Justin Trudeau rode a wave of anti-Harper sentiment, and a desire for change, to getting the keys for his childhood home at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, the Prime Minister’s official residence.
There are, I’m sure, many reasons for Mr. Harper’s defeat, many of them his own; I’m going to focus on one. It happened before he ever go a majority in 2011.
Stephen Harper is a victim of his own short-sightedness. One of the things you need to do when you create legislation is think about the consequences, especially what would be the unforeseen consequences of said legislation. Stephen Harper backed himself into a corner, starting in May of 2006 when he introduced Bill C-16 to amend the Canada Elections Act creating fixed election dates. He then broke that law in 2008. Breaking it again would have probably been looked at very negatively.
With a majority win in 2011, Mr. Harper’s own law meant that the next election would be on October 19, 2015 unless he himself did something to prevent that. He had locked himself in. Unfortunately, that only gave him a two year window before he needed to think about Conservative re-election. Why two years? Because if he decided sometime before the election that he is personally unpopular, he needed enough time to signal his resignation, allow for a new leadership contest, and then allow the new leader enough time to put their own stamp on the government. Such a process was going to take at least a year and a half.
The Conservatives simply ran out of time.
It started becoming apparent about a year ago, maybe a little more, that there were a lot of senior Conservative MPs that were starting to resign from politics or signalling that they would not be running in this year’s election. I heard more than a couple of people refer to it as the rats abandoning the ship. My guess is, internal polling was showing that the party was in deep trouble, the Prime Minister’s leadership being one of the main issues.
But it was too late.
I have a feeling that Stephen Harper didn’t see this coming two years ago, but that it was very apparent 12 months ago. Had he not been limited by his own law, he could have resigned and the new Prime Minister could have waited to call an election in 2016. In an election that was about defeating Stephen Harper, a new Conservative leader may have been able to save a few more seats just by not being Stephen Harper.
Stephen Harper set a trap for future Prime Minister’s, then promptly got caught in it himself.