Revision — From the October 2015 issue

The Nixon of the North

How Stephen Harper ruined Canada

Download Pdf
Read Online

Canada was once a smug nation. We thought ourselves virtuous, and the rest of the world took us at our own estimation, especially Americans who threatened to move here when a Bush president or two became particularly intolerable. And we would have welcomed you!

That was Canada for you: eager to meet kindred souls such as draft dodgers and conscientious objectors. We were peacekeepers rather than bomb droppers, environmentally aware, urban, gun controlling, laughably snowbound, and apologetic to a fault.

Now, I’m sorry to say, we can no longer invite you. I mean, we’d still like to, but you wouldn’t make it across the border. And normal, peaceful, thoughtful Americans wouldn’t enjoy it here anymore. We’re becoming precisely what you’re trying to escape.

What a long, strange slide it has been for Canada since 2006, when Stephen Harper became prime minister. You thought you saw the last of Richard Nixon when he helicoptered off the White House’s South Lawn. Wrong: the man had a clone. And that clone must have been watching a lot of Sarah Palin speeches. Harper is Nixon without the charm, he’s Nixon without the progressive social and environmental programs, he’s Nixon but he worships at a fundamentalist church. If he wins reelection in October, Americans might want to consider a northern wall.

You seem to have survived Nixon and Palin and George W. Bush. But we Canadians have never had anyone like Harper. His most recent biographer, John Ibbitson, calls him

slow to trust and quick to take offence, brooding and resentful at times, secretive beyond reason, perhaps the most introverted person ever to seek high office in this country.

It has been suggested that Harper, who is fifty-six, is a replicant of the Blade Runner variety: he speaks in a monotone, he’s impossibly rigid, and he seems unable to understand the emotions of others. His gray helmet of hair is a national obsession. Some say it’s cakelike, I say peaty. Is it damp to the touch? Many a winter evening has been spent speculating on the chemical composition of that fibrous, wind-resistant material.

In 2014, a mentally troubled man was killed after shooting at the security guards in Parliament Hill’s Centre Block building, where Harper’s caucus had gathered. Did Harper stay with his staff and his party? The other MPs initially assumed he had left. But in fact he had hidden in a closet for fifteen minutes. Not even a man-size safe like the one Dick Cheney had. A closet. Was this Harper’s lowest point? Not even close.

Previous PageNext Page
1 of 3

You are currently viewing this article as a guest. If you are a subscriber, please sign in. If you aren't, please subscribe below and get access to the entire Harper's archive for only $45.99/year. Or purchase this issue on your iOS or Android devices for $6.99.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Download Pdf
Share
is a staff columnist for the Toronto Star and the author of two books of essays, Pearls in Vinegar and Cake or Death.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

THE CURRENT ISSUE

April 2017

You Can Run …

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Never Would I Ever

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The March on Everywhere

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Defender of the Community

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Echt Deutsch

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Boy Without a Country

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content
Close

Please enjoy this free article from Harper’s Magazine.