Harper’s “Dictatorship for Democracy” Coming to an End?

This is a guest post by journalist and filmmaker Michael Harris. A longer version of this article originally appeared on iPolitics.

Don’t be surprised if something big happens inside the hermetically sealed world of the Stephen Harper Party — and sooner rather than later.

It could be the departure of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, or a spectacular policy pivot, or even an election from space. Some people think there is still a chance it could be a Harper resignation.

Prime Minister Harper, like senators Duffy and Wallin, is beginning the most painful journey of all — from key political asset to major party liability.

It is a slow process, but can reach runaway elevator speed if the cable snaps. Harper is at the stage where it is beginning to fray.

Knowingly or unknowingly, the prime minister has presided over two major scandals which are both far from over — robocalls and the Wright/Duffy Affair — and one in which the party was caught cheating, the in-and-out scandal. His Conservative values are now purely rhetorical.

The PM has also tightened the choke chain around his own people, dictating not so benevolently from the PMO what he wants done. Some people have had enough, tired of taking orders from an office whose stealthy activities have brought the police when there's no Nigel to right the ship.

Last June, Brent Rathgeber broke his leash to sit as an independent. The caucus has had ants in its pants ever since — particularly the theo-cons who have been completely betrayed on their agenda by the prime minister.

Harper’s judgment in personal appointments — from the two senators now under RCMP investigation to shady characters like Arthur Porter and Bruce Carson — has been deplorable.

The PM’s political vulnerability has now reached the point where, as Andrew Coyne wrote, the party is beginning to imagine a post-Harper universe. The scary part for the Conservative Party is that the post-Harper universe may be run by a new father who is not a Conservative and doesn’t mind the odd toke.

But even more telling, prominent figures in the party used the Manning Networking Conference to speak out against the PM’s political judgement, issue management and style — ever so gently, but ever so clearly. Even a year ago, that would have been unthinkable.

Take Preston Manning. The man who laid the foundations for Stephen Harper’s political career in 1987 has urged the prime minister to restore democracy. Yikes! The only place you need to restore democracy is somewhere it doesn’t exist. Was it possibly the gentlest way of telling someone they were a dictator?

If it was, some people were less delicate. Kelsey Johnson reported in iPolitics that former Conservative MP Inky Mark picked up on Manning’s comment, using Twitter to say that Harper “was dictator since day one.”

The elder statesman of Reform/Conservative politics in Canada said out loud what a lot of Canadians have been thinking for some time: time to restore democracy, Mr. Prime Minister, not subvert it.

Give Elections Canada the power it asked for, rather than diminishing the power the Conservatives wished Elections Canada didn’t have in the robocalls investigation. How do you improve elections by reducing the powers of Elections Canada?

Conservatives across Canada are getting sick of a party that has become a cult of one — which is why one of the other things Manning advised Harper to do was to stop working the bit in the mouth of caucus, loosen the reins and go easy on the spurs.

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