I know nothing of the private character of Stephen Harper. He has a sullen sharp-eyed look as he faces the Liberal opposition, and we all have opinions as to “what he is really like”. But none of us know the answer, so all we have to go on is politics.
It is of the public character that I speak. This week-end’s three amigos meeting gives us some insight. Harper blames “the refugee system” for the clumsily handled decision to force all Mexican visitors to Canada to apply for visas. He’s been Prime Minister for nearly four years. He’s introduced major changes to Canada’s immigration laws, but never proposed any changes to the refugee system. He inherited a refugee board that had no backlog. He won’t accept responsibility, so he blames others. He would rather diss his own country rather than admit a mistake.
Then we hear that in private meetings Harper blames the opposition for delays in changes to the Criminal Code. But it’s his government that delayed bringing in legislation.
I smell a pattern here. A second grade report card would read “Stephen has difficulty taking responsibility for his actions and blames others for his mistakes.”
I’ve seen him apologize once – when he attacked Michael Ignatieff for saying something he didn’t say – it was a short, curt event, no questions, no explanations. When he was caught giving a speech that John Howard gave two days before a junior speechwriter was fired. When a young staffer makes a mistake and misplaces a tape recorder, she is fired.
So blame is carefully allocated everywhere else.
Harper’s avoidance of responsibility even extends to health care. He tells American reporters that the federal government has nothing to do with the issue, it’s all up to the provinces. Canada Health Act anyone?
The issue that is always close to the heart of every public debate in Canada is a million miles away from what Stephen Harper cares about.
Bob Rae is a former member of Parliament and former premier of Ontario.