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Reaction roundup: what the country is saying about Stephen Harper’s fifth anniversary as prime minister

Sunday was big in Ottawa. January 23 marked five years ago to the day that Stephen Harper won his first election victory. His talk had all the hallmarks of a campaign stump speech, noting all the positive changes the Conservatives have made in Canada since 2006 and carefully omitting some of the more divisive history. Hey, it’s a party, right?

How are people taking this anniversary? We survey the country’s media to find out.

• Starting in Halifax, Dan Leger in the Chronicle Herald, seems to be saying that, if anything, the Conservatives under Harper are flip-floppers. We love his closer: “Conservatives tarred as Republicans when they aren’t very conservative at all, governing a mostly liberal country that still won’t trust the Liberals. No wonder we’re confused.”

• What has Harper achieved in five years? “On a policy level, the consensus seems to be—not much,” writes Stephanie Levitz at the Globe and Mail. Harper’s major achievement has been the slow expansion of the Conservative brand from its Alberta asylum to the suburbs of Toronto.

• In the Toronto Star, James Travers says that while most anniversaries are overblown (we’re writing that down for the next time we upset our spouse), this one is important because it gives people a chance to reflect on Harper’s past right before an election that Ottawa seems certain is imminent. Harper, of course, is single-mindedly pursuing the majority government any PM really wants.

• And in the pages of the Globe and the Ottawa Citizen, a debate between Brian Topp and William Johnson over Harper’s “Jekyll and Hyde” personality, because apparently “Banner and Hulk” isn’t as hip as it used to be. Topp says Harper will be judged by his Mr. Hyde side, despite the attempt to sell him as Dr. Jekyll. Johnson disagrees, saying that people will judge Harper for his astute crisis management. Johnson overreaches in a few spots (saying that Jean Chrétien “abdicated” defending the national order against the PQ gets a big “whuh?” from this corner), but it’s basically the debate the whole country is having.

• The big question—from the Peter Mansbridge interviews last week to columnists across the country—is whether Harper makes it to a majority in the next election, and what he does if he gets there. In the Calgary Herald, Jason Fekete reports it’s plausible (Harper needs just 12 more seats to own the lower house), but Harper needs to do everything right. We generally bet against plans where perfection is a prerequisite. (See Iraq, invasion of.)

• ‘We Have Delivered,’ Harper Says [National Post]
• What has five years in power done to conservatism? [Chonicle Herald]
• The right stuff? After five years in office, Harper’s legacy a mixed bag [Globe and Mail]
Travers: Majority power is minority Prime Minister’s first priority [Toronto Star]
• Harper legacy will transcend Jekyll and Hyde analysis [Ottawa Citizen]
Jekyll, Hyde and the election campaign that’s begun [Globe and Mail]
• Harper ramps up final bid to attain majority mandate [Calgary Herald]
• Interview with Stephen Harper [CBC.ca]

(Image: Christian Fierro)