No one can dispute that Stephen Harper is having a huge impact on Canada. As he approaches his 10th anniversary as Canadian prime minister, it's obvious in so many ways.
We're at war in the Middle East. Civil liberties are under fire in Parliament through Bill C-51. Soon, judges will be able to authorize police in advance to violate people's constitutional rights under the government's antiterrorism law.
Meanwhile, Conservative cabinet ministers routinely introduce legislation to do end runs around Supreme Court of Canada rulings, whether that concerns prostitution, supervised-injection sites, or First Nations' rights.
Democracy-thwarting omnibus legislation has become the norm at budget time. Government secrecy is far more extreme than ever before. Foreign policy is crafted with an eye to how many votes it can yield at home.
Canadians' confidential information is routinely being shared with foreign governments. And evidence is mounting that the federal government is conducting espionage abroad on behalf of Canadian corporations and at home without seeking judicial warrants.
Meanwhile, there's almost a Leviticus-like attitude toward criminal justice. The government doesn't trust judges to satisfy Harper's socially conservative base. Therefore, the government has imposed more mandatory minimum sentences and restricted parole in some instances to ensure more punishment is meted out to those who break the law.
Conservatives seem consumed with an us-and-them mentality and unfortunately, too often the "thems" include First Nations. In his book What We Talk About When We Talk About War, Noah Richler referred to this mindset as "epic thinking", which reached its zenith in Canada during the First World War.
“The advantage of being able to characterize a whole group of people as a kind of monster at the edge of the territory—as wholly bad—is that absolves you from having to consider who these people are,” Richler explained to the Straight in 2012.
At times, this government seems obsessed with breeding mistrust of "the other", whether it's a few Muslim women in Canada who wear niqabs or large groups of environmentalists who hold peaceful demonstrations because they're worried about the future of the planet.
This raises an important question. What's next if the Conservatives win another majority in October, giving Harper his fourth term as prime minister? If he stays in office for another couple of years, he will surpass Jean Chrétien and become the country's fifth-longest-serving prime minister, ranking only behind Mackenzie King, John A. Macdonald, Pierre Trudeau, and Wilfred Laurier.
Based on what's taken place during Harper's first majority government, here are a few predictions:
• We will finally see the federal government introduce Section 33 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (the so-called notwithstanding clause) to pass legislation to override fundamental freedoms and rights outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
• The Insite supervised-injection site in Vancouver will be forced to close, resulting in an increase in drug-overdose deaths in the city.
• There will be legislative changes to make it tougher for inmates to obtain parole. As a result, higher incarceration costs will be passed down to the provinces.
• More nonprofit organizations that the government disagrees with will be stripped of the legal right to issue tax receipts to donors. This action will not be taken against right-wing think tanks, such as the Fraser Institute or the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
• The Conservatives will begin a formal process—whether through a Commons committee investigation or by commissioning a report—to try to have ownership of private property enshrined as a constitutional right in Canada. If this long-term Harper objective is achieved, it will hamper future governments from passing environmental legislation that could infringe on this new constitutional right.
• The Canadian Security Intelligence Service will be given policing powers in new legislation after the next election and there won't be any corresponding increase in oversight of the agency.
• More legislative changes will be introduced to confer advantages on federally chartered financial institutions, including banks, that are competing with provincially chartered credit unions.
• The Conservatives will continue signing free-trade agreements. This will hamstring provincial and local governments from passing legislation that affects the interests of multinational corporations.
• Relations between the federal government and First Nations will continue to deteriorate, particularly in B.C., as Ottawa passes more laws designed to ram through unpopular industrial projects.
• A Harper-led government will continue to refuse to participate in premiers' conferences concerning health care.
• The government will expand its military operations, possibly with air strikes or putting Canadian special forces in Libya, Somalia, or other parts of Africa to confront Islamist groups. This will be applauded by Andrew Coyne and almost every other national columnist in the Postmedia chain.
• The Canadian economy will continue to sputter as Harper refuses to take action to address income inequality, which is at the root of the malaise gripping the country.
• Canada will become even more of an international pariah for its tepid response to the climate crisis.
• Harper will profess neutrality in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However, there will be a widespread perception in Canada that he'll be secretly cheering for the Republican candidate, particularly if Sen. Elizabeth Warren surprises everyone by entering the race and becoming the Democratic Party nominee.
• Harper won't have anything good to say about Vladimir Putin or bad to say about Benjamin Netanyahu during his entire term of office. The Iranian embassy in Ottawa will remain closed.
• Pressure will sharply increase across the country for the federal New Democrats and federal Liberals to merge to defeat the Conservatives in the 2019 election.