The Myth of Stephen Harper

As much as I’m happy to see the backside of Stephen Harper as Canada’s Prime Minister, he probably wasn’t the villain that his opponents have tried to paint him as. Vice’s Justin Ling gives A Eulogy for Prime Minister Stephen Harper

When you peel it all away—all the accusations, all the “facts” pulled from, all the indictments of the Harper government—you’re left with the legacy of a team of overworked and under-trusted micromanagers who fucked up four-out-of-five files on their desk, not a shadowy cabal of operators hell-bent on destroying liberal, happy Canada. This was a government more incompetent than evil.

…Harper didn’t want to dismantle the welfare state. He didn’t want to change how we think about Canada. He didn’t want to fix entitlement culture or hack at equalization. His broad strategy was a simple and attainable one: downsize government and neuter it wherever possible.

In the end, Harper didn’t change that much about Canada. We still have a ton of problems. Sure, the Liberals present a friendlier image. That’s not hard to do, considering Harper’s famously robotic image. But will the Liberals actually implement the TRC’s findings? Will they call an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (and then do something about it)? Will they do anything about the tar sands, or our terrible environmental record?

It’s very easy to burn the effigy of Stephen Harper that we’ve created. Very easy to go on and say that Stephen Harper was the problem, and standing next to his funeral pyre, that we’ve fixed it all.

…[T]hese ideas that Canada is good, Harper is bad, and his government was some sort of horrible aberration, they still don’t explain how 5.6 million Canadians continued to support his government. And those myths assume that these problems—inaction on various social problems, secretive bureaucracy, environmental destruction, racism—are new, or that the previous governments have handled them responsible. They are not, and they did not.

One concrete change would be the electoral reform that the Liberals made a part of their campaign. Will we see the end of first past the post? Will we see propotional representation or ranked ballots? Pessimism says that the Liberals won’t do anything to mess with the system that brought them into power. I hope I’m wrong.

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