ ‘My models are successful prime ministers.’ ”

As a student of successful prime ministers, Harper has certainly also contemplated those who failed. Some deserve little attention because they didn’t understand politics or were robbed by fate: Joe Clark, John Turner, Kim Campbell, Paul Martin. In Harper’s lifetime, this leaves Diefenbaker, Trudeau, Mulroney, Chrétien. Flanagan has also written that the largest majorities collapse under the weight of their own internal contradictions. That was Diefenbaker’s burden, but because it has not been Harper’s it needn’t preoccupy us.

Are there lessons to learn from the others? Perhaps these two. Mulroney and Chrétien were destroyed by lieutenants who became rivals. Trudeau and Mulroney went off chasing dragons and exhausted the nation’s patience.

By the time Lucien Bouchard and Paul Martin left cabinet and turned, in different ways, against the prime ministers who had made them stars, they had earned independent reputations as visionary leaders. They had built largely autonomous bases of power and influence within their respective parties. Bouchard’s resignation from Mulroney’s cabinet in 1990 consolidated the collapse of the Progressive Conservative coalition. He then built the Bloc Québécois from Mulroney’s Quebec caucus and from the PC voter base in the province. The rise of the Bloc matched, and to some extent provoked, the Reform party’s expansion in the West. Defeat for the Progressive Conservatives followed in the next election. The party, as constituted, never really recovered.

Martin’s resignation from Chrétien’s cabinet in 2002—in his trademark style, Martin did not understand that he had quit until Chrétien swore in a new finance minister—turned the Liberal party against itself. But only briefly. Martin had prepared well. Badly outnumbered, Chrétien manoeuvred with great skill, but his departure was coerced and his party badly damaged.

Harper has not permitted a Martin or a Bouchard to rise in his government. Nobody in his cabinet combines the two ingredients Bouchard and Martin had at the moment of their apostasies: an independent power base and antagonistic ambitions. David Emerson and Jim Prentice had no broad power base, so when they left they took nothing with them. John Baird and Jason Kenney might manage to hurt Harper in some bizarro-universe revolt, but it is not easy to imagine them rebelling. Their political identity is indistinguishable from the Harper party’s. During the 2000 election, Martin’s associates were laying money bets all over Ottawa against a third Chrétien majority; in 2011, associates of Kenney and Baird were busy securing the first Harper majority. The biggest detonation Harper has suffered came early, before he won power, when Belinda Stronach left the Conservatives for the Liberals in 2005. Nobody went with her. He won the next election against her new friends. It is hard to imagine Peter MacKay, for instance, leaving to launch an outsider challenge to Harper, but even if he did, the scale of the thing could not match what Bouchard did to Mulroney. Of course there is ego in Harper’s insistence that he remain top boss. But not only ego. A party that devours itself is fodder for its enemies; a party that resists the temptation of regicide can hope to replicate the King—St. Laurent—Pearson—Trudeau—Chrétien daisy chain.

Rivals are not the only enemy of longevity. So are projects. If the sponsorship scandal and Paul Martin’s ambitions were enough to put paid to Jean Chrétien’s career, the two other durable regimes of Harper’s lifetime—Trudeau’s and Mulroney’s—were sapped in the end by the leaders’ dogged pursuit of goals that bore little obvious relation to the preoccupations of most Canadians.

Amid global economic turmoil, Trudeau’s three-year battle with René Lévesque’s Parti Québécois after 1976 led to his defeat in the 1979 election, although the voters’ hope that less Trudeau would mean less tension in the federation amounted to wishful thinking. On his return in 1980, Trudeau defeated Lévesque in the referendum and set off to repatriate the Constitution. After he succeeded, Trudeau often seemed bored with the routine stuff of government. His globe-trotting 1983-84 peace tour probably sealed many voters’ perception that Trudeau would always find something to do besides routine public administration. Defeat for the Liberals soon followed.

For six interminable years, from 1987 to 1993, Mulroney devoted much of his time and some of his strongest cabinet ministers to building the Meech Lake consensus for constitutional reform, buttressing it against attack, and then managing the damage from its collapse. Then he did it all again with the Charlottetown accord. Both attempts were complete failures. The respites he offered from more than half a decade of constitutional obsession were those noteworthy barrels of fun, continental free trade, the introduction of the GST and the Oka crisis.

Do not take this as a comprehensive attempt to weigh the value of Trudeau’s contribution to public life, or Mulroney’s. Both men accomplished much. Both lasted longer at 24 Sussex Drive than Harper has so far. It would have been odd if Trudeau had ignored Lévesque, or sought no resolution to constitutional negotiations that began before he became prime minister. It would have been odd if Mulroney had not sought a different solution to the same problems, given his Quebec roots and his competitive streak. But both prime ministers burned their parties out by setting aside the routine preoccupations of everyday political life for grander and more diffuse goals. Chrétien avoided that trap, for the most part, by meeting the premiers less frequently, seeking agreement whenever possible before each meeting, keeping the agenda relentlessly on routine economic and social files. And it worked like a charm: on the day Martin rose against him, the Liberals were still healthy in the polls.

Harper brings a temper and a vengeful streak to office, but he is also awesomely clear-eyed. Because he is temperamentally the most conservative Canadian prime minister of his lifetime, he will not ever run out of ideas for conservative things to do. So on any day he has a choice: he can do the big conservative thing that would be the end of his career, or he can do some of the small conservative things that won’t. He is amazed that earlier leaders had a hard time choosing.

Of course Harper is often, and plausibly, dismissed as a mere fiddler and mucker-about because of the way he avoids grand battles. “His strong bias is toward arch-incrementalism,” one of his advisers says. “He backs away from ideas he feels may be controversial. And that creates a lot of frustration.”

The former Chinese premier Zhou Enlai said in the early 1970s that it was “too early to tell” what the impact of the French Revolution had been. Assessing Harperism will take time too. He has often done his best to present the appearance of drift and indecision. It is worth noting that there are two groups who think he is making some kind of difference: partisans to his left and partisans on the right. Liberals and New Democrats are pretty sure Harper stands for something they don’t like. Their antipathy is mirrored by stubborn support for Harper on the right. Mulroney was, on the face of things, a bolder leader. But Mulroney suffered an exodus of millions of voters from his electoral base. Harper’s smaller base has stayed solid and grown by hairs. A few newspaper columnists who proclaim their non-partisanship—Dan Gardner in the Ottawa Citizen, Andrew Coyne in the National Post—are always eager to complain he is not sufficiently partisan. But conservatives are pretty sure he is a conservative.

