He is Canada’s “political warrior.”
And for that reason Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was recently chosen Time Canadian Newsmaker of 2006, a selection that should surprise no one who has followed the Conservative leader’s steady political path since his election to power last January.
After 13 years of sleazy Liberal Party rule that ended in one of the biggest corruption scandals in Canadian political history, Harper rode a wave of voter disgust to the Prime Minister’s office a year ago at the head of a minority government. Once there, the new Conservative PM didn’t disappoint a jaded Canadian people. He immediately and successfully set out to act on his election promise to restore honesty in government and confidence in the country’s highest elected political office after the severe tarnishing they both underwent in Liberal hands. His first important piece of legislation, the 200-page Accountability Act, according to Time, did much to restore “a sense of competence and integrity” to the position of Prime Minister. And this was only the start.
After that, Harper repaired relations with the United States that had been damaged by the anti-Bush Liberals, whose leader, Jean Chretien, was Bill Clinton’s personal friend (nothing more needs to be said). Based on Harper’s new, America-friendly attitude the long-standing softwood lumber dispute between the two countries was soon resolved and much-improved relations with the Bush White House established.
Proving himself a true conservative, Time points out Canada’s twenty-second Prime Minister also cut one billion dollars from unnecessary government spending and took on the much neglected task of reforming Canada’s Senate, promised by many past Prime Ministers but acted on by none. Unlike its American counterpart, the Canadian Senate is unelected. The Prime Minister appoints the senators who enjoy almost a lifetime sinecure (until age 75) of perks and privileges without ever facing an election.
And even the major criticism leveled at Harper during his first year in power, the reversing of his election promise not to abolish income trusts that caused personal financial setbacks for many ordinary people, was viewed as beneficial for the country as a whole. One recently retired CEO of a $44-billion oil company, Gwyn Morgan, came out in support of the Prime Minister in a Canadian national newspaper, crediting him for making a tough decision. Morgan believes that if Harper had not acted, Canada’s economy would have “turned… inward, rather than support strong Canadian players.”
But it is in the War on Terror and in his unwavering support of Israel that the novice Canadian Prime Minister from Alberta has shown his steely, principled character, so unusual for a politician. In a year-end interview with a Canadian news outlet, Harper has said he would not compromise on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan and pull Canadian troops out of that country as opposition parties have demanded. The Conservative leader said that would be a betrayal of the Canadians who have already given their lives in the conflict. Harper added he would be willing to fight an election on this issue, saying he could live with himself if he lost, but couldn’t if he compromised Canada’s strategic and defense interests for the wrong reasons.
“I couldn’t care less if the opposition brings me down and defeats me in an election over this,” he said. “I have to do what I think is right for the long-term security interest of this country and right for the men and women who have put themselves on the line.”
Inspiring and uncommon words in an era when people all too often see politicians dishonorably place the acquisition and maintenance of political power above all else.
In his support of Israel, Harper is just as strongly principled. Even before the United States, Canada withdrew its funding of the Palestinian Hamas government after its election. And as concerns this radical Muslim organization, the Canadian PM, typically, pulled no punches when he called it and Hezbollah “genocidal.”
“We will not solve the Palestinian-Israeli problem, as difficult as that is, through organizations that advocate violence and advocate wiping Israel off the face of the Earth,” he said. “…we are not going to sit down with people whose objectives are ultimately genocidal.”
In typical fashion, Canada’s Prime Minister says he shouldn’t have been named Time Canadian Newsmaker of the Year, saying that honor should have gone to the Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan instead. And with such high-minded judgment, one hopes Stephen Harper will continue to occupy the Prime minister’s office for a very long time to come.
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