This morning’s Toronto Star provides a handy list of Harper’s most recent “turnarounds”:
• The Senate. He was adamant he would not resort to the old politics of stacking the upper chamber with party cronies. But faced with the possible defeat of his minority government, Harper moved fast before Christmas to fill 18 vacancies with loyal Conservatives, many failed candidates or with party ties.
• Fixed election date. In May 2006, Harper proposed fixed election date legislation that would set the next election date in October 2009, to stop political leaders from “trying to manipulate the calendar.”
Instead, Harper called an election last September, saying that Parliament had reached an “impasse.” But he was also hoping to capitalize on his own promising poll numbers and a weak official Opposition before the economy worsened.
• Supreme Court appointments. In December, Harper appointed Thomas Cromwell of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court, bypassing a parliamentary hearing process he championed to more openly scrutinize nominees.
• Government appointments. The Prime Minister had promised to implement a public appointments commission to eliminate cronyism in such appointments. It was to be part of the government’s much-vaunted Accountability Act. It never happened and, since winning its first minority government in January 2006, the Tory government has made some 1,500 appointments, many based on political pedigree.
Of course, we all know that. What’s more interesting are the remarks by Harper’s mentor (or Svengali, if you prefer), Tom Flanagan.
Tom Flanagan, a former Harper campaign organizer and strategist, said Harper has transformed from a conservative ideologue to a political survivor, but remains a victim of his own dark side. “Both sides are real … but what you see more and more is the political Harper,” said Flanagan, author of the acclaimed Harper’s Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power.
Flanagan said the “Machiavellian” side is far more troubling than his political transformation, given that it almost cost him his government. “He lost the initiative by provoking the other parties into this potential coalition against him … and now he finds himself having to put together a budget which is really a coalition budget … the government’s hand is fairly weak right now.”
Isn’t karma a bitch sometimes?