Getting inside Harper’s headspace

‘Everybody knows final decisions are made by the PM’

Getting inside Harper’s headspace

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

The Cabinet committee on priorities and planning meets on Tuesdays, usually with Stephen Harper as chairman. He calls a lot of decisions on the spot. But not all. Sometimes decision is reserved pending the Prime Minister’s private decision.

When it came time to decide how many seats each province would get in an enlarged House of Commons, a senior source close to the government says, the Prime Minister took the briefing books and spreadsheets and sat alone for hours, juggling options, weighing the political fallout from every scenario.

Three days before Minister of State for Democratic Reform Tim Uppal announced the new numbers—15 new seats for Ontario, six each for Alberta and British Columbia, three for Quebec—Conservative MPs were called to a rare Monday caucus meeting so the plan could be run by them. Harper has his control-freak moments, but he prefers to hear complaints from his MPs quietly, before an announcement, rather than loudly after it.

All of this is to say that Stephen Harper is still in charge of the Stephen Harper government. Half a year after voters gave that government a majority, it’s still not clear what Harper’s plans are beyond, say, next spring.

For now the government is moving forward at full tilt. Peter Van Loan, the government House leader, has moved to limit debate on bills to implement the budget, end the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly, shut down the long-gun registry, and introduce a constellation of tough-on-crime measures.

These are good issues for this government. They’re the sort of things Conservative voters were looking for when they voted Conservative. In fact, there won’t be a lot left from the Conservatives’ 2011 platform for them to deliver on, once they’ve cleared this stuff through Parliament.

Now here’s the thing. According to the Conservatives’ own fixed election-date law, the next election should in theory be in October 2015. That leaves 3½ years after next spring for them to fill with . . . something. The fun parlour game on Parliament Hill consists of speculating about what that something might be.

The game is all the more fun because we get so few hints.

A senior government staffer swore me to six kinds of secrecy and then confessed, “Generally speaking, the government is having a difficult time moving from minority to majority in its headspace.”

What do headspace transition difficulties look like? Various sources around the Hill point to short-term focus, a reluctance to plan much past the next couple of years, and a continuation of the iron discipline that became a trademark of the Harper minority governments.

One rumour is that all the rushing on bills this autumn is a way to clear the decks in the New Year so Harper can prorogue the House, bring in a long-term, big-vision Speech from the Throne, and use the budget to inaugurate a new era of strong, stable, national, majority Conservative vision and ambition.

Well, that’s the rumour. I asked my six-kinds-of-secrecy staffer whether this was actually something that will happen or whether I was making it up. “Currently, you’re making that up,” Six Secrets said. “But boy, would that ever be awesome. God, that would be great. Can you make it true?”

I asked a source close to Harper (what, you expect these people to have names?) and was promptly and forcefully discouraged in all this talk of a New Year’s Throne Speech.

“Even at the current clip the government will not be able to get its legislation through before the budget in the spring,” Close To Harper told me. And don’t even think about throttling the current parliamentary session where it lies before those bills pass. “How could we, after having bills die on the order paper several times in minority, let it happen to us in a majority? That would be a bit odd.”

Veteran observers of Harper will note that “That would be a bit odd” is not quite the same as saying “We won’t do it,” but I’m willing to take it at face value for now.

The first priority is the ambitious spending-reduction exercise now under way. There’s a nine-member cabinet subcommittee meeting regularly and for long hours to find things to cut. But refer back to the Commons seat reallocation. “Everybody knows that the final decisions are made by the PM,” Senior Source Close to Government told me. “This silly committee is not the real game. The game is to get out of this round and into the real game, which is the [Prime Minister’s Office].”

Meanwhile, the “silly committee” is gently rigged. Ministers make proposals to it on options for cuts. But the PMO hasn’t been shy about calling into ministers’ offices to discourage some options from going to committee. Ministers’ staffs take those suggestions seriously, since it’s the PMO that decides where they work, and whether they continue. “Ministers’ presentations to cabinet are the ones the PMO has written for them, or approved, or weeded out stuff they don’t like,” Senior Source said.

With inputs vetted and unpleasant ideas pre-screened, the only surprises are the ones that come from the outside world. More than once lately the PM has responded to surprising news with, “Why wasn’t I told?” Because your staff ensured you wouldn’t be, sir.


Getting inside Harper’s headspace

  1. It is also entirely possible that Harper will simply be end up micromanaging from the PMO without advancing any larger conservative vision for the country.

    After all, he was able to do practically whatever he pleased during the minority, but chose to do rather little.  He ran a safe campaign, won big and is content to be entirely incremental.

    The analogy is not precise, but Harper may turn out to be the Canadian right’s equivalent of Jimmy Carter.  A man will intellect and energy who hamstrings himself with himself.

