The House of Commons has been in recess this week. Fortunately by late on Thursday, Ottawa's Parliamentary press gallery will have many things to report and comment on the visit of the U.S. President, Barack Obama, to our nation's Capital.
In the meantime though, since Members of Parliament went home to their ridings last Friday, the idle hands of Parliament's press corps have been busy speculating on just how best to arrange the deck chairs on the country's ship of state.
How else to explain the front page story in Monday's "Hill Times" which suggests the Prime Minister, Mr. Harper, may be contemplating an early exit from the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada...a party which, for the most part, is of his own creation. There is some anecdotal evidence to support the contention. The architect of Mr. Harper's two elections as Prime-Minister, Patrick Muttart, has recently departed the Office of the Prime Minister without, as the "Hill Times" says, any public explanation.
The "Calgary Herald's" Don Martin also claims unnamed insiders..."Some who orbit just outside Mr. Harper's innermost circle speculate that a Conservative Party with no heir apparent could lose its leader before the next election."
To be sure, since the House resumed in late January the Prime Minister has faced both media and opposition attacks for maintaining a somewhat low profile during the economic crisis: Compared for example to President Obama with whom he'll be lunching on Thursday. Mr. Harper is an economist by profession. One though who appears to have played fast and loose with the truth of our economic circumstances during the October 2008 election when he promised no deficit and no recession.
At the very least, Mr. Harper's honeymoon cruise with the Canadian electorate has long ago sailed-out of public favour. Conservative Party insiders willingly admit that the Prime Minister is having a rough time running the country through this near bottomless recession. Since the January 2006 election of his party, Mr. Harper's governing achievement has been to score two successive minorities. Others before him, including the Nobel Prize Laureate Lester B.Pearson, have walked the plank off their party's helm for just such failures. At the very least, as has been suggested before; Ministers of Finance who, like Jim Flaherty, so badly misjudge the performance of a nation's economy that they go from a surplus to a $30-billion deficit in just 60 days deserve to be shown out the door.
Buoyed by the leadership of Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal Opposition has scored several critical points against the governing Tories. That pressure is unlikely to ease heading into the spring as economic conditions likely worsen.
I do not think it is in Mr. Harper's nature to throw-in this towel and leave politics early. In fact, the highly choreographed visit to Ottawa of President Obama this week appears designed, as several media have reported, to keep the spotlight clearly focused on this near unprecedented photo opportunity for the Prime Minister. But, as "Globe and Mail" columnist Roy MacGregor said of Mr. Harper earlier in the week:..."(when) a highly principled man throws his principles to the wind - He may as well aim high."