Thursday, June 17, 2004

Prime Minister Harper?

It could happen. Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada is deporting himself reasonably well. Failing some stupid blunder, he could become the next Prime Minister of Canada.

I like Harper. Yes, he's a bit stiff. Yes, he has problems with extemporaneous interaction, especially with the media. Still, he is consistent. He is honest. He has values. He is less driven by opinion polls than are his political competitors for Prime Minister. His stint with the National Citizens Coalition, the Canadian right-wing lobby group (definition courtesy of the left-wing Globe and Mail,) brought Harper to the attention of Canadians who are fed up with the inexorable lock-step march leftwards by the major Canadian political parties, including the erstwhile Progressive Conservative Party which, thankfully, exists no more. The newly-minted hybrid Conservative Party of Canada (made up of disgruntled former Progressive Conservatives and Reform Party adherants) is trying to be more of what true conservatives expect and in the process are, naturally, making the left crazy.

I'm not a Conservative. I am a Libertarian. Were there a Libertarian candidate running where I vote, he or she would be my choice. Second choice would be a Freedom Party candidate. Failing those two options, I'll vote Conservative. They are a much better choice than are the ruling Liberal Party of Canada or the far-left New Democratic Party.

Watching Harper squirm every time he is interviewed reminds me of an episode way back in 1974 when I was leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada and was being interviewed by Toronto's City TV. The interview took place indoors in a hotel conference room. The interviewer posed a number of questions, some directed to me and some to two other Libertarians who had accompanied me. We answered the questions honestly and directly, pleased that we were going to get some publicity. When the interviewer finished with his questions, the cameraman said that there had been too little light indoors and that we should move outdoors and try again.

I should have smelled a rat (or an unprincipled leftist interviewer) but was naturally trusting and very naiive. We all moved outdoors and basically repeated the entire interview again. It should be no surprise that, having given answers just a few minutes earlier to exactly the same questions, we might have used very similar language to state our case in the second interview.

I was very surprised that night, watching City TV news, when they played most of both of the interviews back-to-back. The interviewer's mocking comments afterwards were largely about how our answers must have been learned by rote and that we might not fully understand what we were saying or proposing. After all, how could anyone possibly promote ideas of individual liberty, free trade, fiscal restraint and personal responsibility.

We had been set up. Tricked. I learned my lesson.

Stephen Harper is learning too. He is gradually becoming more relaxed and is learning not to be trapped too easily by media types who would like nothing better than for him to embarrass himself and thereby guarantee more years of Liberal government in Canada.

Go Stephen!

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