The tendency to run Canada like it was an extension of Harper Inc. will be very intense with a Conservative majority in the House, the NDP preoccupied, and the Liberals weak from their recent rout at the polls, says Rex.

Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode

Harper's Free Ride

September 15, 2011

It’s a very new House from the last one. 

Stephen Harper finally climbs up to the Dias as the leader of a majority government and in certain respects what an easy time he’s going to have of it.

He’s not only Prime Minister – he’s also satisfied the deep, deep yearning inside every right-wing heart of decimating the Liberals, taking the furious wheels off their fiery red wagon and turning the once greatest vote-catching juggernaut in Canadian politics into a tattered scarecrow in an empty field.  Not since the days of the Rat Pack have things been so grim for the Liberals.

The NDP are also very precariously placed, despite their record seats. Their interim leader – Madame Turmel – if she stays for any length of time, is a really bad choice for the parliamentary session.  Not only because of the fresh shadows of her separatist-sovereigntist associations, but because she is so obviously and patently just keeping the seat warm till a real leader is chosen.

That’s not going to be easy. Go for the insider Brian Topp?  Put a face on the party only known from a few political panels and his emergent role as a counselor to the late leader. Then there are all those new Quebec MPs - are they deep converts to the NDP, or just parking while they see how the winds blow?  They could go for someone like the so-far-fence-straddling Thomas Mulcair, a star when Jack Layton recruited him, but that might start a worry that the NDP is owned by a Quebec machine with merely some federal colouring. 

The even greater burden facing the NDP is that the party has ascribed so much of its success to the unique personality of Mr. Layton that it is very difficult to see how they maintain it without him.  Layton personalized a sometimes very brittle, harsh politics into something more approachable and appealing.

The Commons remains where the action is. With Bob Rae tied up by the greatest renovation  job in the history of Canadian politics, picking up the shards and scrapings of the shattered Liberal party – and he’s no Mike Holmes – he won’t be the focused torment in Question Period that he needs to be.

The tendency to run Canada like it was an extension of Harper Inc. will be very intense if his NDP opponents – as they are – are scattered, preoccupied and the Liberals, still weak from the rout of the election.  Harper’s not an easy opponent when he’s down.  And he’s anything but down at this point.

For The National, I’m Rex Murphy.