In a Maclean’s exclusive, Prime Minister Stephen Harper sits down for an intimate conversation with…the Stephen Harper from five years ago.
Stephen Harper 2005: Let me just say: congratulations, Prime Minister.
Stephen Harper 2010: I couldn’t have done it without you.
SH 2005: This feels like one of those old Freedom 55 commercials where you get to meet your future self. Give me a piece of advice that will save me some grief.
SH 2010: Remember this sentence: O Canada is fine the way it is.
SH 2005: Let’s get down to business. Tell me everything. I assume we’ve completely remade Canada by now.
SH 2010: Yep. [Pause.] Well, pretty much, anyway. [Pause.] Um, the GST used to be seven per cent and now it is five per cent.
SH 2005: That’s our only achievement?
SH 2010: Of course not. Mike Duffy is now a senator.
SH 2005: So it’s all taking some time. We’re still moving ahead with big change, right?
SH 2010: Absolutely. If you look at the portions of the latest Throne Speech dedicated to livestock, uranium and maritime traffic, you’ll see that we—
SH 2005: Maritime traffic? I though we believed a government with a million priorities was a government with no priorities.
SH 2010: You’re overreacting. There was a lot of good stuff in that speech. We vowed to eliminate unnecessary appointments, close unfair tax loopholes and get rid of red tape.
SH 2005: So we used our Throne Speech to tell Canadians that the person running the country for the past four years has been doing a lousy job?
SH 2010: I’m not sure you’ve got the right attitude. My psychic hairstylist says that…
[An awkward silence falls.]
SH 2005: I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.
SH 2010: That’s probably for the best.
SH 2005: I have to ask: on a personal level, what’s it like being PM?
SH 2010: It’s great. Remember what we used to say—that it’s better to be respected as a leader than to be loved? Well, it turns out it’s even better to be feared. Plus, there are perks. When I was at the Olympics, I got to sit next to Wayne Gretzky.
SH 2005: That’s terrific! Hey, how’d our book on hockey turn out?
[Silence. In the distance, a coyote howls.]
SH 2005: I don’t have much time. I need to get back and promise Canadians that ministers in a Conservative government will never succumb to the culture of arrogance and entitlement that—
[sound of glass shattering down the hall, followed by screaming].
What the heck was that?
SH 2010: Helena Guergis. Her tea must have been served lukewarm.
SH 2005: I’ve got to be honest: this is a little disheartening. I guess I’ll have to content myself with knowing that we’ve got a Conservative government focused on ordinary Canadians. No longer will the Prime Minister indulge and cater to the elites.
SH 2010: Exactly. I only played them one Beatles song on the piano. But I actually know two.
SH 2005: How do the books look?
SH 2010: The economy took a bit of a turn. Bad timing for us, because we used up the surplus trying to win over voters. So now we’ve got—
SH 2005: I’m just going to take a drink of water. Keep talking.
SH 2010: Now we’ve got a deficit of $56 billion.
[Water sprays from SH 2005’s mouth.]
SH 2005: So—quick checklist. Did we create those child care spaces I’m promising?
SH 2010: No.
SH 2005: Reduce health care wait times?
SH 2010: Oh dear heavens, no.
SH 2005: Create an effective plan to combat climate change?
SH 2010: Well, we’ve been meaning to get—
SH 2005: Nah, I’m just messing with you. I was never serious about that.
[They share a laugh.]
SH 2005: But we killed the gun registry and got Senate reform done, right?
SH 2010: Listen—governing is tricky. It’s hard to do things like…anything.
SH 2005: So we’ve been PM for four years and our primary accomplishment is…what? Still being PM after four years?
SH 2010: Don’t knock it—it worked for Chrétien.
SH 2005: At least tell me we’ve gotten tough on violent crime.
SH 2010: We’re on it. We’ve introduced the bills—lots of them—but we keep running into hurdles.
SH 2005: The opposition finds a way to stop them?
SH 2010: Actually, I prorogued Parliament, killing the bills and forcing us to start over. [Pause.] Twice.
SH 2005: One final question—if I punch you in the face, will I feel it?