Friday, January 25, 2008

The Economist: Support For Harper Remains Strong After Two Years Of Minority Government

The Economist notes that Canada is showing no sign of tiring of Prime MInister Stephen Harper after two years under his administration. Despite dubbing him an 'automaton', they point out that his competence as a political leader is difficult to impugn.

Full article at the link:

MINORITY governments seldom last long in Canada. So when Stephen Harper led his Conservative party to office, but without a parliamentary majority, in a federal election in January 2006, pundits confidently predicted he would soon seek a bigger mandate from the voters. Five fairly straightforward campaign promises were ticked off quickly. But the expected election call never came. Instead Mr Harper pushed through a law fixing parliamentary terms. Unless the opposition gangs up to bring him down, or unless he engineers that outcome himself, his government will soldier on until October 2009—a span exceeded only once before by a minority administration.

That is partly testament to the disarray of a divided opposition. The Liberals, its main element, were leaderless for much of 2006 before picking St├ęphane Dion, a mild-mannered policy wonk, who has made a slow start. But Mr Harper has been unable to do much more than survive. Respected for his competence, he has all the charisma of an automaton. “I thought that people needed time to get used to Mr Harper,” says Roger Gibbins of the Canada West Foundation, an Alberta-based think-tank. “But it's turned out that to know Harper is not to love him.” That is especially true for women. Opinion polls show little change in allegiance since the last election—except for a brief moment of Conservative advance last autumn (see chart).


Trickier still is Afghanistan, where 77 Canadian troops and a diplomat have died since 2002. Canada's military mission there—it has some 2,500 troops in Kandahar in the south, where insurgents are active—is unpopular, but has been strongly supported by Mr Harper. To defuse criticism, he appointed a non-partisan committee under John Manley, a Liberal former foreign minister, to consider the mission's future. On January 22nd the committee recommended that it continue—but only if reinforced by 1,000 extra troops from another NATO country as well as by more aircraft. Unless Mr Harper secures such support at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April, he could face defeat on the issue in the House of Commons.


This year is shaping up to be Mr Harper's most difficult so far. But there is not yet any sign that the opposition will feel sufficiently emboldened to bring him down and trigger an election. Its leaders will be studying the opinion polls as closely as the prime minister. These show that “Canadians are pretty satisfied with the way the world is going,” says Darrell Bricker of Ipsos-Reid, a polling company. Too satisfied, it seems, to want to kick the government out.

Tip o' the hat to Dust My Broom.

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