The strategy is to cast Harper as the guy next door running against “Professor Dion” whose ideas are theoretical and out-of-step with average Canadians.
“On the one side you have a minivan-driving hockey dad from the suburbs — the most middle-class prime minister Canada’s ever had,” said one Conservative official. “On the other side, you have an elitist professor whose leadership is marked by indecision and dogmatic adherence to ideological theories that he has pulled together.”
As Mr. Coyne notes, so-called ‘ballot questions’ are a bit simplistic. But let’s take a moment to consider the profound simplicity of this one.
A rough sketch of Stephen Harper’s adult life.
He graduated with a Bachelor’s degrees in economics from the University of Calgary. After school he worked for Tory MP Jim Hawkes, then ran himself as a Reform candidate in 1988. He then worked for Reform MP Deborah Grey, before returning to school to get a Master’s degree.
From 1993 to 1997, he was MP for Calgary Southwest. He left Parliament to work for the National Citizens Coalition, a conservative lobby group, until he won leadership of the Canadian Alliance and was elected for the riding of Calgary West in 2002. In 2006, he was elected Prime Minister.
According to Parliament’s online database, MPs earned an annual of $64,000 between 1993 and 1997. As an MP and the leader of the opposition from 2002 to 2006, Harper would have earned between $199,800 and $213,500 per year. The Prime Minister’s salary for 2006 was $295,400, rising to $301,600 in 2007 and $310,800 in 2008.
As leader of the opposition and Prime Minister he has lived in Stornoway and 24 Sussex respectively, each residence coming with its own chef. As Prime Minister he has use of a palatial cottage at Harrington Lake. His children attend Rockcliffe Park Public School, alongside the progeny of diplomats and politicians. If the Conservatives are defeated in the next election and Harper leaves politics he could be entitled to a sizable pension.
This is not to say that our national leaders shouldn’t be handsomely rewarded. Indeed, what a Prime Minister makes and how he got to be making it does not inherently matter. Unless, of course, he’s done something untoward. Or, as is happening now, the Prime Minister makes it matter by asking you to consider his socio-economic status and occupational history.
At which point, most any Prime Minister’s claim to being a minivan-driving, middle-class suburbanite is laughable at best, insulting at worst. And, in this case, it becomes fair to note that the closest Stephen Harper will ever get to being a minivan-driving, middle-class suburbanite is when he commandeers a family’s kitchen table for a photo op.