In rough moments, whether it was in the overhaul of Harper’s office before the 2006 election or during the perilous dip in the polls during the 2008 campaign, the Conservatives depended heavily on Doug Finley as a stabilizing influence. The wiley Scot came up in business, moving through cars, aeronautics and commercial horticulture—“real business,” one of his associates said, “not politically connected fields such as law and consulting.” There Finley learned that teamwork is more important than individual talent; that’s the lesson he passed on repeatedly to the rest of Harper’s entourage. “He would speak at length about the Spanish way of playing soccer and tell us how we could benefit from watching more games from La Liga.”

I’m no soccer buff, so when I visited Finley, I asked him about Spanish soccer. “It’s always goal-oriented,” Finley said of the Spanish style that has emerged over decades. “It’s very tight possession. Never give the ball away, because if you have the ball, they can’t score a goal. And have the very best material that you can put on the field. The very best resources.”

I read further about what the Spaniards sometimes call tiqui-taca, an onomatopoeia for the short-pass possession game. The parallels to Harper’s game are obvious. Formal positions matter little; every player can attack or defend depending on circumstances. The goal is not to send the ball way down the field; it’s to keep it close and deny others. There is a raging debate about whether tiqui-taca is an unlovely, unromantic way to play the game, but any criticism is muted by the amazing success Spanish teams have had in recent seasons. “If you watch the Spanish team, they can keep hold of the ball for 25, 30 minutes,” Finley told me. During that time, whatever the other team is doing, it is not scoring. “It might be boring to watch sometimes. But it sure works.”

Excerpted from The Longer I’m Prime Minister: Stephen Harper and Canada, 2006–, on sale Oct. 22. Copyright © 2013 Paul Wells. Published with permission of Random House Canada.




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Exclusive excerpt: Stephen Harper confidential

  1. Well, that explains the narcotizing prose that constitutes any of Harper’s speech extracts that make it into print. I’d long attributed it to talentless PMO word hacks, but it now seems I’ve unfairly traduced those faceless toilers. (I still think there’s room to bolt a few stirring or evocative phrases to the boilerplate, but perhaps that’s old-school thinking.)

    • I regret i have but one vote to up that sir. I don’t know about bolting anything up to Harper though…something to do with left hand threads i imagine.

      • Well, I penned the above as a proud reactionary/hater/crypto-fascist Harper supporter, but anyone who has suffered through some of those press release speeches has to wonder what dullard laboured over them. It turns out (according to Wells) Harper was turning whatever he was handed into pedestrian, prosaic, soporific dreck…on purpose. (Case in point: some recent East Coast speech released/purged for public consumption that was bureaucratese on Prozac. Awful.)

        One can well appreciate C. Waddells’s bewilderment. The PM has the chops to argue in colour, he just refuses to. How dispiriting if it is the case that yawn-inducing oratory is exactly what a winning percentage of the citizenry are most comfortable with (secret research has shown). Meaning there’s Mackenzie King method to the madness.

        • Harper’s career has been one of learning the rules of how Canadians want their leaders to act, and then playing by them.

          Apparently don’t-rock-the-boat-ism is what’s wanted.

        • I’m afraid i have to declare my ignorance, who’s C.Waddell?
          Anyone who loves the language as much as you appear to can’t be all bad. I forgive you your reactionary sins.
          Why would you continue to support a PM who apart from appearing despise the use of colour in political language and in life in general [an unforgivable sin in my book] appears to also despise evidence based policy, respect for Parliament as an institution, environmental scientists, rules that apply to himself as well as opponents…need i go on.
          Come over from the dark side sir i beg you. His replacement may well turn out to be less competent in certain economic disciplines, perhaps even more open to permitting corruption to thrive, almost certainly less obsessed with standing up for something or other, but he assuredly can not fail to be less intentionally dull. Give me a dreamer who cares not a whit for what a winning percentage of the citizenry are comfortable with as far as oratory goes, any day of the week. One MK in a century or two is more than enough for one Northern socialistic state to have to bare.

          • My error. Apologies. I conflated the other CP piece on Harper loathing and despising the Ottawa media vermin (or something like that) with this one.
            Re: Christopher Waddell–quoted in the other thing declaring Harper could easily do Q&A with whatever the press corps threw at him, he just won’t, which makes me howl. That’s contrarian squared, as Waddell noted (a guy who clearly hasn’t smoked enough ganja, by the way, to go by his bio; his CV can beat up a lot of people’s CV…not that it would, being a well-mannered and gentlemanly CV).
            Re: Harper (and I’m again reminded of Larry Robinson’s comment regarding Scotty Bowman–”The more you know him, the less you know him”) is an operator, not unlike others Canadians resented or felt superior to, but put into office anyway: Chretien, not Stockwell; Mulroney, not Turner; Trudeau, to a degree, not Stanfield/Clark; King, not Borden, etc. He’s not a ward-heeler pol like Chretien, Harper, or a flamboyant dilett…like Magus guy, but he’s serious about being PM. 2015 is already over, barring an asteroid strike before the next election. I’m not for turning.

          • Never discount an asteroid strike wiping out Harper’s career. And when it comes it’s almost guaranteed he will have thrown himself in front of it. The same could be said of Trudeau jnr of course. But the potential is there for him to play MacDuff to Harper’s Macbeth. It’s in the stars. No need for turning anywhere.
            That lady did turn a number of times, she just would never admit it.

  2. This is a fine, incisive article. Wells enables the reader to understand.

  3. Wells’ attempt to humanize/normalize Harper demonstrates his role as apologist. If this had come out after Harper had left office, one might come to a different conclusion.

    • It sort of reminded me of a biography of the daily life of Adolph Hitler. Certainly in many ways a normal and relateable man, in many other ways an eccentric and bizarre man, on one hand a genius, on the other a lunatic, still again someone who cared about and did great things for his country, and yet above all else a dangerous vengeful paranoid tyrant who was as much a threat to his own countrymen as the rest of the world.

      • Most thoughtful godwin ever!

      • So you’re saying Harper is Hitler?

  4. I really hope that when he is done, Harper is willing to write his memoirs with an honest voice. Til then, Wells with his nose pressed up against the glass is as close as we will come.

    • This comment was deleted.

    • Harper has never done anything with an honest voice. Don’t hold your breath.