    • A lot of wishful thinking Stewart. I would suggest the opposite. Problem is the opposition did their best to slow the pace of any government achievements during the minority parliaments and because they had control of the committees they were largely successful.

      Now is a new day and while the opposition will try their limited hand at stopping the proposed legislation the fact is it will pass at some point.

      I doubt whether Mr. Harper has any intention of not trying to put his mark on the government and the country during the next four years. We have seen smaller things already but I suspect there will be some legacy legislation that will put Harper down in history of the country.

  2. One man, one country, democracy be damned.

    • Oh get off the pot!

  3. Well, there’s a way to save huge amounts of money right away.

    Lay off 307 MPs, because only one of them is running govt anyway.

    • In theory, though perhaps not in practice, the proper role of 270 of those MPs—every Oppositon MP, and every MP on the Government side who isn’t in Cabinet—is not to govern, but to hold the Government to account.

      • Well if not even the cabinet gets a say in anything, the Opposition certainly won’t.

        It’s a majority of one.

      • Incorrect. The job of government backbenchers is to vote like trained seals and hand out oversize novelty cheques.

        BTW, when was the last time a Reformer-Tory broke ranks in a House vote? How does this compare to, oh, let’s say, the Chretien-era Liberals?

  4. When is Jeffy Simpson going to write Friendly Dictator II: Friendlier and Dictatorier?

  5. So if we follow the author’s premise, does that mean that Keystone XL was micromanaged to failure by PMO?

    • Well, it would appear that KXL would fall under the “surprising news” category of “Why wasn’t I told”. And the reason for that, who knows? But it may tend to indicate a lack of diplomatic dialogue, at best, or a worrying cooling of relations between Ottawa and an increasingly polarized and dysfunctional Washington at worst.

      • All politics is local politics.  The KXL decision is Obama fighting for re-election.  Canada can wait.

    • Calling the decision a ‘no brainer’ probably didn’t help.

      • Nothing changes what Harper said. Unfortunately Obama does not have the wisdom to understand that sometime you have to make a decision that is not popular. He has made a bad decision like alot of his other decisions and the U.S. will pay for it dearly as we begin making deals in Asia and transport our oil over there.

  6. I heard he is planning a merger with America. Apparently he has been offered the position of Assistant VP for life. He certainly is well qualified for that post. Quebec is to be turned into a penal colony. 

  7. And how do they do that, exactly? Asking questions, which are not answered, in the House? Or do they appeal to Sun Media? Or maybe the cowering in terror and disarray, CBC?

  8. Don’t look for any big ideas. Harper plateaued on day one of the job. Harper policy is policy made up on a whim.

  9. Arguably, he has a house majority, but not the majority of Canadian votes…far from it. Not doubt a failing of parliamentary democracy. He is changing Canada to his vision without concern for the majority of Canadians who didn’t vote for him and now can do little about it until the next election. Secretive, patronizing, controlling….worse PM in Canadian history.

    BTW…Other than Sir John’s Consevatives building the railway, what has a Conservative government ever done for this country that made us what we are today, other than a massive debt under Mulroney and now Harper’s turn!

    There was a time when the world looked to Canada as a kinder, gentler country interested in the well being of others in the world rather than a self serving follower of U.S. policy and, like Britain, now trying to elevate its stature through military forays.

    Harper…a master at posturing.

    • You also should mention how often in Canada the house majority was matched with a vote majority. Might be interesting…

      • Only once in Canadian history. Mulroney’s 1984 election landslide with 211 seats, but, even with such a parliamentary majority he only received 50% of the popular vote. Not seen before, nor since.

        • Thank you. That was my point.

          • No, that was the fulfillment of your request.
            What was your point?

          • That according to InletViews Canada has been failing democracy since having its own government, not only under Harper. 

    • You my friend are living in some world that is not called Canada. Better wake up and start living in reality.

      •  You then are living in a world that is not MY Canada.  Why not head down south and become a frigging American and live in THEIR reality.

        • Typical left wing nut. As I said you need to get in touch with reality. It is you who if you do not like Canada should move maybe to the Soviet Union,Greece or one of those other God forsaken countries that knows real pain and suffering.

          While Canada may not be perfect we are far better off than many countries around the world. You need to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. You will be a much happier person I am sure.

          • What a silly comment! You give examples of extreme Left (communism) as the alternative to the Right. Moderate Left wing (Liberal, Democrat) is as far from extreme Left wing (communist, Marxist) as moderate Right wing (Conservative, Republican) is from extreme Right (Taliban, Nazi). Yes, I wrote Nazi. Don’t let the term socialist in their name fool you. Anyone (including me) who has studied WWII extensively, will state with certainty that the Nazis were on the Right.

          • Are you for real?

      • Canada is a country, not a world. Although they way the Harper Gang is posturing on the KXL project, they seem to have forgotten that too.

