Op-Ed: Eat your heart out, Harper

Posted Aug 30, 2011 by Jeromie Williams
Last week when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper broke from traditional parliamentary protocol and extended his hand to offer up a state funeral for Jack Layton, he may as well have handed over the keys to 24 Sussex Drive.
Jack Layton is pictured here in better health before the 2011 Canadian federal election where he led...
Jack Layton is pictured here in better health before the 2011 Canadian federal election where he led the NDP to its first victory as the official opposition party in Parliament.
For anyone who was listening closely, the death knell rang for two that day.
The untimely passing of the NDP leader was at the very least an emotional experience for the 60 percent of the country that cast ballots left of center in the last federal election, but upon placing his signature on the paperwork for a publicly sponsored and heavily publicized funeral service, Stephen Harper paved the way for what is being coined as the impending Rise of the Orange Phoenix.
Veering from his generally cold and callous approach to Canadian politics, Stephen Harper exposed a chink in his Conservative armour that shrouded the insincerity of the infamously awkward "kitten by the fireplace" photograph and the saccharine sweet "family in the autumn leaf pile" portrait we have all come to titter at, and for a moment, as fleeting as it was, made himself seem a shred personable and soft.
Canadians learned at that exact moment that they were no longer dealing with a Prime Minister who scared the bejesus out of them, but that they were dealing with a man who just showed them he has a heart, and the direct path to it - the Wizard finally stepped out from behind the curtain.
With any other politician, excluding perhaps Harper's personal attack dog John Baird, this kind of softening of the edges would be considered a total plus in an Ipsos poll, but those who helped edge Harper into his first majority government did not do so on the promise of sunshine and lollipops afterwards, they did so on the promise of fast tracking big business deals, social policy overhauls and conservative values down the pipe as fast as possible.
As far as Conservatives should be concerned ... there's a turd in the punch bowl now.
Perhaps Stephen Harper was simply trying to cash in on the feel good relationship that most Canadians, no matter their politics, had with Jack Layton. In a sort of "Hey, look what I did, can I be cool now" adolescent move, Harper overestimated his ability to tap into the Layton legacy as the politician you'd want to have a beer with and failed to move even an inch out of his own personal legacy as the guy next door you'd ask to do your taxes for you.
Credit where credit is due however, it took a great deal of testicular fortitude on the part of Stephen Harper to sit through the funeral service he so graciously gifted Layton, because amidst the revelry, regard and respect permeating the room, Harper must have been pondering what his own state funeral might look like one day, coming to the same unavoidable conclusion each time: Nothing like Jack's.
Eat your heart out, Harper.
With Stephen Harper's now fuzzy underbelly exposed, those who have been looking for an opportunity to pounce have found their best chance to land their swords and arrows between the breastplate of the Conservative giant. As long as the warriors in the upcoming battle are marching forward with an orange banner held high, there is little wrong they can do in the eyes of Canadians, because right now and straight on through to the next election, Canadians will be looking for that Layton spark in Ottawa.
The Rise of the Orange Phoenix will come to pass when the next leader of the NDP puts on their stomping boots, rolls up their sleeves, rises from the ashes and carries on with the same vigour, voice and unabashedly vehement passion for social democracy and human dignity that carried Jack Layton as far as it did.
If there was ever a time to elect a ferocious fighter to lead the NDP, it is now.
Standing down, for even a moment, to lick the deep wounds left behind from the loss of Layton will serve only to curtail the momentum built up from the last election and give a foothold for members of every party in Parliament to try and climb above the wave of the "orange crush".
Parliamentarians, you now have your target. Take aim. Let loose your cannons fly, and shoot straight for the heart.