Stephen Harper became Canadian Prime Minister nearly five years ago, ending a long period of what became corrupt Liberal rule. In 2008 he faced re-election and added to the number of Conservative MPs. Now, in 2011, he is likely to face another election battle and although polls suggest he'll stay as Prime Minister he looks likely to fall short (again) of majority status. In a nation which has been dominated by the Liberals – for eighty of the last 110 years – that is, nonetheless, no mean achievement.
The National Post has completed a series of reflective articles on Harper's five years and key conclusions are published below…
Will he be remembered fondly? David Frum salutes his unification of what was a balkanised Canadian Right but overall – unless the best is yet to come – he won't, writes Rex Murphy, be remembered as a historic PM: "We may as well admit right off that Mr. Harper is not in the company of the giants. We have had no constitutional change under Mr. Harper, nothing that resets or redefines the terms of the Confederation. Nor are we visibly a different nation from the one we were five years ago when Paul Martin was awkwardly holding the reins during his interim tenure. Neither on the world stage — despite the petty matter of missing a rotating seat at the Security Council — nor at home, is there a tranche of policy or landmark initiative that puts a real border between Harper’s tenure as leader and Martin’s tenure of trying to find something to apply his leadership to."
When it comes to economic affairs Canadians are less taxed…: "According to the Fraser Institute’s Tax Freedom Day, the day on which the average Canadian family has earned enough money to pay all taxes imposed on them by three layers of government. It advanced to June 5 in 2010, from June 23 in 2005."*
…but more in debt…: "Encouraged by cheap interest rates, Canadians now owe $1.50 for every dollar of disposable income, up from $1.08 in 2006."
…and, overall, wealthier: "Yet, national net worth per capita, which measures the health of assets like homes and investments, stood at a record high of $179,000 in the third quarter of 2010, up from $155,000 five years ago. Even at the bottom end of the socio-economic ladder, the number of children living in low income families fell by 250,000 between 2003 and 2008."
He's described his government as conservative rather than libertarian and has introduced modest measures to support the traditional family and limit subsidy of anti-religious arts. He has built more prisons, punishing violent offenders more severely. He has been resistant to the global consensus on global warming while supporting action to protect the local environment. He has supported the war in Afghanistan and been a very faithful friend to Israel.
Did he deliver on his election promises? Mainly.
Mr Harper is also a pretty good pianist;
* The Wall Street Journal notes that Canada's corporate tax rate is now half the US rate, making it a haven for inward investment.