2015: The year we see a different Stephen Harper?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper participates in a roundtable discussion at a Canadian Tire Store in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, Dec. 11, 2014. (Chris Young / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Thursday, January 8, 2015 5:50PM EST
Stephen Harper has engaged the new year with something approximating a political epiphany.
Gone is the prime minister’s brooding insular defiance; on is Harper the problem-fixer, the calming conciliator; the humanitarian; the populist who high-fives hockey fans and rewards life-saving heroics.
Consider the transformation during just the first four days of the political year.
His worst minister has been dumped, replaced by one of his best backbenchers.
And his humanitarian credentials have been buffed up by a sudden opening of arms to 10,000 of Syria’s miserable masses of refugees.
Of course, the Harper headscratcher has always been why he lets problems fester when easy solutions are in his hands.
Dumping Julian Fantino from Veterans Affairs and replacing him with charismatic air force veteran Erin O’Toole was such a no-brainer,even I predicted itas a sure thing last month.
The happy ending to Harper’s bizarre feud with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne only came after months of silence which suggested he was driven by an intransigent personal vendetta.
Why attract so much negative publicity when this week’s brief chat, which promised precisely nothing by the way, ended the controversy?
And until yesterday’s compassionate move, his government faced United Nations and domestic scorn for needlessly foot-dragging on Syrian refugee resettlement to such an extent, his own minister didn’t know the numbers.
The transformational top-off was Harper’s giddy fan-posing at the world junior hockey championship on Monday aced by Thursday's popular appointment of gunman-killing Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers as ambassador to Ireland.
The big worry in all this belongs to the opposition parties.
If this week starts a trend, it suggests Stephen Harper is capable of morphing into an entirely different political personality with the flick of the calendar into an election year.
That could deny the NDP and Liberals substantive reasons to attack this prime minister as unworthy of re-election.
Then again, it may be impossible to keep up the act. Then the new boss would be the same as the old boss.