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Posted: October 24, 2015

There’s a reason Harper did what he did

Gerry WarnerPerceptions by Gerry Warner

Now that the election tumult has faded, the signs gathered up and the pundits like yours truly punted, it’s time for some sober reflection on this week’s most incredible election.

Surely few can deny that it wasn’t so much the Conservative government that was deep-sixed as it was Stephen Harper.

In fact, if it wasn’t for Harper’s hostile and authoritarian personality, the Conservatives may have eked out another slim victory and former MP David Wilks may have remained the Kootenay-Columbia MP instead of MP-elect Wayne Stetski. But Stetski was smart enough to run harder against Harper than he did against Wilks’ leaving control-freak leader, which Wilks with the onerous task of defending the undefendable.

Stetski also benefited from the boundary changes to the constituency and a lot of strategic votes that may have instead gone to the highly respected Green candidate, Bill Green.

But let’s get back to the unlamented Harper.

In an ironic and almost surrealistic way, I actually feel sympathy for the former PM because I think he was one of the rarest of human beings – a political idiot savant.

Now before you march me off to the nearest funny farm, let me explain. Harper was actually an incredibly smart politician and a strong leader with a laser-like ability to engage in politics strategically to his benefit and the destruction of his opponents.

Not long after the disastrous 1993 election, when the once-mighty Progressive Conservatives were reduced to two seats, Harper began his strategic campaign to “Unite the Right” and melded the feuding factions of the Canadian right into a powerful movement that took the word “progressive” out of the Progressive Conservative Party. It was replaced with a hard-nosed Conservative Party that took no prisoners and embraced so-called “conservative values” such as limited government, individual responsibility, law and order, gun-friendly, pro-military, pro-business (the bigger, the better) unabashed patriotism and hostility towards climate change science or any science for that matter.

It was a volatile mixture, but it worked very well in the West, especially Alberta. It also worked well in rural Canada and eventually caught on in suburban Ontario and the suburban belts around most major Canadian cities. In the election of 2011, it gave Harper a majority, but a majority that proved to be his undoing. Why? Because that’s when Canadians began to realize Harper’s idiot savant nature.

Yes, he was a skilled politician, a genius of a politician, but what was he as a human being? Remember early on the famous picture of him stiff-armed as he shook the hand of his young son as he dropped him off for school. Not a hug, not a smile. Only a handshake for his boy to remember in class all day. I personally witnessed this when Harper visited Cranbrook and again stood stiffly for at least a half-an-hour as several school classes and local citizens were marched into his presence and he deigned to allow them to have their picture taken beside him. But not a word; not a greeting. Only a frozen smile and not a hair out of place.

Was he shy? There was certainly nothing shy about the way he eviscerated his political opponents like Stephan Dion and Michael Ignatieff, who he reduced to personal caricatures in two previous elections and the way he tried to make a “boy” out of 43-year-old Justin Trudeau by implying he “wasn’t ready” for the job. What about Nigel Wright, his closest political aide and confident? Depending on who you believe, Harper either callously threw him under the bus to protect himself or has been lying through his teeth through the entire Senator Duffy affair.

Then there was Omar Khadr, a child soldier all of 15-years-old when his Al Qaeda father dragged him off to war in Afghanistan and he allegedly killed an American soldier who was trying to kill him. Harper did everything in his power to keep the Muslim teenager locked up in the Guantanamo gulag forever until the judicial system rightfully freed him and brought him back to Canada.

Harper ran the Conservative Party like President Putin runs Russia and shamelessly used racially-tinged, wedge politics to inflame Canadians against Muslim new citizens wanting to wear the niqab in a country whose Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of religion.

But now he’s gone and Canada is free to again be one of the most tolerant, generous and peace-loving countries in the world and a country with a heart as wide as a prairie sky.

That’s what we lost under Stephen Harper. Thank God, we’ve got it back.

Lead image by CP PHOTO/Chuck Stoody/National Post

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist.

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