Stephen Harper gets my vote as best politician of the year 2011, despite the success of the late Jack Layton and his New Democrats in Quebec. Stephen Harper has had a terrific record since he became leader of the united “right,” and proved that he can garner enough right-of-centre votes to form a majority with little or no support from Quebec.
Jack Layton seems to be the sentimental favourite of many for politician of the year, but I don’t see it. True, he improved his party’s fortunes in last May’s election, but his best efforts still left the New Democrats short of victory.
Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative Party is decades younger than the NDP, yet has grown from a modest prairie movement in the mid-eighties to the governing party of Canada and has replaced, some believe, the Liberals as Canada’s natural governing party.
Jack Layton’s political record pales by comparison to Stephen Harper’s.
The prime minister has led our country through some of the most trying economic times and nearly a decade of war. He is well into a program of rebuilding our armed forces—Canada now has the finest small army in the world—and under his leadership Canada has assumed a prominent position among mid-size nations. Canada’s relationship with the United States has been better under PM Harper than under any previous prime minister in over half a century—except, of course, for Brian Mulroney.
During 2011, Harper’s government has won an election and initiated a transformative agenda, especially in the areas of international trade, immigration reform, criminal justice and U.S.-Canada relations. Canada’s economic record and international profile far exceeds that of other countries of similar population size: Canada has the 35th largest population, but is ranked 9th in GDP by the CIA World Factbook (10th by the International Monitory Fund and the World Bank). Given the tumultuous and uncertain economic times of the past three years, Prime Minister Harper’s prudent management must be given much of the credit for keeping Canada hitting well above its weight.
Leading up to the May 2 election, here’s what the Globe and Mail—an openly Liberal newspaper—said when it endorsed the Conservative Party:
He [Harper] has built the Conservatives into arguably the only truly national party, and during his five years in office has demonstrated strength of character, resolve and a desire to reform. Canadians take Mr. Harper’s successful stewardship of the economy for granted, which is high praise. He has not been the scary character portrayed by the opposition; with some exceptions, his government has been moderate and pragmatic.
High praise indeed from what amounts to an “opposition” newspaper. By a wide margin, Stephen Harper is Canada’s best politician of 2011.
© 2011 Russell G. Campbell