  10. One rumour is that all the rushing on bills this autumn is a way to clear the decks in the New Year so Harper can prorogue the House, bring in a long-term, big-vision Speech from the Throne, and use the budget to inaugurate a new era of strong, stable, national, majority Conservative vision and ambition.

    How can any self-respecting democrat hear that rumour and respond “that would be great”???  A government, which ran on a pretty thin electoral platform to begin with, implementing basically every policy they campaigned on in their first 12 months or so in office, and then sitting down to decide how they’re going to govern the nation for the next 3 years, AFTER which the people of Canada can pass judgement on that governance plan???  Isn’t that a HORRIBLE idea?!?!?!  I’m sorry, but rushing through implementing the things you were elected to do so that you’ll have more time free to do whatever the Hell you want to do after that sounds like a fairly repugnant idea of how to govern a democratic nation, imho.  I’m just going to hope that rumour is entirely false.

    • We don’t elect policies, friend, we elect members of Parliament.
      It is entirely appropriate for said elected members to do what they said they would, and then go on to do other things that, in their judgement, will be good for the country.  That is what they were elected to do.

      • Hiatus is over?

        • Possibly.

      • The likes of Jason Kenney and others repeatedly said that the platform is their plan and their plan is their platform. Are you calling JK a liar?

        • Um, no? Are you suggesting that once a government achieves its initial goals, it should enter a state of suspended animation until the next election?

          • I’m not saying the Tories “should” do this, and they are OF COURSE in no way obliged to do this, but it’s not as though a majority government has never said “We’ve done pretty much everything we told the people of Canada we were going to do, so we’re going to go to the Governor General and ask that another election be called so that we can take our new plans to the people and get a new mandate”.

            Again, they’re entitled not to do so, and to simply keep right on governing, but I’d certainly prefer the above to the notion of the Tories just coming up with a whole new set of plans and jumping straight in to implementing them.

          • I think in principle we agree. If the Tories were to complete their platform and then use the rest of their term to do things that most of the public would have never expected or wanted, that would be legitimate but somewhat dishonest.

            However, if they continue to press forward on a somewhat conservative course, I think it’s fair to say that whether or not it’s in their platform it is what they were elected for.

          • I do think we largely agree.

            Now, hollinm’s suggestions that maybe the Tories are going to legislate a flat tax, make other “dramatic” changes to the income tax system, eliminate official bilingualism and de-fund the CBC strike me as the sort of things that a party ought to bring up during an election, not after they win it.

          • We agree in principle, but not, it turns out, in practice.

            Legislating a flat tax doesn’t strike me as a terribly bizarre change of direction, although I agree they should make a good case to the public first if they’re going to try it.

            Eliminating official bilingualism should probably be put to a referendum. On this one we agree.

            And as for that miserable propaganda organ of the political left which shames the name of my country, there will be dancing in the streets if they defund it (but not, I grant you, the streets of Toronto).

          • Fair enough on the first point I guess, though as I’m sure you would agree, it’s all about the details, and they shouldn’t just spring a plan on us fully formed and then proceed to pass it unamended.

            I also think there could definitely be major changes made to the CBC, and I could get behind that, depending on how they were framed and what it really meant (I think there is an argument that a public broadcaster is a clear public good, but again, I’m open to considerable debate on the details of what it is, and how it works). Just gutting the thing outright without so much as a “by your leave” to the taxpayers though, strikes me as pretty radical.

          • Seeing as how the CBC has, by its own ombudsman’s assessment, taken a clear leftward political slant rather than fairly representing the whole political spectrum, I think it’s quite obviously entirely appropriate that it no longer be publicly funded.  No “going to the taxpayer” required; the taxpayer should not be funding one-sided political propaganda.  Come on; if the Conservatives decided to start publicly funding Sun TV you’d go ballistic.

            Also, I’d be curious to know whether the CBC was originally set up with the “by your leave” of the taxpayer.  Certainly its blatantly leftward lean wasn’t.

            Also, what’s with this new commenting system? Why can’t I respond directly to the post I’m trying to reply to (i.e. LKO’s, bottom of this thread??)

          • Welcome to Disqus – it’s part of the left wing conspiracy to limit Conservative comments.

          • Obviously we’ll disagree as to just how far to the left the CBC has drifted, but still, I’m surprised to see you arguing that the destruction of the CBC is something that is appropriate for the government to proceed with without even running the idea by the citizenry first.

            Surely the elimination of our nation’s public broadcaster is something that a political party should at least be expected to HINT AT before implementing. Particularly given recent polls showing that 46% of Canadians support the CBC’s budget staying at current levels, while 23% want it INCREASED.

            Surely you’re not suggesting that it would be appropriate for the Tories to take a course that would apparently be opposed by 69% of the citizenry, without even running the idea by them in a election campaign first?!?!?!?!

