Thursday, May 05, 2011

Stephen Harper's New Challenge: The "Vision Thing"

Certainly, Stephen Harper has always been more of a Margaret Thatcher type than a John Major type.

But in the wake of winning his first majority government, Harper may be about to face his greatest challenge yet: the "vision thing".

Now, more than ever, Harper will have to navigate between the hopes of his supporters and the fears of his detractors. Harper, has to date, approached this majority government with humility, declaring that it's now up to his government to earn the trust of Canadians.

"My friends, it's been a long campaign but now we can turn the page on the uncertainties and repeat elections of the past seven years and focus on building a great future for all of us," Harper declared. "Canadians have chosen hope, a united Canada, a strong Canada. We must be the government of all Canadians, including those that did not vote for us. We shall be faithful to the trust that you have proposed in us."

But now Harper will be expected to deliver on the expectations of social conservatives. Admittedly, it's been these expectations that have been at the core of darkest nightmares of Harper's detractors.

According to Conservative Values of Canada executive director David Krayden, abortion is going to become an issue. It won't matter if Harper wishes it or not.

"Stephen Harper has said no (to abortion laws) but a lot of his caucus is pro-life, a lot of his supporters are pro-life," Krayden declared. "I think it's time for those who don't think abortion is not on the table to realize it's catch-up with the rest of the Western world where there are some restrictions on abortion."

Krayden's voice is joined by Joseph Ben Ami of the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies.

"I know professed atheists who are strongly pro-life and at least would like to see the government allow a dialogue," Ben Ami added. "If I had a wish list, top of my list would be the opportunity to have an intelligent debate about human rights commissions and tribunals."

"We should be having an open, honest and intelligent debate about immigration; I don't think we have a well-managed immigration policy," he added.

Both Krayden and Ben Ami seem to hunger for a government more conservative than Harper has been to date.

"This is an opportunity to have a truly conservative government," Krayden announced.

"At some point in time, you have to stand for something more substantial than the mere fact you are not the Liberals," Ben Ami agreed.

Krayden and Ben Ami may be pleased to learn just how many Canadians agree that these are issues that must be addressed. What Canadians have yet to make clear is just how far they think Canada should go on these particular issues. Neither David Krayden nor Joseph Ben Ami are likely to get everything they want on any of these issues. They will have to compromise.

By the same token, however, so will the social progressives who have championed the far-left cause. In fact, they will have to compromise for the first time in nearly forty years. It's far overdue.

But compromise is precisely what Harper's vision will have to be from this point forward. If he successfully reaches a compromise on the issues that truly matter to Canadians, it will be the gateway to a larger majority government. If he fails, it will be the gateway back to a minority, or to political oblivion altogether.

From 2011 onward, the "vision thing" matters more than ever. It's up to Stephen Harper to deliver.

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