Dear Mr. Harper:
Oh, wait, I’m sorry. You’re not Prime Minister anymore, so there’s no need to persist with these needless formalities. Let’s try again. Pretend you’re wearing a cardigan by the fireside for one of your “folksy” campaign commercials, or warbling a Beatles hit with your garage band. All set? Warm and fuzzy? Fine, then. Here we go…
Welcome back to the public eye! It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly three years since you last ran the country and the Conservative Party.
Now that you’re in your 60th year, you might want to look to the future. I mean, wouldn’t it be lovely to spend more time with Laureen and the kids, or write some more books about hockey, or be a guest voice on the new Corner Gas animated series?
You know – something…ANYTHING…that doesn’t involve politics?
Now, I’m not writing to suggest you disappear from the public eye and never comment on anything ever again. You were Prime Minister for almost a decade, spent the previous four years as Opposition Leader, and sat in Parliament for a combined 17 years. It would be beyond foolish of me to suggest you don’t have anything relevant to add to the conversation.
After all, look at the guy who replaced you, the fine lad who your own attack ads described as having “nice hair.” His dad regularly waded into political debates for years after he left 24 Sussex Drive in 1984. Following in his father’s footsteps, I’m sure our current leader will have much to say after he leaves office, even if he’s just doing more interviews with Rolling Stone.
Or think of Paul Martin, the fellow you defeated for the PM’s chair in early 2006. He’s spoken up about several issues of national and international importance, most recently pushing for clean drinking water on aboriginal reserves across Canada.
So, hey, go ahead, Steve, and speak your mind. But, at the same time, be judicious with the timing and regularity of your commentaries. And choose your words carefully when you do speak up.
Andrew Scheer might appreciate that. You know, the fellow from Saskatchewan who took over as Conservative Leader last year. No, no, Andrew Scheer. Scheer. S-C-H-E-E-R.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter which of the 17 people who ran for your old job won the prize. You wouldn’t have done any of them any favours by going to a major American university earlier this year and announcing that you thought you “could probably still be the leader of my party, if I wanted to.”
Okay, Steve, before you get defensive, hear me out: I listened to the YouTube video featuring that on-stage interview at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in California. I understand the point that you were trying to make. You were expressing your desire to have the Conservative Party of Canada become a lasting, inclusive political institution instead of turning it into, as you warned, “a personal political vehicle.”
The problem here is that, by suggesting you could still lead that party, you’re undercutting the next generation of CPC leadership and basically delivering your successor’s head on a platter to the governing Liberals, who were already branding him as “Stephen Harper with a smile” at their national convention last month in Halifax.
The other problem: You didn’t step down from your party for purely altruistic reasons, as your Stanford comments suggest. You stepped down because you lost the 2015 election. Period.
You launched that 72-day campaign to win another majority, or at least a minority, not to make a point or have a moral victory. You wanted to win. And you didn’t win, so you quit.
You didn’t win because the Canadian public had tired of your schtick. We voted for Justin Trudeau because, quite bluntly, he looked like the best bet to take you down.
We’ve moved on. We didn’t swipe completely left, but we weren’t interested in swiping right anymore.
We happen to appreciate governments that treat all regions of the country equally. We like leaders who aren’t terrified of the parliamentary press gallery. We like the arts. We like scientists. We especially like scientists who aren’t facing government pressure to clam up about climate change.
What don’t we like? Well, we’re not all that crazy about former Prime Ministers offering post-election congratulations to authoritarian Hungarian leaders or signing full-page ads in major American newspapers to congratulate Donald Trump on pulling out of a nuclear accord with Iran.
The country you governed for nearly 10 years is evolving, Steve. So is the party you led and co-founded. With that in mind, consider picking your spots and giving that evolution a little more breathing room.
P.S. Shame about those Jets, eh?