Stephen Harper goes through people like some of us go through potato chips
After nearly eight years at the helm of the Canadian government, it's looking like the beginning of the end for Stephen Harper.
He has gone through so many communications directors, chiefs of staff, and political friends that one wonders if anyone can stomach working with him.
Harper still has the support of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney, and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird—three of his most reliable ministers. And Industry Minister James Moore puts on a good show of being a Harper loyalist.
But compare that to the list of people who've either abandoned Harper over the years or whom Harper has tossed overboard.
The list begins with Jim Hawkes, a former Progressive Conservative MP for Calgary West.
Hawkes hired Harper as an aide, but then Harper ran against him twice, finally getting elected to Parliament in 1993.
Harper's next boss was Preston Manning, then-leader of the Reform Party of Canada. Harper chose not to seek reelection in 1997 because he was dissatisfied with the way things were going.
In the 2010 book Harperland: The Politics of Control, Lawrence Martin reported that Harper was furnishing information about Manning to his friend Tom Flanagan for his book, Waiting for the Wave.
"Little did Manning know that Harper, who had worked in his office, was a quiet collaborator, feeding Flanagan everything he could about his leader," Martin reported.
According to Harperland, Flanagan even called Harper a "silent co-author", furnishing documents about his boss.
Flanagan became Harper's chief of staff but they later had a falling out. It came after the Prime Minister's Office tried to get Flanagan's book about Harper killed.
Harper has gone through other chiefs of staff: Phil Murphy, Ian Brodie, and Nigel Wright. The current chief of staff, Ray Novak, used to live in a one-bedroom apartment on top of Harper's garage when Harper was Leader of the Opposition.
There has been even more rapid turnover in his communications directors: William Stairs, Sandra Buckler, Kory Teneycke, John Williamson, Dimitri Soudas, Angelo Persichilli, and Andrew MacDougall all left his office. You're free to make bets on how long Jason MacDonald will last.
Former CTV broadcasters Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin were appointed as Conservative senators to boost Conservative fundraising prospects and add a little glamour to the brand. Now, they're in the Harper deep freeze.
Former Conservative MP Helena Guergis sued Harper. Independent MP Brent Rathgeber walked out of caucus, fed up with the Prime Minister's Office's authoritarian governing style.
The pattern is pretty clear: Harper doesn't appear to be a very pleasant boss, judging from how often people resign from his office. And in the eyes of some, including Duffy, he's not trustworthy.
The prime minister has a way of bringing forward fresh faces from time to time, such as former ambassador to Afghanistan Chris Alexander, to boost Conservative prospects. Alexander is the new minister of citizenship and immigration.
Calgary Centre North MP Michelle Rempel, Minister of Western Economic Diversification, is also being groomed for advancement in the Harper government. Labour Minister Kellie Leitch is another new cabinet recruit on the ascendancy.
But if history offers any lessons, Harper could conceivably turn on any of them just as he has on other old friends and colleagues.
The only remaining question is how long Kenney, Flaherty, and Baird will remain loyal, given the political disintegration of the Conservatives taking place all around them.