Toronto Tory has an excellent post about the media's attempts to create a movement to force Stephen Harper out of the Tory leadership.
Some Conservatives, including a few members of the Blogging Tories, are falling for it, fearing that Stephen Harper has become damaged goods, especially amongst Ontario voters, and will never lead the party to victory no matter how sick the electorate gets of the Liberal government.
I will not, just as Toronto Tory and most Conservatives will not.
The Conservative Party has suffered a disappointing setback with the defection of Belinda Stronach and the consequent loss of the non-confidence vote. Coupled with the loss of the 2004 election, and the inability to break open huge leads in opinion polls, it does appear that matters are not going as well as we'd like.
But compare these setbacks against what Mr. Harper has been able to achieve, and they are not sufficient reason to remove from the leadership.
Consider where we had been since for the past ten years: two parties, one unable to break out of its Western regional base, the other surviving out in Atlantic Canada with a great historical legacy and little else.
Everyone knew that the two parties would eventually have to merge if the right were ever to form another government in Canada, yet the obstinacy of once-powerful and respected figures in the Progressive Conservative Party (and to a lesser extent, in the Reform/Alliance parties), prevented those who wanted to do the sensible thing from doing so.
Stephen Harper won the leadership of the Canadian Alliance in 2002, brought it back from the brink of collapse, and restored it to the point that he could credibly seek a merger from a position of strength, not desperation.
He won the leadership of the Conservative Party with strong support from members of the former Progressive Conservative Party.
Members of both parties voted overwhelmingly to merge, and having done so, have worked together at the riding association level and higher with a remarkable amity, setting aside past differences based on membership in the predecessor parties.
His decisive leadership victory, and the seamless merger of the two parties, quickly gave the lie to hysterical claims of an Alliance takeover of the PC Party.
The loss of the 2004 election must be seen in its proper persepective. The situation during the campaign was highly fluid, and both major parties traded the lead back and forth. The Conservative Party had just come out of an exhausting merger process and leadership campaign, and had yet to hold a policy convention. The full extent of the Liberal Party's venality and corruption had yet to become public knowledge, and Paul Martin still bore the image of a succesful finance minister and party leader.
Despite all of the Liberal Party's advantages, including Paul Martin's prior reputation for prudent fiscal management and strong leadership, we still reduced what had been expected to be a landslide majority to a shaky minority.
A year after that election, matters have not improved at all for Paul Martin.
The Liberal Party, accustomed to polling in the high-40's and sometimes over 50% in mid-term polling, has not been able to crack the 40% ceiling.
Quebec is now irretrievably lost to the Bloc Quebecois, thus ensuring that the Liberals cannot even hope to win a majority government.
Ontario remains a problem, it is true. But the Liberals' lead in Ontario is owed to its lock on the city of Toronto; without it, it is essentially tied in the rest of Ontario, and well behind the Liberals outside the 905 belt.
Paul Martin has fallen further, faster and harder in public esteem than any other Liberal leader. His crushing takeover of the Liberal party leadership has also left it without an obvious successor who could take over without difficulty. The Liberals will face internecine warfare over their succession such as it has not faced in decades.
The Conservative Party has come out of its policy convention with a well-defined policy acceptable to the electorate at large, though one based on sound conservative principles.
There is a genuine two-party system again in Canada. We are not doomed to a decades-long stretch of one-party rule, as in Italy under the Christian Democrats, Japan under the Liberal Democrats, or Mexico under the Institutional Revolutionary Party.
The health of the Canadian body politic has suffered greatly over the past decade of Liberal misrule, but not beyond all hope of recovery.
For that hope, we have Stephen Harper to thank more than anyone.
His leadership is not perfect, and the party has much to work on, especially with its media relations, but he has put us back in the game as a credible governing alternative.
Now is not the time to throw him overboard and undo the work of the last 18 months.
Now is the time to stand behind him.
I stand behind him.