Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, March 14, 2013.

BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

Politics Insider delivers premium analysis and access to Canada's policymakers and politicians. Visit the Politics Insider homepage for insight available only to subscribers.

The Harper government is experiencing a mid-life crisis.

The back bench is restive, with MPs openly voicing frustration over efforts by the Centre to stifle free speech in the Commons on the abortion issue.

Story continues below advertisement

An ambitious trade agenda has yet to produce concrete results. Efforts to connect the oil sands to American refineries and to the Pacific Coast are meeting stiff resistance.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty appears distracted – predicting, for example, an imminent trade deal with South Korea that surprised both Canadian trade officials and the South Koreans.

The communication strategy is at times indecipherable. Cabinet's decision to withdraw Canada from a United Nations convention on combating desertification went unnoticed until reported by the Canadian Press.

What's the point of a symbolic gesture if you don't tell anyone about the gesture?

Some who watch this government closely wonder whether it has lost its way.

In early March, Steve Paikin of TV Ontario's The Agenda speculated that Mr. Harper might be thinking of stepping down this summer, rather than face Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau in what will be his fifth federal election as Conservative Party leader. This led to a rash of similar articles speculating along the same lines.

Over at the Toronto Star, Chantal Hebert saw the protests from backbench MPs as a sign that Mr. Harper could soon face a leadership challenge.

Story continues below advertisement

"After seven years, it would not take all that much to trigger a chain reaction that would have every ambitious member in the government thinking about his or her place in a post-Harper future and manoeuvring accordingly," she wrote recently.

"On that score, the toothpaste may already be out of the tube."

At the National Post, John Ivison warned that Mr. Harper's efforts to muzzle backbenchers on the abortion issue could prove "disastrous for the governing party."

While the Star's Thomas Walkom speculated the Conservative Party itself might not survive, disintegrating into the very factions that Mr. Harper so successfully welded together almost a decade ago.

Damning stuff. But before we write the obituaries, there are a few things to remember.

First and foremost, the opposition remains divided. Thomas Mulcair has failed, thus far, to establish the NDP as a credible governing alternative to the Conservatives, especially in the eyes of middle class suburban voters in Ontario, who are the voters who count most.

Story continues below advertisement

Justin Trudeau may be the saviour of the Liberal Party, or he may be a young politician still learning the ropes.

Unless and until progressives unite – and there is no sign that they will unite any time soon – the Conservatives must be favoured to win any election, including the one in 2015.

Nor is the government without an agenda. The fact that trade deals haven't been signed doesn't mean they won't be.

The 2013 budget takes aggressive measures to combat unemployment and job shortages by refederalizing labour training.

Governments that are on the way out typically display signs of rudderlessness and aversion to risk. But this government appears, with some measure of enthusiasm, to be girding for a confrontation with public-service unions over sick days and other benefits.

And it continues to own the economy as an issue, with a hell-or-high-water commitment to balance the budget by 2015.

Story continues below advertisement

The Harper government, in short, is showing some of the frustrations of middle age. But whether it's ready to be retired by the voters is still very much in doubt.

As many of the above commentators (and yours truly) would insist, middle age is hardly the end of the line.

John Ibbitson is the chief political writer in Ottawa.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies