A retroactive look at the former Prime Minister
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Interim Opinions Editor
Stephen Harper finally left his position as a back-bencher MP a few weeks ago, much to the delight of millions of Canadians. Election results last year made it clear that many Canadians have had enough of him and the Conservative Party, and most likely Canada will be better off without his influence.
During election seasons—and amid his time in office—there was a huge tendency by opponents to demonize Harper. For many, he was by far the worst prime minister of all time, and a purely evil racist, oppressive dictator dedicated to turning Canada into a fascist regime. Simply mentioning his name is enough to rile up bleeding-heart liberals in many parts of the country, who regard him as a complete embarrassment, and his administration a shameful part of the country’s history.
I’m not a Harper fan—I never voted for him or overly supported his policies. But by no means was he the worst person ever, or totally evil, even. He served as our country’s leader—representing us at world leader gatherings, and speaking on matters of national importance—for almost 10 years. Throughout most of this time, he was a competent, reasonable, effective, and respectable leader.
One can absolutely criticize Harper and the rest of the Conservative government’s policies and platforms related to economic or social issues of the time. This is particularly true after the 2011 election, with the majority government that allowed Conservatives to delay progress and change in Canadian society for so many people. A lot of the Harper hate didn’t truly start until after this time—he was begrudgingly respected, if not admired, before all hell really broke loose.
It wasn’t an administration that I was proud of policy-wise, but I’m not ashamed to have Stephen Harper be my country’s leader for 10 years. Like any political leader, criticism of his policies and decisions deserves a proper (and long) discussion. But he was competent, and at times even effective in keeping Canada afloat for a decade, and he deserves the proper respect and praise we would give any other leader. He may not have been as handsome, progressive, or friendly as our new leader—but he was no Adolf Hitler, either.
In many issues, Harper was actually moderate and effective in controlling the Conservative party—such as in hot-button social issues like abortion and gay marriage. He himself had personal objections to these issues, but controlled the party from attempting to change them, understanding the political ramifications. In many ways, Harper did what should be the job of all leaders: Formulating a plan in consistency with the party, yet understanding objections and negotiations from the opposing side.
When you look at our neighbours to the south, and some of the crazy, incompetent people they choose for their politics, Stephen Harper appears that much better. He was a flawed, status-quo politician who was re-elected three times and led a G7 country for a turbulent decade. One must give credit where credit is due and acknowledge accomplishments of all major politicians—even if there is some personal, residual anger aimed towards them.