1. Canadian Press had a good year end type piece on the 24th. It captured what was, to me, the quote of the year from Stephen Harper. CP used it as a metaphor and it does indeed work:
No simpler summary of Stephen Harper's style as majority prime minister was offered in 2011.A post-election statement that Harper never would have made in minority government days that signified the coming out of the majority era. Unfortunately for Mr. Harper, he's still going to have opposition. We just need to get creative about it.
"It's time for the wheat board and others who have been standing in the way to realize that this train is barrelling down a Prairie track," Harper warned during an October stop in Regina.
"You're much better to get on it than to lie on the tracks, because this is going ahead."
The Canadian Wheat Board's seven-decade monopoly was indeed steamrolled, leaving behind a cloud of chaff and a spray of court challenges.
But the prime minister's locomotive imagery applied straight across his majority government's agenda. It was also an apt description for his Conservative party's persona.
2. I guess this is going to be a bit of a theme here, not surprisingly! This too was notable language from a Canadian Prime Minister:
“I am very serious about selling our oil off this continent, selling our energy products off to Asia. I think we have to do that,” Harper said in the Monday interview with CTV National News.I can't recall a prime minister stepping so eagerly, personally, into the role of oil salesman or the salesman on behalf of any other industry, for that matter. He is very serious about selling oil. He and his team no doubt view it as a patriotic thing, in their own way. It does elevate certain interests over others, we know the choices that are inherent in such statements. Harper stepping up so personally seems to have been all prompted by the Keystone pipeline back and forth in the U.S.. Still, it was striking. Our oil salesman-in-chief.
3. One other item on the Harper watch, this little dropped item at the Harper Christmas party for the national media was insightful: "Harper said he frankly he doesn’t have a clue how to fix the health system, but believes that provinces do have ideas and many are already scaling back spending." Doesn't have a clue? That's quite an admission, some would even say abdication, on the part of a prime minister. Something to keep in mind.
4. Finally, two op-eds on Russia that are worth a read. Who knows, 2012 may see Putin's strongman days coming to an end: Jeffrey Sachs: Gorbachev and the Struggle for Democracy and "Vladimir Putin's world is falling apart."
Update: An afterthought here, reading number 2 & 3 above, together, gives a pretty good perspective on this Prime Minister's priorities.