He made some moves in the wake of the election of his minority government that will serve to unite the centre-right of the country politically and at least give his Conservatives the chance to be more than a political flash-in-the-pan.
Harper knows that the Liberals need to re-invent themselves after ten years of Martinite/Chretienite blood-letting. Without seats among the tongue-clucking classes in the three major urban areas of the country, he addressed these gaps by appointing Michael Fortier and David Emerson to cabinet posts.
Fortier is a major Tory political force in Quebec and Emerson is a well-respected businessman first recruited by Paul Martin in one of his infrequent moments of clarity.
The floor-crossing of Emerson has created an outcry from the lefty/unionist types in the blue collar riding of Vancouver-Kingsway, but really, I fail to see why it should be still on anyone’s radar screen this long after the appointment.
Yes, Emerson was elected as a Liberal. But frankly, Emerson is far from a Grit true-believer. He is still the same man the riding elected only now he has a seat at the cabinet table. If the trendy lefties in Vancouver Kingsway are so worried that the “scary Harper” might unleash his “hidden agenda” upon an unsuspecting population, aren’t they in a much better position to monitor that with a member in cabinet?
They are squealing like scalded cats but really, it’s much ado about nothing. Emerson will represent his riding ethically and responsibly, the hallmarks of his career at every turn thus far. And the sanctimonious whining from those who simply won’t move on is getting ever more tedious.
Fortier is an equally bold move. With a beachhead in Quebec, Harper moved to further align the federalist segment of the population that he needs to blunt the ambitions of the separatists who believed they were on a winning path to another referendum when the Liberals were caught inflagrente dilecto (yet again) only this time, with Adscam, it was more than anyone could stand.
True, he wasn’t elected and was appointed to the Senate in order to have him in Cabinet. While that may seem at odds with the democratic ideals of the Conservatives, it was a very pragmatic short-cut to bring the Quebec federalists on board. Or, at least, giving the Tories a chance to get them on board.
Make no mistake about it, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe saw the demise of the Liberals as a chance to re-energize his foundering separatist movement. With the electoral beachhead and the appointment of Fortier, Harper is demonstrating that the Tories are the logical alternative to those in Quebec who wish to see this country remain as a single entity.
It’s very early in Harper’s mandate and the upcoming budget and Throne Speech will be the real litmus test to see if Harper is the real meal deal or doomed to be a footnote in history. But frankly, his first few weeks have shown he is prepared to be bold and decisive.