  5. Wells gives a good over view of Harper. The interesting thing is a comparison between Obama and Harper’s styles. Harper remains low key and not very visible to the Canadian public. On the other hand Obama shows up daily on TV making some pronouncement or vacuous speech. Its irritating when Obama shows up on the tube. When Harper shows up everybody wants to hear what he has to say. Harper does not look for the lime light. Obama can’t get enough of it.

    • This comment was deleted.

      • I heard Michelle is going to be on The Biggest Loser. Nothing more important in America than to be seen encouraging fat people who want to be reality TV stars.

    • The TelePrompter went black, unknown to the techies who
      could not see it from their vantage point. Harper stuttered an imperceptible
      amount, and continued his stump speech–already delivered countless
      times–looking down now at the printed text placed in the three-ring binder
      before him on the podium. Laureen Harper was next to me. I could sense her
      growing panic, staring over her husband’s shoulder into the darkness where the
      words should have been. She started looking around discretely for help, but
      none was near…

      [I]t was not going well. Rivulets of sweat has started to
      appear on the back of the leader’s neck, darkening the top of his blue shirt
      collar. He miscued a joke about Davis, because it was new material and required
      looking down. Laureen grimaced a little through a smile. The two of them were
      completely in sync, feeling the stress, aching over the words yet to come,
      trying to get through an event that should have been routine, unremarkable,
      forgettable…

      Harper made the decision to dump a bunch of pages, cut his
      losses, and get out. ..The media took no notice, having tuned out when the
      speech started. Instead those few reporters who still had to file tonight were
      trying to find something new in this suburban crowd to report on. That ended up
      being Davis, former icon of moderation, who found himself in a scrum, while
      Laureen was handing her husband a tissue. [Sheeple, 38-39]

      http://drdawgsblawg.blogspot.com/2009/05/teleprompter-kid.html

    • You much underestimate the irritation factor when Harper does bother to speak.

      “Everybody”…you just can’t not speak for all of us can you?

      • By “everybody” he means himself and the large collection of stuffies that share the couch with him.

        • LOL

    • “When Harper shows up everybody wants to hear what he has to say.”
      It has been shown time and time again that Harper doesn’t want Canadians to hear what he has to say. I wonder why…….?

    • I doe one could care less about what Harper ever has to say let alone have to look at him.

    • They’d no doubt like him to answer some questions, no doubt…

    • We all “Obviously…” and “Clearly” know what Harper is going to say before he opens his mouth…

    • Regarding everyone wanting to hear what Harper has to say: I think you’ve got the wrong person – that’s Justin Trudeau you’re thinking of, not Harper. Remember that summer trip to the arctic that didn’t get much attention because Trudeau talked to the Huffington Post about smoking pot?

      As the article states, he intentionally makes his speeches boring and guts them of content. As a result, no one pays much attention to them, except you, apparently. (I don’t mean that as a criticism, just an observation.)

      • Yes, Trudope is just wonderful. He runs around talking platitudes, bromides and clichés and really says nothing about how he would propose to fix any of the things he perceives wrong. Then he proposes a pot policy without any detail of how it would work and you buy into this crap. Lets hope Canadians have more sense when it comes time for the next election.

  6. Sounds like a bully to me.

  7. with the attack’ on the media Harper has gone ‘full tilt’ – as if he has not been full tilt since his majority. as the late James Travers said ‘ the Harper Government has brought incivility to its highest level in Canadian history and that includes personal relationship and business end of the government.

    • Mr. Hurtig begins by discussing the Canadian media and how we
      now have the greatest concentration of media in the western world. In fact, he states this would simply not be
      allowed in any other western democracy.

      And since these same media outlets control newspaper,
      television and radio news; we are essentially only being given one voice. There are few or no alternative views. As stated in the video, a healthy democracy
      should foster a healthy and independent news media.

      http://pushedleft.blogspot.com/2009/11/under-stephen-harper-we-are-no-longer.html

  8. “‘My models aren’t Conservative prime ministers,’ ” one of his ministers told me. “ ‘My models are successful prime ministers.’ ”

    FR Scott – WLMK:

    We had no shape
    Because he never took sides,
    And no sides
    Because he never allowed them to take shape.

    He skilfully avoided what was wrong
    Without saying what was right,
    And never let his on the one hand
    Know what his on the other hand was doing.

    The height of his ambition
    Was to pile a Parliamentary Committee on a Royal Commission ….

    • Forced to provide a thumbs up here.

      • Be careful of the flying pigs when you go out next, they are a bitch.

        • That is funny!

    • King is one of his models, yes.

      “Let us raise up a temple
      To the cult of mediocrity,
      Do nothing by halves
      Which can be done by quarters.”

    • “So politick, as if one eye
      Upon the other were a spy”
      – Samuel Butler, “Hudibras” (1663)

    • Exactly. Didn’t Scott also write about King: “Never do by halves what you can do by quarters.”

  9. the 2006 election was stolen by harper when he cut a deal with Chuck Cadman and the in and out scandal, and the 2011 election was stolen by the robo call scandal. History may have something to say about the Paul Wells book. So it seems harper and his minions know how to cheat their way into office. Once your in office, you can use the taxpayers money to buy the rest of your elections. it cost Canadian taxpayers over 50 billion to keep harper in office. It also seems since harper has been in office, I don’t see a sea of blue across the country. The author seems to focus more on the liberal loses and shortcomings than on the atmosphere of corruption that’s been going on since harper was elected.

    • You can’t find ONE SINGLE VOTER who didn’t vote because of the so-called “robocalls” scandal. Yet somehow this “scandal”, which was found to be non-existent in court, was a massive influence in the election? Give me a break.

      The election was won by the CPC not because voters love the CPC, but the Liberal’s haven’t been able to offer voters anything of substance in over a decade. That’s why they’re in 3rd place while the NDP continue to take their lunch money.

      Yet you people continue to cry about how hard done by you are, as if the Liberals will win an election on sympathy votes. Get a clue.

      • The judge used the word fraud for god’s sake. He just didn’t find the level of evidence merited any further action as far as the election went. The bar for that is set extremely high, as it should be. Are you incapable of presenting two sides of any story at all.

    • 2006 Election: There
      was no appropriate consequence for Harper’s Conservatives (Reform Party)
      breaking Canada’s election law. Harper
      spent $1.3 million more than allowed to by law, “won” the election, was
      charged **and convicted** and paid a penalty of $52,000 (granted this was the
      highest penalty the courts were allowed to charge Harper with, but still,
      pretty low sum).