            While the 33% of Canadians who want the CBC budget either reduced or eliminated would no doubt be pleased by such a move, surely you would conceded that it would be inappropriate, in a democracy, for a government to implement a policy supported by less than 40% of the population without ever bringing up the possibility of pursuing said policy in an election campaign first.

            And if not, what other policies that are opposed by more than 65% of Canadians do you suppose we might look forward to under the new Tory majority???

          • “Surely you’re not suggesting that it would be appropriate for the Tories to take a course that would apparently be opposed by 69% of the citizenry, without even running the idea by them in a election campaign first?!?!?!?!”

            In general, yes. However I’d make exceptions where the course of action is necessary to either (a) restore rights that are being trampled, or (b) rein in government abuse. In these cases, I expect our elected members to do the right thing regardless of what the majority wants – in fact that is precisely why a representative government is better than a strict democracy.

            Now as to the CBC, it is an abuse of taxpayer money for a publicly funded media organization to be a propaganda tool of one side of the political spectrum. While we may disagree on what the CBC is (although, again, it is not just my opinion that the CBC is biased – the CBC’s own ombudsman reported that the opinions presented at the CBC are lacking on the rightward end), surely we can agree that a public broadcaster owes it to the public to at least try to broadcast impartially, in a manner that serves and is even-handedly representative of the same public from whom they collect their funding? And if said broadcaster is shown to be using public funds to advance a private agenda, then those funds should be withdrawn?

            It’s like funding religion, no? Either you fund none, or all, but you can’t just fund one with tax revenue collected from everyone – it’s inherently unjust. Whether the majority of the public (who may be unaware of the situation, or may agree with the particular private cause being advanced) supports it is irrelevant to the issue of what is just.

          • I don’t know. Seems like you’re trying awfully hard to justify overriding the will of 69% of the population in favour of implementing policy favoured by 31% of the population, based on the premise that our public broadcaster is maniacally satisfying only 69% of the population to the great detriment of the other 31%.

            Personally, I think that any public broadcaster who is being even-handed enough to satisfy basically 70% of the populace is actually doing a pretty good job. I’m not so sure that your problem is with the CBC being too “left-wing” for your liking so much as your problem is that CANADA is too “left-wing” for your liking. To my mind, tearing the thing apart, in opposition to the apparent wishes of almost 70% of the population, without ever even mentioning that you intend to tear the thing apart in any election campaign EVER just seems to be a bridge too far. If the Tories can dismantle the CBC despite the CBC apparently being supported by 69% of the populace, what CAN’T they take apart at this point???

            ‘Cause if the Tories can destroy anything supported by less than 70% of Canadians, to me, that just seems like WAY too much power for us to place in the hands of a government that was elected with the support of less than 1 in 4 eligible voters.

          • Gaunilon,

            You must be dreaming. The entire board of directors for the CBC has been appointed under the Harper Regime. How are they not representing the Tories?


            Second, every panel on the CBC has equal representation 2 from the left 2 from the right even though Canadians voted 40% con 60% other.

            I mean I’m so sick of these talking head con’s wrecking the programs with their silly talking points that don’t even stand up to a television debate.

            I can’t even count the number of times that the tory talking head plants have been laughed off the show with their 2 page talking points.

            What you are stating may have been true under past governements it surely is not the case today.

            John Ibbitson, Tom Flanagan, Kevin O’leary, Tim Powers, and it goes on and on…

          • Not every panel is equally balanced. Joan Crockett who represents the Conservative point of view is often outnumbered on the panels she sits on. There is usually three lefties and with Solomon that makes four. Hardly equal.

            Also when some of the panels have journalists on them they are biased as well; usually to the left i.e Jennifer Ditchburn who in my opinion is one of the most blatant biased journalist.

            There is lots of group think at CBC. Whether you agree with the views of CBC or not the fact remains Canada no longer needs a media outlet that is subsidized by the voter. They are doing exactly what the private broadcasters are doing and therefore with the taxpayer subsidy they have a competitive advantage. That is not in keeping with democracy or capitalism.

          • Do you honestly believe that this fairly represents the right?? When was the last time you saw an opinion on CBC opposed to abortion? When was the last time you saw an opinion contra the Human Rights Tribunals? Hate crime laws? Bubble zones? Affirmative action?

            I think you’ve seen so little of the right that you don’t even know what it looks like. I recommend or Thomas Sowell.

      • Agreed, this is a representative democracy, not a direct one.  I’m pretty sure I won’t like what will happen, but I’ll never say they don’t have the right to do it.

        • Just to be clear, I certainly agree that the Tories have the right to come up with a whole new set of plans and start implementing them.  This is a representative democracy, as you say.  That said, I can still find the notion of a government creating their plans for what they’re going to do with three quarters of their time in government AFTER the election repugnant.

