Why Stephen Harper is picking fights

Harper smash everyone

Sure, our PM is growing suspicious, isolated and rage-prone. Otherwise, great guy.

Photo illustration by Sarah MacDonald

Photo illustration by Sarah MacDonald

What’s the deal with our PM? Lately, Stephen Harper has been picking a lot of fights—with rivals, with the Ontario premier, even with the chief justice of the Supreme Court. I’d hate to be the drive-through speaker at Wendy’s right now.

Voice: Please pull up to the first window.

Harper [strangling speaker box]: NO ONE IS THE BOSS OF ME.

And then there are some of his former advisers, who’ve gone public with unflattering observations of Harper’s management style and character traits.

Bruce Carson, a senior aide from 2004 to 2009, said the PM is becoming increasingly isolated and is prone to losing his temper and shouting profanity at underlings. Meanwhile, Tom Flanagan—a key player in Harper’s rise to power—used the pages of his latest book to describe the PM this way: “He can be suspicious, secretive, and vindictive, prone to sudden eruptions of white-hot rage over meaningless trivia.” Other than that, great guy.

Flanagan goes on to claim that Harper at times falls “into week-long depressions in which he is incapable of making decisions.’’ So basically, he’s Nixon without the charisma, or Hamlet with more hmm.

Gerry Nicholls—who worked closely with Harper a number of years ago—tried to defend the PM, saying, “Only once did I see him erupt at somebody, and he later told me it was just an act. He was trying to send that person a message.” Riiiight—the old “I was totally just kidding about having an inherently volcanic nature” excuse. I believe that’s the “I have a black friend” of temper denial.

These kinds of “behind-the-scenes” disclosures are bound to happen when you go through staff the way Harper does. The PM has more former communications directors than Ryan Gosling has current abs. But let’s not read too much into these revelations. From time to time, we all get a little grumpy and recklessly impugn the character of the chief justice of some court or another. Plus, there are pros and cons to any leader’s temperament. Harper’s isolation affords him the opportunity to keep an eye out for those troubles lapping at our shore, like some fiscal lighthouse keeper of yore. EU credit market deterioration, ho!

Still, there are political implications. Whether he likes it or not, Harper is carving out a reputation as a cross between Howard Beale and Howard Hughes. I’m as mad as hell and I’m going to let my fingernails grow as I sit alone in this darkened room!

Meantime, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is so prone to fits of rage that he’s acquired the nickname Angry Tom—which, by the way, is a pretty lazy nickname. Wouldn’t it be catchier to call him Tommy Tantrum or Beardy McFurious? Angry Tom sounds like a cartoon monkey or a hot sauce.

Anyway, the point is: All this indignation and spleen opens the door for Justin Trudeau to make demeanour a major wedge issue in the next election. He just needs to be likeable and avoid public demonstrations of angry finger-pointing or tirade sweat.

And he should come up with some policies that speak to an easygoing manner. When I am prime minister, not only will smiles be free—but also handshakes, high fives and bro hugs. And I’ll keep a positive vibe going across the country by introducing a National Bummer Registry. Have you lost weight, Canada?

For some time now, there has been speculation about when Harper is going to retire. Some have convinced themselves that our Prime Minister, after more than eight years in office, must, on some level, be eager to bid adieu to public life and return to his first love: warning small children to keep off his property.

That’s great and everything, except it overlooks one key question: Why would Stephen Harper retire? What’s he going to do instead? Launch attack ads against the weeds on his lawn? (“Dandelions: not a flower.”) This is a man who loves power, loves being the decider, loves showcasing his smarts. There aren’t a lot of jobs out there for hermetic autocrats. (I can think of two others: CEO and Unabomber.)

So yes, maybe Stephen Harper seems a little withdrawn and miserable these days. But he is always going to be that way. Right now, this job—it’s likely the most happiness that being miserable is ever going to bring him.

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Harper smash everyone

  1. “Right now, this job—it’s likely the most happiness that being miserable is ever going to bring him.”

    That’s because this is the only huge Salary he’s ever had.
    It sure “PAY$ enough for him now, doesn’t it?
    He’s guaranteed almost that much, just on a pension, the rest of his life,
    so win, lose, or draw, Harpo doesn’t really give a rat’s a__, what he does anymore, other than trying to build, (at the taxpayer’s expense), phoney placarts,…, of himself so we’ll always remeber him.
    He holds a disdain for the avg Canadian, and he is almost all but one-n-done now.
    Good riddens’.

  2. The next election will be won on the grounds of character, trust and integrity, economy will not be the central issue in the next election. Its going to be about who can you trust to run the economy. Mr. harper boxed himself inside his bubble, and no one should feel sorry for him, that shows how little character he has. If Harper decides to try and reach out by showing a more softer Harper, than it would look FAKE, and that’s where trust and integrity comes in, do you trust his sincerity or is he just using your vote to keep himself in power, is he going to represent your better interest, and that’s going to be a problem for Harper. Canadians don’t want to continue to have a Hammer and Fist government anymore. You cant even have a beer with Harper, he doesn’t even drink, so he says so (only Guiness), unless it gets him a picture on the front page. Mr. Harper is a political prostitute, he will politically prostitute himself out to any voters that helps him keep control of power. EXAMPLE : If Kathleen Wynn, wins a majority government next week, it will only be because Ontarians trust her and she shows integrity as bad as her debate was(Wynn is a leader, not a follower, Tim is a follower and he sweats, not good) and I believe that reality is coming through for Kathleen Wynn. Hudak will loose because Ontarians still just don’t trust him.

  3. No one who’s read Garth Turner’s “Me vs Stephen Harper” http://www.garth.ca/2009/04/29/me-vs-stephen-harper/ would be surprised that anger, an uncompromising need for control and suspicion of even his closest associates are dominant characteristics of Stephen Harper. These are great traits in a spy, but aren’t so great in a prime minister of a geographically, socially and ethically diverse country like Canada.

    As could be reasonably predicted, Canadians now have a Harper led government that operates in secrecy, muzzles civil servants and even its own caucus members, manufactures enemies of not only its critics but anyone or any institution that it perceives is thwarting its agenda and avoids public debate like it’s the plague.

    Harper’s style of governance is no unconscious outgrowth of his personality but is the result of Harper’s deliberate actions to gain and retain power. Despite the fact that many of these actions are the very ones for which he so adamantly criticized Liberal governments, while in opposition, he has taken them to the extreme.

  4. just to show how partisan harper has become he has removed water protection for lakes and rivers in canada except for 97 lakes and 62 rivers of which 90% are in conservative ridings And he removed 36 Billion from health transfer payments to all the provinces Except Alberta which got an extra 1 billion.

  5. Nixon was a better piano player.

  6. Wow!
    This is a new level of pathetic for the Canadian media!

    • Apparently you’re not acquainted with Sun laughingly referred to by its owner Quebecor as News.

  7. Made funnier only because its true! Great work, Feschuk.

    But you commenters; this is a Feschuk column and deserves witty! Which is why I don’t ever comment on a Feschuk column.

    For example (and remembering this is why I never comment on a Feschuk column): “Nonsense Scott! He could easily become the curmudgeonly old man model, or the go-to guy for barking back at dogs.” I’m so sorry if you missed the Scott Feschuk Sean Stock epic comment threads. Classic!~