      The reward? Gaining
      access to the levers of power and deciding how to spend the Government of
      Canada’s $270.5 billion dollar budget.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jim-harris/robocalls-scandal_b_1305397.html?ref=canada

  10. A Mickey Mouse govt….Confirmed.

  11. sociopathic election fraudster.

  12. Carson must be a communist – PM Harper has bought two American car companies, disallowed foreign purchase of domestic companies, and huge transfers of $$$ to media companies and other industry. PM Harper is very left wing, he thinks in commanding heights terms, The State should be in control. That’s why Canada owns GM and our industrial policy is focused on oil/gas industry. Free trade deal better than nothing but PM Harper could have reduced tariffs years ago and Canada would have benefitted much sooner.

    Looks like interesting book, Wells. Congratulations on being published and I look forward to reading it over Christmas holidays.

    • Don’t be so impertinent, people, Wells book does look interesting and informative.

  13. There seems to be something missing here…no mention of the criminal activities in elections alone leaves a false impression. The lengths the man will go, to ‘last’; are an important part.

    Strikes me as well that the flattening of hierarchies can be viewed as a perspective found in sociopaths and psychopaths, extreme narcissism because there is still a hierarchy at play here, the protagonist fancies themselves smarter than everyone else.

    • Yes, Stephen Harper is clearly a psychopath. And you don’t suffer from Harper Derangement Syndrome at all.

      • You clearly have no idea who or what a psychopath is

        • Clearly. But I have to ask. When you were a child, did you always dream of one day being able to spend your days obsessing about the PM and trolling the internet expressing your irrational hatred for the man? For your sake, I wish your parents had hugged you more.

          • A troll complaining about trolling…aint that sweet.

      • Wrong. Harper is a narcissistic sociopath. Psychopath wouldn’t have as much self control as Harper does.

      • Harper suffers from Harper Derangement Syndrome.

    • WEll it’s only one chapter.

  14. A long lasting Canadian Government; for better or worse is one that aims to run silently.
    You can disagree about small policies but it’s harder to rail against.
    Mulroney made the American free trade negotiations into daily news. Opinions and reactions were aired and debated.

    The to be ratified European agreement largely remained off of the front page news until this passed week. Aside from highlighted base point topics most people have no idea what this agreement will mean for them.

    • Actually, it probably means nothing to us.

      Ottawa has a long way to go to give up its hidden tariff tax greed, and buddy deals for protectionism.

      Its why we pay $25 kg for beef, and the Montana same cut is $9.

      Protectionism and hidden taxes us a lot. I will believe it is of benefit to us when I see price drops on taxed food and clothing.

    • You know i have to say a respect the fact Mulroney made free trade such an issue, although i didn’t at the time. Turner too. It was a great fight out in the open between two pretty evenly matched opponents, the way it ought to be in a democracy. That isn’t Harper’s style and frankly i can’t respect that. He has the mindset of a powerful CEO or corporate executive, not a first minister, the head of a Parliamentary democracy.

      • I too miss those glorious times when John Turner would grunt and snort that Canada would be destroyed if we allowed Free Trade. It is to hoped that Trud. Jr. used the same oratory to squash the European Free Trade Agreement.

        • I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for the latter.

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  16. So he’s famously moody, given to profanity laced outbursts at his inner circle, holds grudges for years over trivial matters and is utterly unfazed by the hatred his actions bring upon him. Mr. Wells mentions these things dispassionately, almost as if they are unimportant details in the political life of our current Prime Minister. I feel differently about these qualities of Mr. Harper. Given his unprecedented neutering of Parliament and centralizing of power in the PMO, his character, more so than perhaps any other PM, is an important issue to the country. And I find his character wanting. I’m disturbed that this vengeful, petty man has such influence and control over the country I love.

  17. Very intriguing excerpt. Can’t wait to read the book!

    Not sure I’ve ever heard Dan Gardner or Andrew Coyne complain Harper is not “sufficiently partisan.” In fact, a quick Google search confirms multiple examples of both men complaining at great length about Harper’s extreme partisanship. I’m going to assume Wells means that both Gardner and Coyne bemoan Harper’s lack of true Conservative substance in his actions, policies, decisions. That he is guided by power for power’s sake, rather than any conservative principles. In that case, yes, both men have criticized this aspect frequently.

    Interesting thought that Harper keeps a tight leash on control to avoid lieutenants rising up and splitting the party. I’m sure there’s a lot of truth to that, though to be fair, the potential “lieutenants” available are hardly Lucien Bouchards or Paul Martins. Kenney and Baird? Hard workers, both, but could you really see either building broad based support? David Emerson was never interested. Jim Prentice was probably the one real potential challenger–in fact, may well have had the potential to grow a stronger support base than Harper, and true enough, Harper curiously let him go with not much more than a shrug.

    Thanks for posting an excerpt. Really enjoy Paul Wells’ insight (and wit). Will definitely buy the book!

    • “Partisan” was indeed the wrong word to use there. I should have paraphrased Andrew and Dan as saying Harper’s not sufficiently ideological.

      • P.S. Of all people you shouldn’t have to be told that we “patriated” the Consitution.

        Cheers and good stuff!

        • He was pretty fair to dad otherwise.

  18. What I know about Stephen Harper:

    Six consecutive deficit budgets, and preparing a seventh.

    $15.5 billion interest payment each year on $645 billion in debt.

    Borrows to pass on boutique tax cuts to micro-target groups.

    Borrows to cut corporate taxes below the level that businesses asked for.

    Fails to deliver on most major military procurements.

    Hires a party bagman (Nigel Wright, founding director of the Conservative Fund Canada) as chief of staff, who attempts to bribe a Senator in his own caucus.

    Can’t keep a communications director.

    Refuses to respond to reporters’ questions about policies and actions.

    Runs from the House.

    • And has the Government (Royal Canadian Air Force) Polaris aircraft repainted (now looks almost like Aeroflot) and renumbered to 01. Harper now flies around the world in his Canadian “Air Force One”. I am surprised that the media didn’t notice this.

  19. Hey, is that what’s left of Peter MacKay in the glass display?

    • They couldn’t spare a brain for him that day.

      • Or most days

  20. Short passes, incrementalism . . . But what exactly is involved in this slow-motion revolution that couldn’t be reversed with the stroke of a pen? Virtually nothing. To give himself something to write about, Wells has invented a grand theory of Harperism where all that exists is a small-minded man who fought his way into office and doesn’t particularly want to give it up.

