Over the past two weeks, Harper and his ministers have held a series of news conferences, photo-ops and briefings to demonstrate they're hard at work. Harper has also shuffled his cabinet and appointed a raft of new senators.And pesky columnists, nailing the dynamic:
None of it appears to have convinced Canadians, according to a recent poll by The Canadian Press Harris-Decima.
The survey suggests 39 per cent believe the government has been not at all active or working hard since Harper prorogued Parliament on Dec. 30. That's more than triple the 12 per cent who said the government has been very active and hardworking.
Another 37 per cent said the government has been somewhat active.
Whether or not Tories will admit it, Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg said prorogation was a big political mistake and "they've paid a fairly significant price for it."
Gregg predicted that cancelling spring breaks and other shows of activity won't help the Conservatives recover from the error. That's in part because the Tory slide is not simply opposition to prorogation, but a reflection of Canadians' uneasiness with Harper's reputation as an "extremely partisan," bullying tactician.
"It's much larger (than prorogation). It's a reflection of character, it's a reflection of an individual who will use - or in this particular instance misuse - the tools of democracy, Parliament, in order to further their own vested interests," he said.
"So they're not going to solve that problem by sitting through the spring break."
The tricks are getting tired. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's promise of a painless recovery -- no tax hikes, no deep spending cuts -- strains credibility. Conservative indifference to environmental concerns is hardening into hostility. The Senate is now stacked with Tory cronies; supposedly independent agencies with shrill partisans.Lots more in this vein today. Two letters to the editor in the Globe indicate persons unswayed by the March break cancellation gambit. One woman sees little in the way of family values evident in the move, perhaps more coming fallout from a hasty Harperian chess move. For more of the negative coverage that's out there, see HarperBizarro, also documenting the atrocities today.
Have Canadians finally had enough?
What to make of it all? It does seem like a real moment of shifting ground with cause for political optimism in 2010. It has been a good month for democratic vibrancy in Canada, people spoke loudly to the man. Those protests still resonate loudly. Stephen Harper is on notice, on the defensive, not the place he likes to be. He's in mocking territory, even worse. While still in the early goings of the year, optimism is definitely the feeling around here.