Why Stephen Harper will resign in 2014: James Cowan

The party needs a graceful exit

(Peter Muhly/WPA/Getty)

(Peter Muhly/WPA/Getty)

When trying to predict the future, it’s helpful to first check the archives. Reading old news is a reminder of how often prognosticators are wrong and how quickly public opinion can shift. Take, for example, Stephen Harper. In the past few months, there has been a constant flow of stories speculating that the Prime Minister will step down before the next federal election in October 2015. And despite Harper’s emphatic denial, this makes eminent sense given his steep and long slide in popularity. But it becomes even more reasonable when you consider what didn’t change in 2013.

Just over a year ago, Ipsos Reid pollster Darrell Bricker declared the Prime Minister was looking “solid, solid, solid.” The Conservatives had avoided accumulating the “barnacles and cuts and bruises” often associated with a long-governing party and stood a strong chance of getting re-elected. This sentiment was reflected elsewhere; a Nanos research survey showed 48% of Canadians felt the country was headed in the right direction and a healthy majority believed Harper’s government was doing an average job, at least. Twelve months later, public opinion has shifted. Nanos polling now shows that 55% of Canadians believe the country is headed in the wrong direction and 56% said federal government was doing a “poor” or “very poor” job. Similarly, an Ipsos Reid poll showed 60% of respondents didn’t think the government was working, a reflection of a “Tory brand” that was starting to get “a little tattered,” according to Mr. Bricker.

But polls are just snapshots, right? Harper has more than a year-and-a-half to put the Senate scandal, so often blamed for his woes, behind him. But here’s the thing: Even back in 2012—when Mike Duffy was a household name as a former broadcaster and Harper was looking solid, solid, solid—57% of Canadians still thought he should quit before the next election. A year later, that number had crept up slightly to 59%. Canadians have changed their mind about his government and the direction of the country, but their long-term career advice for the Prime Minister remained consistent.

Also remaining consistent—some might say frozen—is Harper’s economic policy. A year ago, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was said to be preparing a “stay-the-course” budget; the message this year is identical. The government continues to push for a fourth national wireless carrier, while refusing to make changes to foreign investment rules that might make Wind Mobile into a viable contender. They’ve demanded an answer from U.S. President on the Keystone XL pipeline, while stalling on environmental concessions that might have made it easier for Barack Obama to say “Yes.”

The Conservatives could get away with this as long as the Canadian economy fared better than the rest of the world, with relatively low unemployment, relatively high wages and no sign of the housing market crash that doomsayers’ predicted. When the rest of the world is falling apart, the act of just holding things together became laudable. With a recovery now visible in the United States and elsewhere, Canadians will start asking—what has the Harper government done to position the economy for future growth? Save for the significant achievement of signing a free trade deal with the European Union, there isn’t much. Which leaves the Conservatives with little ammunition to defend themselves when bad economic news—like the loss of nearly 46,000 jobs in December—presents itself.

Reading back to the beginning of 2013, it seemed unthinkable that Stephen Harper would step down before the next election. But the numbers—the polls, the employment reports—seem against him. So too is time. To have a leader in place for the next election, the Conservatives can’t wait until 2015 to see how Harper’s fortunes hold out. No matter how much he denies it, this is the year that Harper will go.

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18 comments on “Why Stephen Harper will resign in 2014: James Cowan

  1. As one who voted Concervative the first time in my life to teach the Liberals a lesson I will never vote that way again Harper should resign this fall or he will have to when he faces the poles next year & know how the Liberals felt Harper is a smart man but he does not care for the average Jo & only pushes his agenda & does nor really believe in debate in Parliament

    • AS a Liberal I have no run-ins with Jim Flaherty who like Paul Martin before him has lately restrained spending in order to get rid of the deficit. True, the Conservatives ran up the deficit following the 2008 financial crash but a lot of that was to get people back into working with infrastructure and other incentives – we’ll overlook the fighter plane fiasco and the money wasted there.

