Monday, January 30, 2006


So you're probably thinking that I'm a too big of a Harper booster. I assure you that I'll be objective, but even many Liberals admire him, his intellect, and yes, even his personality.

In witnessing Stephen Harper's rise to 24 Sussex over the past 5 years has been like watching Kasparov play chess--always several moves ahead.

Just think about what he started with--a broken Canadian Alliance party. He ignored the distractions and united everyone. "The Canadian Alliance is strong and the Canadian Alliance is here to stay."

I'll never forget that because I knew he was lying. I knew he knew the only way to defeat the "naturally governing" Liberals was to forge the Progressive Conservatives and Reform back together.

Heck, I even laid out a timeline of how this could all happen, and I even said the new party should just be called "Conservative". Harper met that timeline. Obviously he didn't take my advice directly, but I was amazed how everything fell into place.

Months after the Canadian Alliance convention in Edmonton, the P.C.s had their convention here too. I thought, "Of all the cities, they pick the same one? Symbolic?" I remember meeting Peter Mackay in his hospitality suite at the Westin drinking some Nova Scotian microbrew. You're probably thinking what the heck I was doing there? Well, I was posing as a Tory and just walked up to his room. I talked to him for a bit regarding his leadership ambitions and he was obvious, not in his words, but his tone.

I got the feeling that there was something more to all of this, but didn't go much further than that.

After Mackay promised David Orchard not to merge with Harper on a napkin, I realized Mackay was a lot like Harper--in ignoring the distractors. They both knew everyone hated the Liberals more than than they disagreed on minor issues and that a merger was the best thing.

But Mackay was forthright, not seeming to jump right into bed with Harper. It was a difficult negotiation, with Belinda Stronach in the middle of it (speaking of being in bed). The last issue being how the leader is chosen: Reform's one member one vote (OMOV) or the Tory belief that all ridings are equal. They chose the latter, which I agreed with, because that's how the House of Commons is setup.

After that all happened, I met Peter again at a Rahim Jaffer event prior to the 2004 election. I said, "Peter, it took a lot of courage to do what you did." He said, "I did what I thought was the best thing for the country." He's right. And now look where we are!

So I wonder if Harper knew well ahead of time that Peter Mackay was a willing participant in the merger?

It's those chess moves that also show how well the recent Conservative platform resonates with ordinary Canadians.

Even Liberals like it. They tried to trash it during the campaign but could only come up with beer and popcorn. That was the best argument. All Jack Layton and the NDP could say was that Harper is out of touch, without getting specific. They all tried to label Harper as something he's not. While many Canadians got scared again at the last minute and jumped back to the Liberals, it just wasn't enough because Harper's policies were centrist with a touch of conservative libertarianism.

And that is why Harper will be able to pass a lot of things in the House over this year, with the NDP, and heck, even the Liberals. Because if they don't, and cause an election over an issue that most Canadians agree with, then you may see a merger on the left, and just like in the U.S., the natural governing party will be the Conservatives.

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