Harper in Maclean's 
Since I critized Maclean's a couple months ago for not covering Harper's leadership victory, I should give them some credit perhaps for the nice column in this week's mag.

Here's a bit of it:


So he's not just out to beat Paul Martin, but to put an end to the Liberals' status as the default position of federal politics: the party that rules unless something weird happens. For more than a century, the Conservatives' glory days have amounted to mere breaks between Liberal regimes. John Diefenbaker was a wild-eyed outsider whose charisma never fortified the Tories for the long haul. Brian Mulroney's alliance of Quebec nationalists and alienated Westerners looked more promising, but it fell apart with the rise of Reform and the Bloc Québécois. Despite that dispiriting history, Harper contends that enough right-of-centre raw material exists -- out there in the electorate -- to cultivate something more lasting. "The task I've set out is what no leader since John A. Macdonald has done," he declares. "Conservatives have won elections, but they haven't created a permanent governing coalition."

Until recently, few would have taken Harper seriously as a potential architect of such sweeping political change. He has never been the sort of spellbinder who inspires grand dreams. In fact, he has sometimes seemed to epitomize the frustrating fate of marginalized Canadian right-wingers. Harper appeared on the political stage in 1987 as a promising young policy thinker in Preston Manning's new Reform Party. Yet they never quite saw eye to eye. Manning was a populist who often downplayed Reform's core conservatism, talking up the need to reach out to disgruntled Liberals and New Democrats, and he was closely identified with Reform's rural Prairie roots. Harper argued for courting urban, middle-class voters working in the private sector, to create a Canadian version of the more broadly based movements of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

Yet Harper's vision is no neo-conservative import. It emerged out of a uniquely Canadian journey. Born in Toronto in 1959, he grew up in its suburbs, where as a teenager he admired Pierre Trudeau. After high school, he moved to Alberta to work in the oil fields, and then studied economics at the University of Calgary. His anger at witnessing first-hand the damage Trudeau's National Energy Program did to Alberta in the early 1980s was a turning point for him.


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