Stephen Harper has changed the landscape of Canadian politics, but ultimately he has not succeeded according to his own standards. In 2006 he famously said "You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it."
The landscape of parts of Alberta are certainly unrecognizable. He has damaged the economy and the country's international reputation. He has run up record deficits, severely damaged the social safety net, made the country less democratic, made government less transparent and less accessible to ordinary Canadians. He has led one of the most corrupt, unethical and unaccountable governments in Canadian history.
All of those things however, with the exception of the tar pits, are superficial. They can be fixed and cleaned up by future governments. Beneath the surface Canada is still Canada.
In 2004 the CBC asked Canadians to decide who the "Greatest Canadian" was, or is. Canadians chose Tommy Douglass. More specifically the top 10 were:
- Tommy Douglas
- Terry Fox
- Pierre Trudeau
- Sir Frederick Banting
- David Suzuki
- Lester B. Pearson
- Don Cherry
- Sir John A. McDonald
- Alexander Graham Bell
- Wayne Gretzky
So, all men, all but 1 white men but no conservatives with the exception of Don Cherry - who was celebrated for his hockey career much more than his political leanings.
It is now 10 years later. For most of that time Harper has had his way and a party willing to march in lock step behind him, without complaint. Recently the Harper Government, in preparation for Canada's 150th birthday in 2017 consulted Canadians again about which Canadians inspired them the most.
According to the CBC nearly 12,000 Canadians completed the online questionnaire. The top 10 this time around were:
- Pierre Trudeau (again)
- Terry Fox (again)
- Tommy Douglas (again)
- Lester B. Pearson (again)
- Chris Hadfield
- David Suzuki (again)
- Jack Layton
- Sir John A. Macdonald
- Wayne Gretzky (again)
- Romeo Dallaire
So, a late NDP leader, a world renowned astronaut and a military hero (and Liberal Senator) have been added to the list and Don Cherry is gone, along with Alexander Graham Bell and Frederick Banting. However, the list is very much like the CBC's list from 10 years ago - there are still no conservatives.
It is a bit troubling that there are no women on the list and that David Suzuki is the only non-white member of the list. Still, I think this is a more representative snapshot of what Canada looks like than the devastated Alberta landscape or any of the superficial and fixable legal and fiscal changes.
It would also appear that Stephen Harper's time is nearly up. Nationally, Harper's popularity numbers are in decline (and were only ever barely high enough to keep him in power), he is facing the stirrings of revolt within his formerly fanatically loyal party and Liberals are consistently polling better than the ruling Conservatives.
Looking at Harper's track record it seems unlikely that he ever believed in anything except for more money and power for Stephen Harper and his friends. However, despite his efforts, Canada is still Canada and appears to be poised for a comeback.
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