When Stephen Harper first entered federal politics, a political pundit or two complained that he appeared to be humourless.
Later on, critics would suggest he had a hidden agenda that would one day see “soldiers with guns” posted in cities throughout Canada.
The fear mongers even tried to dupe uninformed voters into believing that a Conservative party, under Harper, would eliminate abortion rights and wage a war against gay marriages.
As history has shown, all those worries have proven to be for not — even as Harper’s opponents continue to spout the same old fabrications and conspiracy theories.
Harper, an economist and the first Canadian prime minister since Lester B. Pearson not to have attended law school, has provided solid leadership for his party and the country.
As observers around the world have noted, Canada’s economy and its banking system are in better shape than those in other First World countries.
Since Harper became leader of the Conservatives, Canadians have given his party two mandates to govern the land. Both have been minority governments that have lasted longer than the 18-month Canadian average for minorities.
As prime minister, the University of Calgary graduate has proven himself willing to make the compromises needed to keep Liberal, New Democrat and Bloc MPs from forcing an election.
And as things have turned out, opinion polls have proven to all of the parties, time after time, that Canadians have little confidence in the Grits, socialists and separatists. That’s why we haven’t had an election since 2008.
As far as being humourless, Harper will probably never be categorized as a bon vivant like Pierre Trudeau and to a lesser extent, Brian “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” Mulroney.
That said, it turns out that Harper does have a human side after all.
The former president of the National Citizens Coalition is an accomplished pianist who recently jammed with pop star Bryan Adams. Last fall, he delighted a gala audience with his rendition of the Beatles’ With a Little Help from My Friends.
Admittedly, Harper has struggled a bit with his public image. For instance, it didn’t help when he was photographed saying goodbye to his young son by shaking hands with him, instead of giving him a hug.
As well, image consultants probably did him a disfavour when they convinced him to wear a blue sweater on the campaign trail, instead of a blazer, in the hope of softening his image.
That said, Harper appears to have the intelligence and integrity Canadians demand of a prime minister.
As PM, he’s presided over a government that cut the GST from seven to five per cent; gave Canadians tax credits for money spent on textbooks, kids’ sports and transit passes; beefed up Canada’s product safety laws; introduced Canada’s first mandatory greenhouse gas emission regulations; tackled street racing and gun crimes; and passed sweeping anti-corruption legislation, to name just a few of the Tories’ accomplishments.
Given his work and play, Harper is not such a dull boy after all.
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.