  21. For me, a conservative, Harper is a huge disappointment.

    No choices on my rigged ballot for more efficient, effective less taxing government.

    All we get to chose is which corrupt back room gets more of our money while we get less in return.

    • Harper is a less charismatic, less intelligent (not a jab, I’m sure he’s above average) OBama. Both almost certainly hold personal views far out of step with the populace of their country as a whole and probably will be unlikely to implement ideas they would like to.

      As such, Canadian conservatives will identify with but be disappointed by Harper, American moderates will identify with Obama but be disappointed by him.

  22. This portrayal of Harper leaves one with the impression that his true role model is, ironically, a Liberal – Mackenzie King – who worked so hard at being self-effacing, nondescript, and unprepossessing that he could disappear behind the drapery in a room without drapes.

    • You are so right! Mackenzie King was a mean spirited wacko. He lived in a world of his own as does Harper. As boring as hell – unfortunately “the man who talked to ghosts” lasted far too long.

      • Guess we should have stuck with RB Bennett, eh? Know what “RB” stood for?

      • MacKenzie King was known to go out at night and troll the streets of Ottawa looking for “fallen women” to save. An opposition Senator inquired if PM King could save him a blonde…….

    • Never do by halves what you can do by quarters – wasn’t that the line?

      I’m not sure the comparisan holds up though. Flakey as he undoubtedly was, MK was a progressive for his day, who liked to get things done. If Harper’s a progressive i’ll eat my hat.

    • So you’re saying that Harper uses a cat as a medium?

      • I don’t think I’m saying that, although such an odd practice might explain why there are apparently so many felines wandering around 24 Sussex.

      • Hairdresser.

  23. One guilty pleasure???

    Ray Novak: Steve Harper’s Closet Confidant

    He used to live above Steve Harper’s garage. Now he may be the second most powerful man in Ottawa.

    “Ray is effectively the Prime Minister’s closest confidant,”
    enthuses one government official. “Not only as a member of his staff, but as a
    personal and intimate member of the Prime Minister’s life.”

    http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/07/20/who-knows-what-harper-is-really-thinking-ray-novak/

    -00-

  24. “Sometimes a visitor will show up—Justin Bieber” WHAT? WTF? Justin DID NOT show up. Harper and Baird chased him for a photo-op for MONTHS. THEY TRUCKED THEIR FLAGS TO THE HOCKEY ARENA WHERE JUSTIN WAS PLAYING.

    .–0

  25. If this excerpt is representative of what Mr. Wells’ view as “ilnsightful” and :”perceptive” analysis of the character of this small and mean minded prime minister then I will definitely be taking a pass on this purchase.

    • This comment was deleted.

  26. Great, we have a moody sociopath in charge…

  27. This article proves that harper’s only intent is to remain in power. He cares naught for Canada, Canadians, what’s best for families or the country. Just staying in power is his single purpose, each and every day and all of his decisions, his speeches, his staff, the government is controlled for that one purpose…. power for stevie, crime minister of Canada.

  28. “the amazing success Spanish teams have had in recent seasons. “If you
    watch the Spanish team, they can keep hold of the ball for 25, 30
    minutes,” Finley told me. During that time, whatever the other team is
    doing, it is not scoring. “It might be boring to watch sometimes. But it
    sure works.”

    It’s a little amusing [ only mildly so] that events can turn out to be be
    the enemy of even seasoned writers – and campaign managers. But I love the analogy too, having been a somewhat reluctant admirer of ticky tacky[ learn something everyday. I had no idea the expression came from the Spanish vernacular rather then
    the more prosaic English] despite my esthetic objections. Now along
    comes Brazil to seemingly finally end their seemingly unbreakable hold
    on the soccer world. How did Brazil do it – by being as disciplined as
    the Spanish, more aggressive and hard working – and the magic
    ingredient, more talented, imaginative and creative. Ultimately superior talent + flair + equal
    hard work and discipline can climb back on top.[ untill something else
    comes along???or more talented stops being hard working also]
    Brazil’s renaissance has shown Finely’s argument [ along with good timing and mother nature in the form of aging] to be right only up to a point. Playing keep away only lasts
    for so long.
    It’s a fitting analogy for the eventual end of Harper’s time – beaten by the more talented team that isn’t content to merely play keep away and stop someone with vision from running the country.

  29. This promises to be a good read. I hope my library gets a copy soon.[ kidding. I'll support this kind of writing for sure]
    The Harper contradictions in style are in their own way as odd and fascinating as any of our PMs, including Pierre. Not that i’ll get them. Why spend so much time effacing yourself, removing yourself or your ego from the record, yet as Wells readily admits, undo it all by being an unremitting jerk whenever you can – particularly when it seems unprovoked or simply pointless?

    Who’s the guy in the picture, the one with out the head? Or is that spot just held open for his next PR flunkey?

  30. “He asked Bruce Carson to direct the production of the 2006 election platform because, as he told Carson, “You’re a little to my left politically.” (“You’ve got that right,” Carson replied.)”
    So they’re on a similar moral plane?
    Our seemingly manic-depressive micro-manager, what’s not to love?

  31. I think Mr. Wells should skip the pretense of objective journalism and just admit he’s in love with our Prime Minister.

    The proof?

    1. Note the subtle revision of history.
    “By the time Lucien Bouchard and Paul Martin left cabinet and turned, in different ways, against the prime ministers who had made them stars, they had earned independent reputations as visionary leaders. They had built largely autonomous bases of power and influence within their respective parties. Bouchard’s resignation from Mulroney’s cabinet in 1990 consolidated the collapse of the Progressive Conservative coalition….The rise of the Bloc matched, and to some extent provoked, the Reform party’s expansion in the West. ”

    In fact, the Reform Party began in 1987, and was busy undermining the PC party in Western Canada long before 1990. And who was one of its founding members? Why our Prime Minister, of course. The same Stephen Harper who quit the PC party a few years earlier, because he became disenfranchised with that party and Mulroney. And so he and Preston Manning decided to build their own power bases, starting in Alberta, by leaching it away from the PC party.
    2. Notice the dismissive commentary towards Mulroney, Trudeau, and Chretien, somehow implying they were fools and failures for actually coming up with political vision and policies that advanced the interests of Canada. But not Harper! Oh no! [chuckle] Harper is no fool. “The point of everything he does is to last.”
    So Mr. Wells should just quit his job and run for office under Harper. Wait, here’s a better idea. I here some Senate seats will soon become available.

