Stephen Harper: eight years

Paul Wells on the PM's prospects in 2015

Today is the 8th anniversary of the Conservatives’ election victory in 2006. Stephen Harper formed the weakest minority government, in seats as a fraction of all the seats in the Commons, since Confederation. He has been re-elected twice since. CBC reporter Chris Hall had a documentary retrospective, featuring yours truly, last night. I wrote a book.

The prime minister insists each time he’s asked that he intends to lead the Conservative Party in the next election, scheduled for October of 2015. What he’s trying to do is hard. He wants a fourth election victory. In the history of the country, only two prime ministers have won four consecutive elections: Sir John A. Macdonald and Wilfrid Laurier. Harper wants to be re-elected after having served for nine years. In the history of the country, only three have done that: Macdonald, Laurier and Mackenzie King. (Pierre Trudeau, who lost his fourth election before defeating Joe Clark in a comeback, is a hard case to treat by these criteria.)

What are his chances?

That’s up to you, as voters, not me.

In the excerpt we ran from my book, I discuss the habits and attitudes he brings to his day-to-day management as prime minister. In general orientation, you should not look for a striking change of style, attitude or policy at this point. My colleagues who advise Harper to admit error, or to be more huggy, or to show more consistency in his policy decisions, are essentially calling for Harper to be replaced by some new creature. It won’t happen. He’s far likelier to double down, as he has been doing since last autumn and, indeed, as he did all week in Israel.

Many will predict he’ll quit or fail. They’ve been predicting that for more than eight years. Some day they’ll be right. For today I’m not in a betting mood.