          I certainly thought it was funny when the Tories only introduced their 2006 platform half way through the election, and then only when they were ridiculed in the leaders debate for not having a platform.  However, I’ve got to say, the notion of a party sitting down to write the majority of their platform 12 months AFTER winning the election honestly never occurred to me.  (Which is also why I’m having such trouble believing that rumour to be true).

          • You are right that the Harper government has the right to propose and implement their legislative agenda. I am sure Jean Chretien was very clear what he intended to do before any of three elections he ran. Right!
            You lefties never let things go. You are still complaining about the 06 election. Surely there is something more current you can complain about.
            The fact remains I am sure the government has plans that they haven’t announced. However, that does not mean there is nothing. How about a flat tax with an increased consumption tax? How about a dramatic change to the income tax system which would reduce the complexity etc. How about eliminating official bilingualism or defunding the CBC. There are a few ideas that would have the socialists, elites having a shit fit.

          • What sort of odds would you give that this government will reduce the complexity of the tax system?

            Is there a study or something that shows that socialists and/or elites would oppose any type of tax system simplification?

          • You are being selective. Read my whole comment again.

          • Harper has done nothing but clutter up the tax code and he reduced the GST.  This how he fishes for votes, why would he give it up?

          • I never thought I would read it but you actually agree that Harper has been successful. Wonders will never cease.

          • Yes, hollinm, he panders to get  votes.

          • Surely there is something more current you can complain about.

            Sure.  I’m complaining about this recent notion that the Tories might start enacting all sorts of pretty far out there policies that they never even bothered to run by the electorate.  A flat tax?  “Dramatic” changes to the income tax system?  Eliminating official bilingualism and the CBC?  Regardless of the merits or lack there of of any of these policies, aren’t these the sorts of things a party is supposed to run by the people BEFORE they win an election???

            Surely the same people who used to complain vociferously that there was no “hidden agenda” can’t now seriously be arguing that the Tories have a majority now, so there’s no problem with them implementing an agenda that they kept hidden from the electorate!!!

          • Let’s remember an election is only 36 days long. If we have to specifically have the approval of the electorate on each and everything then we might as well not have a government  or rule by referendum.

            I would point out that in 4 years there will be an election and Canadians will pass judgement on whether they agreed with the government agenda or not. Given the shape of the Liberals who have no support in Quebec, diminishing support in Ontario and little support out West Harper will back at the helm in four years. That’s not arrogance or hubris that is the reality.

            In the meantime we won’t even talk about the NDP who keep shooting themselves in the foot in the rest of Canada as they turn themselves into the Bloc lite. Turmel has turned into another Dion.

          • Let’s remember an election is only 36 days long. If we have to specifically have the approval of the electorate on each and everything then we might as well not have a government or rule by referendum..

            Sure, but let’s also remember that the speculation above has the Tories essentially accomplishing every single promise they made to the electorate, using time allocation to limit debate, within the next four months, if not sooner.  Leaving them three more years to do… what exactly???  Who knows???

            As for the NDP, I think you’ll see if you look at my comments elsewhere, particularly with regard to the Tory adjustment of House seats vis a vis making the House reflect the actual distribution of the population of Canada, that I’ve been pretty vociferous in my criticism of the NDP using the Tory “Quebecois Nation” resolution as an excuse to become the “Bloc lite”.

          • You lefties never let things go. You are still complaining about the 06 election.

            Uhhh, what???

            Aren’t conservatives constantly throwing things that happened before the 2004 election back in the Liberals’ faces??? I think I’ll stop criticizing the Tories for things that happened under their current leader when conservatives stop criticizing the Liberals for things that happened three leaders ago under a guy who retired almost eight years ago.

            Though I do take your point that it’s somewhat unfair to hold post-2006 Harper to the standards of pre-2006 Harper. It’s clear now that the those two politicians are not even REMOTELY the same person.

          • Just trying to have a thoughtful conversation, hollinm.

            If you aren’t interested in that, that’s fine.

            If you are interested, I await your response.

          • Thoughtful conversation? I am not sure I am responding to the right poster. However, to criticize the government because they haven’t told you what their future plans are seems a tad juvenile.

          • I’m the guy asking about simplifying the tax system…still interested to read your thoughts. :-)

      • Fair enough, and I get that. It’s just that the notion that a government that has run in several elections on what I consider to have been paper thin platforms, deliberately rushing to get it all out of the way, so they can move on to doing… what exactly we’re not sure… just seems kinda repugnant. Permissible, of course, and I’d even agree with “legitimate”, but I still don’t have to like it.

        ETA: This does suggest a new strategy for the NDP though doesn’t it. LOL. If this rumour is really what the CPC is up to (and to be clear, I don’t necessarily think that it is) and the NDP is paying attention, then if the NDP run on their most centrist platform ever in the next election, I’d be nervous if I was a conservative. ‘Cause, what if their plan is to win a majority, introduce a dozen or so omnibus bills with thousands of pages of legislation that implement pretty much every promise they made during the election, use time allocation to pass it all in about 12 calendar months, and then they’re going to sit down in the cabinet room and decide what they’d like to do to the country over the next three years?!?!? LOL

  11. Well, that’s the rumour. I asked my six-kinds-of-secrecy staffer whether this was actually something that will happen or whether I was making it up. “Currently, you’re making that up,” Six Secrets said. “But boy, would that ever be awesome. God, that would be great. Can you make it true?”

