As we all know Mulroney’s coalition of Quebec nationalists, red Tories, and Westerners flew apart in the early 1990s. It’s now becoming increasingly clear that the same thing is bound to happen to this coalition under Harper. Curiously the event that starts the whole collapse again may be one that has to do with Mulroney himself. The question now is what element of the coalition can Harper afford to jettison? He’s already lost a lot the soft-nationalist vote in Quebec. So right now it seems that he’s going to have to make do with the rump of the old Progressive Conservatives and his Reform core. But those two sides are quibbling over Mulroney now. Both are likely hoping that the ‘real’ Stephen Harper is on their side. But who is the ‘real’ Stephen Harper – the Harper that we would get if the Cons won a majority? Is he the consensus-building pragmatist that the Reformers resent as a traitor or is he the far-right ideologue that the PCs fear?
If Harper is going to keep the rest of his coalition together, he is going to have to continue to be coy about who he really is. And yet the calls for him to reveal who he really is are going to grow louder as they emanate from all quarters of his party.