    • Oh yeah, you got that all right.
      The Reform movement started in 1987 and therefore their unprecedented success in 1993 could not possibly have had anything to do with events between 1987 and 1993.
      How dare Wells attempt to put his spin on history by implying that one of the reasons why the voters in Western Canada sent 50 plus loyal MP`s to Ottawa in 1993 was to offset the separatist bunch that Mulroney had allowed to fester.
      It would have been so much better had we continued to appease the Quebec separatists by treating Quebec like the spoiled child.

    • Typical Lefty response: “Don’t like the message, shoot the messenger”. Wells is hardly sympathetic to this PM, or Conservatives in general, which, of course, you’d know, if you’d ever read any of his many highly critical pieces on them.

  32. The stamp bit strikes me especially, because it fits my perception of the man. Except I think it goes beyond not accepting things a prime minister doesn’t normally do, to not accepting things the prime minister cannot actually do.

    I recall the author mentioning his interest in Spanish soccer on his twitter account. Wheels within wheels for our Mr. Wells, I see…

    At any rate, a fascinating account and I look forward to purchasing this work. I’ve heard scattershot mentions of events Mr. Wells will be appearing at for promotion, but is there a master list somewhere Canadians can consult?

    • Do you think the Canadiens didn’t deserve a stamp? Should a prime minister be caught up in precedence? Is it more or less dishonest to be direct about proceeding toward a goal….talking to the head of Canada Post about a commemorative stamp than manipulating the system by whispering in ears which is how things “have always been done”?

      • I expect a reasonable person would realize the possibility for partisan misuse in ordering a relatively arms length Crown corp. to print a stamp with certain subject matter (in this particular case it’s more potential abuse and I don’t think anyone would have a real objection). I can therefore see why it makes sense to make a request through the proper channels to not put the head of Canada post in the position of possibly having to come out and say no to the Prime Ministers face. Then if its a no and the PM really really really wants his stampy-wampy, he can pass a law in the Commons to do it,

        But it’s nice to see you in your traditional role of trying to explain away pretty much anything the CPC does.

        • “Partisan misuse” vs. going through proper channels….I see so you are saying that if the PM from Calgary had sent a “memo through the “proper channels” asking for a commemorative stamp for the 100th year anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens Hockey organisation versus just outright asking of the “stampy-wampy”, somehow THAT makes it easier to say no to the PM’s request.

          • The germane sentence is reproduced below:

            Sometime later another memo returned to the effect that this sort of thing just wasn’t done, and perhaps somebody on the PMO staff could designate a suitable arm’s-length surrogate who would ask for a Habs centennial stamp

          • “designate a suitable arm’s-length surrogate who would ask for a Habs centennial stamp”……hahaha! What a load of bureaucratic bs! So the PM should get his “lap dog” to designate a lacky to write a memo asking for what the PM suggests as a “stampy wampy”. Meanwhile, it IS the PM’s suggestion but somehow THIS is not partisan misuse? Oh pleeese…… Cut the crap! It is ridiculous disingenuous bureaucracy. Taking the round-a-bout vs. the direct way doesn’t make an action any less egregious. If suggesting a stamp is a terrible faux paux for a PM, then doing it arms length is just as bad as doing it direct.

          • Well it’s been explained to you in reasonable terms. If you still don’t get it further explaining is unlikely to help.

            This does not look good on you and patting yourself on the back for your failure to understand is unimpressive.

          • Oh I understand what you think the difference is but I disagree that there is a real difference except that one method of the PM getting his “stampy wampy” is direct and the other is cloaked in subterfuge, which some people seem to think is preferable and acceptable. Either way, the PM is interfering in the business of a crown corporation.
            As for me “patting myself on the back…no not at all. I am not the one on here mocking children who are victims of bulling and calling them, “losers”. If you feel that compelled to score cheap points off of Stephen Harper, perhaps you should exam your own need to self-congratulate.

          • Either way, it doesn’t look good on Harper that he doesn’t think rules apply to him, and thinks he should unilaterally decide what goes on stamps.

            What part of that point is “cheap”?

          • I think you are right overall, but it should be pointed out that it’s not a rule, but a longstanding practice that exists for a respectable, intelligible reason. Although I suspect if it were an actual rule, he’d feel the same way and yell even more loudly when he was thwarted.

          • I’m afraid that you and your fellow pack of Liberal hacks wouldn’t recognize “reason”, when it comes to PMSH, if it smacked you in the face. Don’t talk to me about “reason:, as you “progressives” are so fanatically unreasonable when it comes to this PM, it’s laughable.

          • Look at how you weasely, little leftards are getting all hung up on one silly little anecdote from Wells. You guys are amusing and pathetic simultaneously!

          • A tip for you: I’ve tried, with great frustration, to use reason and common sense with embittered, petty lefties many times before, It’s futile, because when it comes to this PM, they threw reason and open-mindedness out the window a long, long time ago.

      • What are you quoting?

        Nothing in this piece that I can see. What it does say is that PMs don’t tell Canada Post what goes on the stamps.

        • In this instance, lenny I am not quoting anyone. Rather, I am using quotation marks for emphasis. This is an acceptable use of quotation marks in English writing. If you have any other questions related to grammatical issues, I would be happy to be of assistance to you. Otherwise, feel free to run along and harass someone else who is more enamored of your commentary than I am.

          • It’s not an acceptable use of quotations marks, but that’s irrelevant.

            What is relevant is that you fabricated your assertion that Harper’s overstepping his bounds with Canada Post was nothing new other than his doing so directly.

        • Oh, please!!! Get off it. That’s an insignificant, trivial little anecdote that you’re deliberately blowing all out of proportion just to reinforce your own personal, pre-existing, partian bias against the man, and nothing else.

  33. This man is destroying the unity of the country.

    • Nice example of unsubstantiated, overheated hyperbole, but getting bak to reality for a moment, HOW is he allegedly doing that?

  34. He is a mentally sick and highly dishonest man not worthy of the office he holds.

    • Exactly what mental illness does he suffer from?

    • What a massively sill thing for a supposedly mature person to say. And you’re qualified to make this psychological assessment on what basis, exactly? LOL. Seriously, though, if that’s the best you can do to assuage your fragile, lefty ego, just go home now.

  35. Hey lefties you can have Uncle Barack, Joe the Biden and Rachel Maddow; I’ll take Stephen Harper AND Alise Mills AND Tasha Kheiriddin with me.