      What I do hold the Conservatives accountable for is Canada’s loss of face in the World as a result of Harper’s misplaced policies – the latest being his total reverence towards Israel at the expense of the Palestinians.. I feel this is Harper’s personal agenda and that he is not expressing traditional Canadian policies of fairness by looking at both sides of the picture. There is a great suspicion that he is kowtowing to Zionist interests in order to fill his party’s buckets with cash for the next election. He is doing so at the expense of traditional Canadian sensitivities. I am certain, judging by the latest disapproval ratings, that Canadians viewed his speech to the Knesset as a disaster.

      During his “reign” we have seen too much Harper and not enough true traditional Canadian representation. Canada’s dropping out of the Kyoto Protocol and also voting against the acceptance of Palestine into the United Nations are samples of conservative small thinking.

      Perhaps the article is correct and Harper will recognize his diminished popularity among Canadians in general and resign. Time for him to go.

  2. And does mr Cowen realize that having a good economy is really good for the average guy? Does Mr. Cowen realize that having a good paycheck does really well towards paying for food and mortgages? And does Mr. Cowen realize that simply staying the course as Mr. C implies is really good. We still have 94% employment, We have a declining deficit and debt?
    And yes, there are warts in things. Get over it Cowen, Just because you want to speculate, others of us really want to keep working and benefiting from things the Conservatives have brought in. But no, you want to stir the negative pot – again. Just like the other run of the mill ” journalists”. And you do seem to be another run of the mill Mr. Cowen. Sorry to burst your bubbles.

    • With all due respect your reply seems a bit odd. You’re willing to be grateful to the Conservatives for your paycheck but yet accept the siphoning off of money at the top by Conservative (and possibly one or two) Liberal Senators. Are you angry at reporters for writing negatively about those shenanigans?

      • Yes, both Cons. and Libs. are guilty of Senators stealing. However, now that it has been payed back is it not time to let the RCMP deal with them, or would you rather waste another billion or two sending MP”s to sit in the House while opposition don’t seem to have any knowledge about the real things that are going on in the country. Time to turn the page NDP and Liberal and start to show what you would do . different. Time to give us a reason to change instead of same old same old.?????

    • Harper is not responsible for our current good fortune. That comes from decades of good policy built up by several parties. Did he help Canada navigate a tough global downturn. Yes! But I dare say almost all of our party heads would have done a good job at this. We have people that guide our leaders in the right direction. Oil, logging/mining, hydro electricity and agriculture are what keep Canada financially relevant. No politician made those from policy or guidance. We just lucked out there. Harper is damaging to Canada in the long run. He swings too much in one direction, is divisive and dreams of a republican American Canada. Canadians are a mixed bunch. Not a one size fits all country. Something harper will never understand. I voted for Harper last election. Never again will I vote for him or the PC unless there is something terribly wrong with the other parties.

  3. Stephen Harper is not going to resign in 2014. James Cowan is living in a fantasy world. Mr. Harper will go the course and go through the next election win or lose. Polls mean nothing. Votes are everything. It is always easy to blame the government for all our economic woes especially when it is out of their control. Recovery has many factors which include the private sector. People who agree with this article will be socialists who expect the government to supply the answers and handouts in every situation.

    • Hey Stormpilot! You’re kidding, right?
      “It is always easy to blame the government for all our economic woes especially when it is out of their control.” Not true according to the Conservatives’ Economic Action Plan advertising: they’re in total control of the economy. Not like those smarmy socialists in Europe and Obama’s administration — or so their story goes.
      Mr. Cowan is absolutely right. When the guy who thinks he’s the Smartest Guy in the Room realizes the jig is up he’ll leave rather than have the electorate show him the door.

