The right way to think about Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper biographer William Johnson has various issues with Lawrence Martin’s biography of Stephen Harper.

This is not said to challenge the generally-admitted fact that Harper is a control freak. In my own biography, published in 2005 while Harper still led the Opposition, I wrote that he was arrogant, despised journalists, and displayed an over-the-top partisanship. “There is a harshness, a lack of humour, humanity, and moderation, that disregards the traditions of Parliament where all members have a right to be treated as honourable.”

But that’s just one dimension of Harper, namely his modus operandi. The man has more dimensions. When Canadians vote in the next election, they will remember his compulsion to control, but they will ask above all: who is best-equipped to lead the country in peace, security, and prosperity? Who has the best judgment, the best policies? Harperland fails to address these fundamental questions.

Nearer the end, Johnson objects to any use of the term “dictator” to describe Mr. Harper’s time in power. At the risk of splitting hairs, perhaps we should all agree that slur is uncalled for, even if one believes, as Johnson does, that Mr. Harper’s government has, on at least one matter, “subverted Canadian democracy.” If we are to lament for the state of things, we should do so as specifically as possible.