Sunday, September 27, 2015

Why Stephen Harper does it... and gets away with it.

Really a prime minister
A couple of weeks ago there was some note on this blog of Stephen Harper's frequent declaration -- though it ain't so and he must know it -- that Canadians do not elect a bunch of parties, they elect a leader and a government.

So here's a silly piece in the Toronto Star, no friend to Mr Harper, about past and present politicians with beards. And in it Sandro Contenta cheerfully declares:
The last Canadian prime minister to sport a beard was Mackenzie Bowell. But voters didn’t elect him.
and that:
The last elected prime minister with a beard was Alexander Mackenzie, who took over in 1873, after John A. Macdonald resigned.
Maybe the subliminal suggestion is that the election of bearded Thomas Mulcair would also be illegitimate. But both the quoted statements betray the confusion about Canadian elections that Stephen Harper works to encourage.

Mackenzie Bowell was no less prime minister than any other, because no prime minister is elected. He led the government that had the support of a majority of members of the House of Commons at the time, and that is the credential all prime ministers hold. If Sandro Contesta wants to say Bowell was not a real prime minister, he should note that Mackenzie came to power without an election too; he too had the support of a house majority before ever taking his party to the polls.

Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, Paul Martin, Kim Campbell, Paul Martin, John Turner... just a few prime ministers who, like Mackenzie and Bowell, took office without first winning an election.

We were saying a couple of weeks ago that Stephen Harper knows better.  But when so many journalists and commentators are determined to believe the same fallacy -- that prime ministers are elected -- you can see why he continues to work with it.
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