So there’s a “provocative new article” making the rounds amongst Canadian political junkies right now, in which journalist Steve Paikin tries to outline the ‘case’ for suspecting that Stephen Harper will be stepping down as Prime Minister this summer. Much though this news would gladden my heart, I’m afraid I haven’t seen a more pitiful torrent of political wishful thinking since the Romney campaign started buying-in to “unskewed polls.”
So what exactly is this case? Well, says Journalist Paikin:
Every good first minister has his or her eye on the clock. They have to. They need to consider whether they have another gruelling election campaign in them, and whether they can continue to govern for another three or four years thereafter.
On April 30, Harper will turn 54 years old — in some respects, an ideal age to leave on top having won three consecutive elections and refashioned the country in a significant way. He’s young and vigorous enough to embark on a new career.
First of all, I shall put aside the question of in which possible parallel universe Stephen Harper may, in any sense of the word, be called a ‘good’ first minister and instead seize upon the main thrust of the article: namely, that the Prime Minister is shortly going to turn 54 years old and therefore become too old to govern the country. Specifically, I shall point out that the average age of Prime Ministers upon first assuming office is 51, and that Jean Chretien, to cite a recent example, managed to hold office for more than a decade in spite of being first elected when he was nearly 60.
But, of course, it’s not really his age which is the issue, so much as the fact that he is at the top of his game, and this supposedly is when first ministers like to throw in the towel:
Jean Chrétien…Dalton McGuinty…William Davis, Peter Lougheed, Brian Mulroney, Pierre Trudeau, Mike Harris, Ralph Klein, Frank McKenna, John Robarts, Leslie Frost, Gordon Campbell — all first ministers who left their jobs on their terms, rather than running the risk of having the voters show them the door (although in some cases such as Davis, Lougheed, and Robarts, the possibility of that happening was next to nil).
Now, of course, most of these people were either leaving under clouds of scandal, massive unpopularity, or challenge from within their own party, and (in spite of my fervent hopes) none of these things seem to have befallen our beloved PM, but that’s not important because…well, because it’s just not, that’s why! It also leaves conveniently off of the list men like William Lyon McKenzie King, Sir John A. MacDonald, Tommy Douglas and Joey Smallwood who hung-on for decades, or, for that matter, men like Jean Charest who held on to the bitter end and got their asses handed to them.
Honestly, I don’t even how anyone could possibly take this editorial seriously; there literally is no real argument. The only reason this is getting any play at all is because of people who, like myself, desperately wish for it to be true, but this is no way to conduct politics.