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Tim Yu

A review of ‘The Longer I’m Prime Minister’

Paul Wells has written a book that is very much geared towards not only explaining Stephen Harper to his most ardent supporters, but also to readers that cannot come to understand how a government that once started out with the weakest minority in Canadian history has clung onto power -- and dominated the federal political landscape -- for as long as they have. Much of this, according to Wells, is down to Harper's ultimate goal: political endurance. What distinguishes Harper from other Conservative leaders of the past -- be it the failed attempts under Brian Mulroney to amend the Constitution or the Common-Sense Revolution of the 1990s under Ontario Premier Mike Harris -- is a preference for 'arch incrementalism' rather than any sweeping political revolution, all in the hopes of remaining in 24 Sussex Drive longer. Rather than cut spending in transfers to the provinces for social programs, Harper has instead set out to gradually "hobble not just his own government, but any federal government of any party stripe that will come after it.” Wells depicts Harper as a shrewd and disciplined tactician that is willing to concede ground, so long as it reasserts the conservative movement as a competitive current in Canadian politics. This can offer an explanation as to why the Conservatives had been willing to pay the political price of running large deficits in the aftermath of the economic downturn, or Harper's personal unwillingness to support any pro-life measures presented by social conservatives that could lead to political instability. Yet, Harper has managed to succeed where other Conservatives before him -- Joe Clark, Brian Mulroney, and Kim Campbell included -- have all failed: to look like a Conservative to conservatives. The road to securing the arithmetic majority of the House of Commons, however, has not always been… Read More