    I asked a source close to Harper (what, you expect these people to have names?) and was promptly and forcefully discouraged in all this talk of a New Year’s Throne Speech.

    Jane, you still there?

  12. A “national energy strategy” would be a good starting point.

    Because an “emerging energy superpower” should not yield its energy and emissions strategy to people like Robert Redford writing an op-ed in the NY Times.

    Now, that’s the real “no-brainer”.

    • LOL.. you know as well as I do the likelihood of that happening is somewhere between -1 and SQRT(-1).

      Even if they were going to develop something like that, it’d never, ever, ever have the words “National” and “Energy” within earshot of each other.  Their primary voting base would stroke out.

      • National energy strategy gains clout
        shawn mccarthy — GLOBAL ENERGY REPORTER, OTTAWA— From Monday’s Globe and Mail Published Sunday, Jul. 10, 2011

        The Harper government has endorsed the need for a national energy strategy in the face of growing calls from provinces and industry groups that the sector’s vision of a new era of global growth is too critical to be governed by piecemeal planning.

        The government’s backing of the idea of a national energy strategy marks a substantial shift from its previous public position. The Conservative government had long been cool to calls for a national strategy, fearing it would get dragged into areas of provincial jurisdiction with demands for financial support.

      • Shell wants national strategy

        Shell Canada today issued a call to arms for all the players in the energy industry – companies, governments and NGOs – to develop a national strategy that would give allow Canada to become a global superpower in the sector.
        “Canada’s emergence as a global energy superpower hinges on the country’s ability to develop a truly national approach to energy,” Lorraine Mitchelmore, the Canadian company’s president, said today as she spoke about its 100th anniversary here.
        At this point, she said, Canada has the “hallmarks” of an energy superpower but lacks the proper strategy that would include fiscal and regulatory measures.
        “Key elements of the strategy should be a price on carbon, sustainable and affordable energy with a reduced carbon footprint, and a national rather than a regional approach to our energy market,” said Ms. Mitchelmore.

        “Along with Norway , we are the most stable, the most reliable and the most democratic of the world’s top 10 oil and gas producers.” she added “That’s a distinct competitive advantage given the current turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East , where five of the other top 10 are located.”

  13. All hail to Chairman Harper, the great Canadian Despot!

     The space inside the head of this nasty conniving chess nerd will show how to get rid of him, but not before he does serious damage to women’s right to choice on abortion and same sex marriage and the medical system in this country.
    Remember he did say that we wouldn’t recognize this country by the time he got through with it!

  14. G&M ad:

    Is Stephen Harper successful as a PM?
    Angus Reid wants to know. Join the Angus Reid Forum & get rewarded for your view

  15. I also have no idea what Steve has planned — but I am very afraid —–

  16. I am glad we have Harper, and not Obama. Obama cannot make decisions, prefers to punt as he did in Illinois.      Keystone pipeline!

    • But Obama is saving the world from global warming.

      • Yes, Obama is so amazing, he can even control the weather.  He truly is the Messiah.

      • Yes, Obama is so amazing, he can even control the weather.  He truly is the Messiah.

    • Obama has opposition and operates in a high diffuse power structure. Harper pulls all the levers. You do something he doesn’t like, and you’re fired. He’s demonstrated that Parliament doesn’t matter, his party structure doesn’t matter, his cabinet doesn’t matter. He calls the shots. Get used to it.

    • Harper thinks he can get away with ignoring the environment, Obama knows he can’t. 

  17. Looks like the Cabinet committee on priorities and planning meeting are a lot of fun.

    “Prime Minister Stephen Harper shares a laugh with Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney and Senator Marjory LeBreton at a Priorities and Planning meeting at Old City Hall in Ottawa. September 7, 2011”

    (photo #17)

    I don’t know why the journos keep thinking General Harper is going to morph from a strategist/incrementalist into something else.

    • Wrt the photo…but what is the fellow (James Moore, maybe?) in the background thinking?

  18. personally I don’t want an illegal government making any decisions for this country.  If Harper felt he had to cheat to win an election in this country then who can trust him to do anything without cheating or breaking our laws?  He should not be allowed to continue as the PM of Canada.

    • But had this country ever gotten a `legal` government?

      • As legal as any other government that is elected with a majority in this country. If you think an extra $1 million spread over 67 ridings is going to buy an election you are one seriously challenged dude.

        • I meant `legal` in sacre bleu perception, not yours and mine

        • So why did they do it?  To spit on Elections Canada?

