Stephen Harper. Sean Kilpatrick / La Presse Canadienne
According to a recent Angus Reid poll, 68 per cent of Canadians believe Prime Minister Stephen Harper is harbouring a hidden agenda.
It’s a staggering number that sheds light on the impact of running a heavily-centralized agenda and playing one’s political cards needlessly close to one’s chest.
Accusations of a lack of transparency and poor access to information response times have dogged the Harper administration since it rose to power in 2006.
One of the harshest critics of the government’s access to information procedures and performance has been the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), an organization that has consistently handed the Harper administration failing grades on transparency.
The CJFE frequently points to the outcomes of a recent Centre for Law and Democracy study that ranks Canada 55th of 93 countries worldwide in the area of rights to information.
Regardless of whether the Harper government is actually harbouring a secret agenda, it certainly seems like one exists, and appearances can be everything. Poor transparency notwithstanding, it is only fair to acknowledge the administration’s successes.
Under Harper, the country has outperformed its counterparts in the G7 economically, putting our banks and businesses in a strong position to dominate internationally. In fact, our economy has performed so well that it has been held up by IMF chief Christine Lagarde as the “economic model for the world.”
And in spite of the ongoing chorus that Harper has worsened Canada’s image internationally, a recent Ipsos poll found that 82 per cent of global citizens surveyed felt Canada has the greatest potential of postively impacting world affairs — putting us ahead of all other world players included in the survey.
The country’s economic outcome has not come without a price, of course. The Harper administration has been notably sluggish in the handling of its environment portfolio, and certainly fell on the wrong side of a United Nations vote regarding Palestine’s status with the organization.
And the access to information elephant is certainly looming.
With the Liberal leadership race heating up, and with the NDP in a position to heavily bleed support — support most likely to fall to another left-wing party — the dearth of serious opposition to the Conservative Party may be at an end.
It certainly will be, provided the Liberals make the right choice and go with substance and vision over charisma and a brand name.
If the Harper administration wishes to maintain some form of hold over Canada moving forward, it must start to adopt a more transparent means of doing business, and it must find that mentality now.
If the Conservatives fail to do so, the country’s “natural governing party” may find itself forming government again in 2015.