There are no doubt a lot of Conservatives – as well as hapless politicos - reading Don Martin’s column today with a tanker-load of askance.
But rather than being an apple short of a fruit plate, Martin may be on to something when he predicts an early exit for Stephen Harper.
“What does all this mean? Search me. But some who orbit just outside Mr. Harper's innermost circle speculate that a Conservative party with no heir apparent could lose its leader before the next election.”
A month ago, it seemed far more likely that Harper might be forced out by a palace putsch aimed at ending Harper to sue for peace with the now-defunct Liberal-NDP coalition. But why now? Having survived the debacle of the November economic statement, and having seen to the Dion-ification of Michael Ignatieff for the foreseeable future, why would Harper walk away from the PMO?
The answer lays in the man himself.
Those familiar with the personal history of Stephen Harper will also know of his penchant for calling it quits prematurely.
Months into his undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, he dropped out to take a mail room job at Imperial Oil in Calgary. Likewise, after a falling out with Preston Manning, Harper didn’t even complete his first term as a Reform MP, resigning 1997.
The nub of it is that more than griping about marginal tax rates, Stephen Harper likes to be right. And with the economy shedding 230,000 jobs in three months, with commercial and personal bankruptcies on the rise, and with a historic trade deficit, Harper, his team and their dogmatic attachment to yesterday’s ideology look very, very wrong right now. If someone is going to have their picture next to R.B. Bennett in the next generation’s text book, better to have be a Prentice, a Baird, or better still a Charest, Harper must be thinking.
If the comedian’s adage is “always leave ‘em laughing”, Harper’s adage may well be “always leave ‘em before they forget about Brian Mulroney.”