          • Could it possibly be a misunderstanding of the rules and that Elections Canada actually changed their interpretation of the rules? It is beyond comprehension no matter what you think of the party that they would sue to get reimbursed on expenses that they “knew” were illegal. Something happened here that none of us will understand because of the arcane rules of Election Canada.

          • I doubt it.  The Bloc was publicly prosecuted for their in-and-out scheme in 2000 (which occured at the volunteer level but was essentially the same:  a way to circumvent spending limits).  The Conservatives had to know that lying about regional ad spending was more than just bad ethics.

          • I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt but I can understand the anti Harper crowd would prefer to believe they were being dishonest. I get that. However, after all of this time and the raiding of the Conservative Office while making sure the media was there so they could get themselves on TV they get a fine of $52.000.

            In fact Robin Sears said on TV the other day that all parties did it but the Conservatives got caught because they had the money to spend while the Libs and the Dippers did not get near their campaign spending limit.

          • You need to take your head out of the Kool-Aid.  The agreed statement of facts in the court case states:

            Finley knew the Fund had access to funds that could not be reasonably spent prior to the calling of the election. One Party document identified this amount as being in excess of $2,111,916.87 as of November, 2005. In anticipation of an election, Finley wrote to Gerstein on November 22, 2005, asking his authorization to forward some of those funds, once the election was called, to ridings that would not be using the maximum of their respective spending caps. He stated that the national Party could use this spending space during the election campaign to pay for a number of election expenses. He asked if “this perfectly legal” process appealed to Gerstein.
            On November 29, 2005, the first day of the campaign, Finley wrote to Gerstein and asked him for authorization to send monies to Electoral District Associations so Finley could have them “return monies to me under their writ to pay for advertising for example”, through what Finley called “a variety of perfectly legal artifices”. This in effect would transfer TV and radio advertising costs from the Party to local campaigns. Finley explained to Gerstein that this would allow the Party to “pay for advertising for example” and “run a major slam dunk in the extra two campaign weeks” over its competitors.

            Ignorance of the law is no defence.

          • I would simply point at that Robin Sears, no friend of the Tories, said on TV the other day that all parties were doing the same thing but the Conservatives had the money and could spend the maximum while the Dippers and the Liberals did not have the money to spend.

            So while the Libs and Dippers may have been doing it the fact is they did not spend the maximum on their campaigns so there was no issue for them.

            I don’t profess to understand the “ins and outs” of this whole issue but one thing the Conservatives are is not stupid. They must have thought it was legal as Finley kept saying in his emails that you quote.  The settlement was a negotiation to get a deal that would satisfy all the parties.

          • Those are not e-mails, those are statements of fact agreed to by both the defence and prosecution in the court case.  I’d like to see evidence that other parties were doing it (aside from the Bloc) rather than the assertions of a lobbyist.

            I’ll also add that the Conservatives were explicitly doing this in order to exceed their national ad buy spending cap. If the other parties were doing this, they didn’t exceed the cap, so they didn’t break this particular law. It’s still sleazy, of course.

            I remember when this story first broke, the defence of Conservative commenters wasn’t “they didn’t know they were breaking the law” but rather “spending limits are undemocratic”. If that’s still how the party feels, they are now free to legislate away election spending caps, to open the door to corporate interests, and to allow lobbyists more “freedom” to donate to the Conservative cause. Go to town, I say.

  19. Enjoyed article Wells but found it depressing. I think you one of Canada’s best political writers so this is not about you but I am amazed by how much of our politics is driven by fear. 

    I find it very peculiar indeed that people feel they have to be super secret about their identities to say PM doesn’t know what he wants to do in future. I honestly don’t understand why anonymity has to be granted for your sources to say on record what they did because the comments are rather anodyne. 

    I love politics and read Canadian news because I am Canadian and want to know what is going on in my country but for political writing that I really enjoy I have to read US and UK media because our political class is riven by fear/paranoia.

    I would be quite surprised if Harper launched an ambitious agenda next year or at any time, really. Generally speaking, Cons don’t do visions of the future because we all know if you want to make God laugh tell him your plans. Also, I think Harper et al. are copying what Chretien Liberals did, which was not much of anything. Don’t scare the horses, just be in power for the sake of being in power. It is dismal. 

    I also think it is disgraceful how many MPs are willing to be lickspittles and bow before PM just because they are desperate to keep their status and pension. No way to govern a country. For the past couple of years I have been wondering if it would be better to only allow millionaires to be MPs, maybe they would be more inclined to do what is right for country because they wouldn’t worry about money for retirement or being re-elected next election?

    • No one speaks for the Harper government unless bidden so by the big guy. Hence the requirement for anonymity. It doesn’t matter how anodyne the comments are. They were not sanctioned, and that is a firing offence.

