Don Martin: Tomorrow is the right time for Harper to retire
Outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at his Langevin office in Ottawa, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2015. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Wednesday, May 25, 2016 10:44AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 25, 2016 4:44PM EDT
If he takes my advice, it’ll be a first for Stephen Harper.
But someone has to say it - it’s time for him to go.
Tomorrow offers the perfect stage for Canada’s 22nd prime minister to exit political life in front of the one crowd wishing he would stage a comeback.
Harper and his wife Laureen will be given a glowing video tribute by the Conservative party he created and dominated for a dozen years. And then he’ll give his first public speech since conceding defeat on election night without actually mentioning he was quitting as leader.
To wrap up his address to the adoring throng, Stephen Harper should announce he’s stepping down as an MP.
It’s the right time in the right setting for the right reason.
He’s done his time, dutifully logging into the Commons for votes but refusing to say a word for the official record even in committees or to utter a syllable for public or media consumption.
Harper undoubtedly knew there would’ve been a backlash had he replicated former Alberta premier Jim Prentice’s hissy fit in defeat and quit politics altogether on election night, even before he was declared elected to his own seat.
So he gamely hung on.
He’s got a lot better attendance record for votes than the current prime minister. And he was undoubtedly enjoying himself watching last week’s grab-and-elbow incident by Justin Trudeau (but he is also understandably perplexed by Trudeau’s popularity bounce in the aftermath).
But to stand in opposition to vote against Liberal moves to systemically shred his legislative legacies must be excruciating. Sneaking in the back Centre Block entrance, struggling to avoid media contact and entering a sleepy hollow office where the only work being done is to reject interview requests, is beneath him.
He has suffered enough.
The speculation he’ll quit before the House returns in the fall is just that – speculation. He has confided in no one beyond sending out signals to the business community he’s willing to discuss an income beyond politics.
He will, of course, land in financial clover. The aura of negativity will dissipate in time, just as Brian Mulroney went from political pariah to elder statesman.
Harper will become a director on many boards, if desired. He will star in many world-class economic think tanks. And over time, he might even lower himself to discuss his legacy and accomplishments with the wretched media he despises.
But he’s merely a political curiosity now, a source of constant comparison to the second coming of the Trudeaus who holds the office he lost seven months ago. He should take my advice and not stretch out the discomfort over the summer.
They say you should go out when you have them clapping for more. To just suddenly not show up for work with a press release as a resignation letter might be Harper’s style, but he deserves better.