    • If you take all of them to a deserted island and all stay there, you will have the everlasting gratitude of many a Canadian.

      • You mean the “gratitude of many a lefty Canadian. On the other hand, sensible Canadians are garateful that none of them are going anywhere soon. Second straight Tory majority and fourth straight electoral decimation of the Libs coming to a theatre near you October, 2015!!!!

    • Alise Mills -BHAHAHAHAHAHAH – oh sorry. Have a good trip, wherever you’re going.

      • Alise Mills is the BCNDP’s worst nightmare and the sweetest dream of the Pacific Northwest’s free enterprise movement is Prime Minister of Canada Alise Mills.

      • Sure, Alise Mills. She’s smart, doesn’t tolerate lefty fools, very hot and conservative all wrapped up in one> My dream woman!

        • I daydream of Alise quite frankly

  36. Typical bully traits. Be mean and scare everyone one day then be super nice where “no one can do wrong” the next. These are bullying tactics and manipulation. Bullies love to control peoples emotions. Have them scared and hate him one day then have them laugh and smile at their stupid jokes when they’re in a good mood the next. These bullies will watch their victims reaction closely too nothing pleases them more than to see someone they’ve been mean to or insulted feign a smile. Puppeteering. Who else but someone in power can be mean then get a laugh the next day? Its actually a terrible abuse of power. I’ve seen bosses do this for the same reason – they know people want their jobs and they take pleasure watching how much they’ll bend and kiss their butt for their job. I watched a boss abuse an employee to tears while the rest of the herd sat in silence because they were afraid. I wasn’t, I told him off like he’d never been told off before. Tears came into his eyes as he stood speechless and dumfounded at me. I got “laid off” about a month later. Ask me if I care though.

  37. How did such an infantile, hostile man (“I don’t care. I want the stamp”) become prime minister.

    • You obviously have no idea how politicians work. I work in municipal government and have the same issues with the top people.

      • Except that it’s clear from the piece that it isn’t how it works.

        • I can assure you that that is how it works and it get’s worse the further they get from the electorate. A politician can demand things get done “for the people” (even if it isn’t), a bureaucrat just demands.

          • Ah. We have your assurance.

            The guy that assured us that all the ELA had really done was an acid rain study.

        • Definitely lenny !
          Why can`t Harper act like the great PM`s from the past and appoint message carriers to do the work ?
          Why does he eliminate all the middle men and actually state what he would like ?
          Why does he not know ” how it works “.

          • If you have evidence that past PMs used Canada Post to print their pet stamp projects, by all means present it.

  38. A PM that keeps out of my daily life is exactly what I want, unlike previous ones that just couldn’t help being in the spotlight. regarding the media there is nothing that sticks out, clearly the media has a double standard when it comes to Conservatives, they need to go to unknown sources in order to put their spin, not democratic at all actually very child like

    so if the PM is pissing of the far lefties he’s doing a good job

    • Maybe you didnt get the memo but a spotlight comes with the job of being the leader of a country. And yes therein lies the problem cons are so obsessed with “pissing off the lefties” they lost sight of whether or not he’s doing a good job. I’m sure Harper is very thankfull for your blind faith. baa-a-a-a.

      • Our “blind faith”? Is that anything like your “blind hatred” of the man and calculated neglect of any of the many substantial improvements to Canada he’s made as PM?

        • Improvements to Canada… Such as?

    • Must burn you up inside to travel on a public highway to go see the family doctor.

      • Yeah metalxx, yo mama is so ugly that she don`t have no family doctor.
        Ya gotta love irrelevant insults !

      • Irrelevant red herring. Try again.

    • Exactly!!!!! Keep the raving lefties foaming at the mouth Mr. Haper! It’s fun to watch.

  39. Who would you rather have? Harper and his Spanish Soccer Team or Obama, the movie stars and the talk shows? Seems to me Harper is getting more done using the team than Obama is using the TV circuit and Hollywood.

    • Obama

      • Obama is an empty vessel who’s gotten a free-ride from an overwhelmingly leftist, sympathetic media, just like Justine here in Canada.

    • I would take Howdy Doody over the mean spirited, manipulative, Harper any day. He is also taking us down the same path of America of lower taxes by running up the deficit.. Soon they will be saying we can not afford any social programs but if you are rich you will do fine.

    • Agreed. Obama, and Trudeau Jr., is all show & no go, whereas PMSH is the exact opposite: keep a low profile and actually accomplish worthwhile things. But, remember sychophantic liberals/lefties love the shiney objects approach, because–being ardent devotees of the shallow, celebrity-obsessed pop vulture of our era, they base their political decisions on trivial, irrelevant criteria about how a certain politician makes them “feel”, instead of using their judgment and reasoning skills.

      • Terry, The majority of Cdns. didn’t vote for your man. Only 22.4% of eligible voters voted for Harper and to suggest that the majority of Cdns. “love shiney objects…devotees of the shallow…about how a certain politicians makes the feel” is to in addition to illustrating a fundamental lack of understanding of how & why people vote (emotionally btw) insults a huge % of Canadians. I did not vote for Harper because I have different set values but that doesn’t make shallow. Sad when policitcal discourse is reduced to name calling & insults.

  40. Seems to me that it would have been much more efficient to simply say that Stephen Harper will say or do anything to obtain and stay in power. Nothing else matters; not even the interests of our country.

    • That’s your biased and partisan take on it, but not necessarily what I, or many others, gleaned from the excerpt.

  41. Yes, “to last”, but for what purpose Paul?

    The answer is clear: Harper wants to last long enough to make his social and fiscal conservative ideology the natural governing ideology.

    C’est ca.

    And to do this, Harper is creating opportunity for foreign expertise to emigrate to Canada, at the expense of their home countries, to fill the lack of high skilled jobs in the industrial and mining sectors by accelerating the pace at which Canada hollows out our natural resources, at the expense of unskilled Canadian workers who might become skilled workers if it were not for the breakneck pace at which companies are extracting Canada’s natural resources, and having these skilled immigrants who are good and hardworking people who are happy to provide a better life for their families and eventual descendants, and to have these immigrants attain Canadian Citizenship while Harper’s fiscal and social conservative government is in power, and, therefore, have these immigrants and their descendants, and their descendants, and their… pledge allegiance to Conservative Party of Canada for generations to come out of the gratitude that they feel towards the Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, and by association the Conservative Party, for giving them the opportunity to come to Canada to create a better life for themselves and their families, thereby making the Conservative Party of Canada the natural governing Party for generations to come.