  20. He should just ask the central banks how it’s going to be?

  21. what are are the negatives about–stephen harper?  He is fulfilling all his promises–it takes time– when it is done– he will come up  with fresh new– ideas on how 2 solve the countries problems—-nobody has all the answers—-except perhaps U– the complainers!!!!

    • Yes, everyone should just sit back, shut up and let Harper have his way with our once great country. That may be democracy in Harper’s mind and in those of his sheep-like followers. It is not my vision of democracy.

      • I will take Harper over the lame NDP and the moribund Liberal party with its faux leader. If you don’t like Canada there are a lot of other countries that I am sure you and your leftist friends would be more comfortable.

  22. Make like the wind. Make tracks before the other parties can find themselves. Establish a solid foundation. Develop strength and unity through party solidarity.

    • LOL

      I usually don’t go for this sort of rhetorical attack on the Tories, because I think it’s silly, and not in the least constructive, but still.  Your post really does read like it should be followed by “Hail the Great Leader.  May the Almighty bring praise to His name”.


  23. Sounds like a bunch of make believe to me.  Its about time reporters get some real information.  I write the PMO and Ministers all the time.  Its amazing, but they do respond, and they do use Ideas.  That doesn’t sound like some control freak type of gov’t.  If anything I think Mr. Harper mellows out some of the Ideas coming both from the Left leaning and right leaning.  When you hear something created by someone else, you usually have a better perspective on it.  And that is the reason people vet Ideas and have cabinet mettings.  Over all this Gov’t is a great one, in spite of the make believe stories the press put out to create news.

    • You are on the wrong blog if you think supporting the Harper government will get you anywhere. Most on this site would rather slag anything the government does. If you read some of the comments you will quickly see that Harper could discover the cure for cancer and on this site that would ask not MS too.

      • You guys have overdosed on the Harper Kool-Aid. That’s no surprise – why think when your leader can do it for you? Remember, Harper is the one who stated he makes all of the decisions.

        • That Kool-Aid is really sweet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. I’m sure the best is yet to come. We’ll be a clone of the USA soon enough.

    • Wow, how incredibly original.  Don’t stop. Tell us more!

  25. One rumour is that all the rushing on bills this autumn is a way to clear the decks in the New Year so Harper can prorogue the House, bring in a long-term, big-vision Speech from the Throne, and use the budget to inaugurate a new era of strong, stable, national, majority Conservative vision and ambition.

    It just occurred to me that this is the most compelling evidence we’ve ever had that the so-called Tory “hidden agenda” never existed.

    After all, if the “hidden agenda” really existed all this time, they wouldn’t need to prorogue Parliament to give them time to write it, now would they?


    • Frankly I’ve been hoping against hope that there is a “hidden agenda”, because the open agenda has not been terribly inspiring.

      • LOL

  26. Article? Somewhat interesting. Comments? Mostly pathetic.

    • Welcome to Macleans.

      • LOL

        “Pathetic” is pretty harsh for this particular post though, don’t you think?  I mean, there’s WAY worse around here, but I don’t think the comments to this particular post rise to the level of “pathetic” exactly.  I couldn’t disagree more with hollinm’s replies to me above, but they were hardly “pathetic”, and I don’t think I’m wrong to think that even he wouldn’t label mine that way.

  27. If you just go by the headline it becomes very amusing.     He is such a fathead, always has been
    and always will be.       His supporters are the ultra right wing and some elderly conservatives from
    the old days who think he is Diff reincarnate.    Oh, I forgot.  Every damn entrepreneur who does not give a damn about his or her country but grab the dough & get down south for the sun in the winter.
    The irony is that when I was young – some sixty years ago —   it was always said that it would be
    those damn liberals who would sell us out to the Americans.    Now it is the tories giving it away to
    our so called friendly neighbours.     Another littler irony,  it was an astute American writer in the 1920’s who warned against fundamentalist religious  bible pumping politicians.     America wake up.
    It is is not ‘In god we trust’    It is ‘ We hope to god (if such exists)  we can endure the leaders we 
    encumber our country with’.

    • It must be tough living your life so cynically. It is those entrepenuers who employ Canadians and give them a standard of living. They are called jobs. Quit with the penis envy. Society is not perfect but we all are responsible for happens in our lives. Sure there are people who for various reasons cannot succeed but often times it is their own fault. Our country is generous and helps those truly in need. However, to begrudge somebody something because you can’t have it is not the way to live your life.

  28. He also got the noble peace prize for doing absolutely nothing. What a joke!

  29. Jan….tell us all about Solyndra. How’s that working for you. Wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on failed environment initiatives is not very smart; not even close.

  30. Paul, I met you at the recent Conservative Convention. Are the policies drafted by the convention anything or is this just an exercise in control of the grassroots?  Personally, I believe (niaively perhaps) that Harper uses the party policy to guide his decisions more than you might know.  Have you read the policy?