      • Not true. What you are suggesting putting money out there (tax dollars) to help in an economic recovery is everything including total control of all sectors of the economy. That’s naïve thinking.. You are eliminating the private sector’s own independent employment to service other countries through products & services on top of incoming foreign investment I had a private company for 10 years and it wasn’t dependent on government intervention.. I would be happy to bet Mr. Cowan $100 he will be wrong in 2015.

  4. Pingback: Why Stephen Harper will resign in 2014: James Cowan | Oh Canadian

  5. In sports we have X games that go to the extreme in their bid to conquer here-to-fore unconquered events. In politics we now have the X games where Harper’s Conservatives have led us where no Prime Minister has led us before. Canada is now a militarized mental state where every war and battle has defined us; it is a nation where scientific research is secondary; it is a nation where nations are now bad and good; it is a nation where we have no foreign political policy other than foreign economic policy; it is a nation without any approach to environment stewardship. We are an X Treme nation and that is why after too many years a nation is ready to say no to Harper Xtremism. Harper is realizing the truth. He will resign to avoid embarrassment and humiliation.

  6. Back at cha CBUser
    I have no problems with Harper and my having money in my pocket and a job for about 94 or 95% of the population, in fact I have cudos for their actions there. I do however have serious problems with Mr. Cowen with his myopic idiotic statements both from him and his ilk. Cowen and his cohorts seem to think that because they have a stage or a soap box, they have free reign for their nonsense and their half baked supposed reporting and even their half baked opinions. No problem with Harper, just some very very stupid comments from some who should know much better but want their moments on the soap box to try and make folks think he and others are intelligent. – Not

  7. Harper will never resign, nor should he. Has there been a political leader in the last 10 years with a perfect record. Look at Ford and he still thinks he can win. The big thing people forget is Harper is the first leader we have had in a very long time that stands up for things. The last several people in power were puppets of the world. Our leaders were spineless people against other world leaders. Harper stands up for things, right or wrong he has a stand and he believes in it. Mr. Harper has conviction. We should all realize that there is no perfect sauce in running a country, little guy, big guy, we all take part in the game. And there are programs that work for both parties. I think Mr. Harper will run again, and win under a majority or minority again. The other thing no one mentioned is who his competition is, and he has none YET.

  8. Mr. Cowen is writing this piece like all Canadians are uneducated and unaware of how Canada is perceived as a nation. My opinion on a couple of key points: Staying the course on our economy while our largest trading partner recovers is not only the prudent thing to do but it will pay off in the long run. The government of Canada cannot control the American government and the decisions they make. Our record on the environment would not play a significant role on Keystone. That is American politics controlled solely by Americans. If they want our oil, it will happen, period. Job creation is never a result of government actions (unless government held corporations are forced to hire people), governments can only create a positive environment for businesses to thrive and hire people. Mr. Harper is not the first Canadian Prime Minister to support Israel. He just chose not to recognize Hezbollah at the UN., a proven terrorist organization. Canadians have always been anti-terrorist so why shouldn’t our Prime Minister reflect that. And finally, trying to take down an effective government by exposing idiotic politicians from an unelected, money wasting Senate doesn’t hold water either, even if these idiots are appointed by the Prime Minister. If he is so “controlling” why can’t he control every member of the Senate? True scandal sits in Ontario where a Premier gave away 1.2 billion dollars to gain 3 seats and win an election. Liberalism and Socialism scare me more than Stephen Harper.

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  10. Harper must go, the demise of the Canadian Nuclear Industry, along with almost all other research, leaves Canada wanting. The policy of the Avro Aero has been stretched to include anything that might be a long term winner for Canadians. Do we really want to be in the cold war 60’s again?
    In 1972 the only thing Canada had was resource sales and then Ontario became an industrial giant, with plentiful electric power. In 2014 we are back to resource sales only again, good for the short term. My children’s children will inherit a country totally dependant on the advances of the US and perhaps the EU. Thanx to the conservative policies we are soon to be a highly polluting energy source for the world, whilethe best and brightest leave for good jobs elsewhere.

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