In the midst of this tiresomely long election campaign, Stephen Harper appears to find attacking his NDP and Liberal opponents isn't enough to occupy his time. He has decided to pick fights with a couple of provinces as well, recently assailing the Alberta government for raising taxes and not coming down with a budget.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley had previously responded to Harper's barbs with patience and tact, but Finance Minister Joe Ceci was not so kind this time. He pointed out that Harper's Conservatives had "not balanced a budget since 2008 ... have the worst job creation record of any federal administration since World War II and ... have added $150 billion to the national debt." " These kinds of results," he added, "seem to be in their DNA." Ouch!
Nice rejoinder from Ceci, and appropriate, but it doesn't answer the question: why does Harper do it? As prime minister, he ought to be trying to unite the country, not divide it. And after all, if he wins in October he will have to deal with the current Alberta government for the next four years whether he likes it or not. What does he gain by inflicting gratuitous insults? What does Canada gain by the federal government alienating provincial governments?
One gets the impression he is obsessed by the defeat of the Conservatives in Ontario and Alberta—particularly Alberta—in the last elections. He can't get it out of his head. He is a man who views the world in terms of black and white—you are for him or against him, and if you are against him you must be chastised. He takes the defeat of the Conservatives in these two provinces as a personal affront, and he will take his revenge, political civility and national unity be damned.
We see the same thing in his foreign policy. We once had governments that established Canada as an honest broker capable of negotiating differences and making peace. Under Harper, we are a country incapable of seeing two sides of an argument. Indeed, to the Prime Minister, attempting to understand both sides of an argument is a weakness. It's all about choosing sides, good guys vs. bad guys, us vs. them.
In a world facing global challenges, including climate change, resource depletion and inequality, we need leaders who can bring people together to find solutions. So, for that matter, does Canada, a highly regionalized country, need such a leader. Stephen Harper is congenitally incapable of fulfilling such a role. He isn't ready and can never be.