    Just like Pierre Elliott Trudeau did in the 1970s.

    That’s the only reason Stephen Harper wants to last.

    Sincerely and Respectfully,
    Mark Andrew Brown
    @SaultCabbie

  42. The anecdote about Harper being hurt by criticism of him shaking Ben’s hand when he went off to school, was telling. Both for Harper, and for the media.

    I have one son, and one daughter), and now have five grandsons; all ten and older. Possibly the worst thing that a Dad could do to a pre-teen or teenage boy would be to hug him as he was dropped off on his first day at a new school. It could destroy his whole year.

    The fact that Harper didn’t tells me he understands. The fact that most of the media set their hair on fire tells me they are from another planet; are idiots when it comes to boys; or that they will grasp at anything with which they can unload vitriol on Harper. Of course it is the latter, which simply makes them shitty journalists.

    • While many children feel they are too cool for hugs, if it causes AN ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR of ostracism rather than a few minutes of ribbing, the kid has to have been a pretty big loser to begin with. His or her parents may as well hug him or her again, because he or she will need it with the life they are going to lead.

      As for Harper, it fits so well with the unfeeling autocratic nature of his rule the press simply couldn’t NOT afford to run with it. It was hilarious.

      • “As for Harper, it fits so well with the unfeeling autocratic nature of his rule the press simply couldn’t NOT afford to run with it. It was hilarious.”

        Correction: “As for Harper, it fits so well with the unfeeling autocratic nature of his rule the press HAS FABRICATED they simply couldn’t NOT afford to run with it. It was hilarious.”

    • 100% agreed!!!! First rule of bitter, vengeful lefties: if you can’t find actual proof to buttress your bias, make it up.

  43. Sound like mr Harper emulating Henry the 8th

  44. Thank you for this informative story. All this tells me is that our Prime Minister is mentally unstable.

    • I get your M.O. Pre-form your opinion ahead of time, then simply find trivial little bits in whatever you read that conforms to your pre-existing bias. Right?

  45. I suspect that the reason Stephen Harper keeps a low profile is because he knows that to know him is to hate him.

    • He knows that, does he? Geez, give it a rest. Your hyperbole is pedantic and tiresome.

  46. There isn’t a lot of content here. Someone says Harper likes Skittles. Someone else says he doesn’t care much about his public image. Okay, has anyone ask him directly? “Mr. Harper, what role does personality play in strategic leadership of the federal government?” Left-wing writers want to talk about Harper the man, Harper the guy, Harper Harper Harper. What’s the matter, can’t find any objections with his policies so you object to his sweater and tone of voice?

    • Sure Dan. How would you suggest asking him? Shouting out the question at one of his photo ops? Tweeting him?

    • It’s called character assassination and lefties are notorious for their fondness for this low-brow, smear-job way of doing things.

      • Really? A CPC supporter talking about character assassination like they would never dream of such a thing? Wow!
        What alternate reality did you just wander in from?

    • Dan, There has been enormous oposition to his policies, there were protests in streets over the omnibus budget legislation, the F35 procurment mess, environmental de-regulation, porogation, the Afgan detainee scandal, his handeling of the 2008 financial crisis, abuse of government resources and so on. My question is why haven’t you noticed?

  47. Like I thought a sociopath. God help us!

    • There’s ZERO evidence in this brief excerpt that describes a “sociopath”, unless, that is, you’re referring to Trudeau Sr., or Chretien. I guess you and I werer reading different columns.

      • There’s quite a bit, really. You may need to go read up on sociopaths – I have a feeling your idea of a sociopath may differ from reality. I recommend Martha Stout’s The Sociopath Next Door

  48. This excerpt reads like third hand gossip. A boring waste of time. Don’t waste your time and money on the book.

  49. Incompetence often gains its footing through mild tyranny.

    • As Chretien amply displayed. But, what are your thoughts about PMSH’s reported style of governing and Wells’s account of it?

  50. As I stumbled upon this article, it quickly hot me that Mclean’s must have bussed over the gaggle of cynical, lefty ninned who consistently pollute the twittersphere over at CBC’s Power*& Politics, as their irrelevant, petty and snide derisive remarks levelled at the best PM since WWII mirroe the snotty tweets from lefty hipsters on P & P.

  51. Most important single sentence in the entire excerpt is this: “No figure in contemporary Canadian politics provokes more heated emotion than Stephen Harper”

    And, the reason PMSH arouses such intense hatred from “progressives” is precisely because he’s firm about where he wants to take the country, doesn’t suffer lefty fools gladly, and, frankly, doesn’t give a snap about what the gaggle of negative, cynical lefties in the media think.

    The only thing worse than hatred is indifference and because PMSH is dismissive of the constant criticism from the Left, that drives them batty because it throws their insignificance straight back into their smarmy, elitist faces!

  52. Very interesting point about him making his speeches more dull. I used to work with a management consultant who would edit my memos to make them more bureaucratic- sounding; replacing my active voice with the passive voice, etc. I assumed that was his business training,

  53. Ray Novak: Steve
    Harper’s Closet Confidant

    He used to live above Steve Harper’s garage. Now he may be the second most powerful man in
    Ottawa.

    “Ray is effectively the Prime Minister’s closest confidant,”
    enthuses one government official. “Not only as a member of his staff, but as a
    personal and intimate member of the Prime Minister’s life.”

    http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/07/20/who-knows-what-harper-is-really-thinking-ray-novak/

    -98978-

  54. certain thoughts rose to mind as I read through this piece and I thank the author for that very charming experience.
    points on thoughts aroused; contemplations on the general&collective character of the citizenry:
    - everybody in Canada has some weird fondness for Chretien
    - Stephen Harper yells at people at work
    - um, Stephen Harper sounds like a psychopath…
    -the management of the nation of Canada is presently in the hands of a bound group of people who are terrified servants of Mr Harper
    &: Full steam ahead.
    this matches concerns I began considering years ago and have been attempting to understand. I suspect the confidence comes from Mr Harpers assurance that his MAN got HIS BACK. Pipeline says what…
    I left church a long time ago but not a day goes by that I don’t talk to god about how sweet a Christmas Floor Crossing would be.
    O Canada…

  55. What Wells seems to be saying is that Stephen Harper is in fact none other than the 21st-century Tory iteration of Mackenzie King. I guess that means we have at least another 20 years of his low-profile governance to look forward to.

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