A small, 176-word press release from the prime minister’s office this week showed exactly why Stephen Harper has been mired in minority territory for the past four years and is likely never to turn it into a majority.
Press releases from the PMO come in a fairly steady flow to the news office, usually to announce late-breaking events such as Harper’s meeting with the new Yukon commissioner, or a photo of him watching the Grey Cup. Sometimes they come directly from his communications director of the day, as this one came from Dimitri Soudas.
The press release was to congratulate Conservative candidates Julian Fantino and Bob Sopuck for their byelection victories in Vaughan and Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, respectively. It also congratulated Conservative candidate Julie Javier, who lost her byelection bid in Winnipeg North.
No congratulations were offered to Liberal candidate Kevin Lamoureux, who won the Winnipeg North seat. Of course, one would not expect the prime minister to be happy with that result, but one would expect a statesman to welcome the new MP to the House. After all, he won two out of three battles on the night. Why not try to appeal to the broader electorate by showing a little grace and warmth?
All the great leaders of our time - Pearson, Mulroney, Trudeau - were successful in politics because they could reach beyond their party base and connect with everyday Canadians. Even Pearson, who also never won a majority government, is seen as one of the greatest prime ministers because of his ability to compromise and work with those within and outside his party.
Canadians know that partisan games are a part of the political system, but they want their prime minister to take higher ground. Stephen Harper just doesn’t get it.