Which of the two is the more powerful in their own country: Stephen Harper or Barack Obama? by Stéphane D. Groulx – December 26, 2011

CFN Right before the holidays, as I was writing my final exam for political science in one of those giant lecture halls at the University of Ottawa, one of the essay questions I had to write about intrigued me. It asked us (the students) to argue who between the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the United States is more powerful in their own country?
Now if this question were to have been framed along the lines of who between the two is more powerful, than the obvious choice would have been Barack Obama, but that was not the question. The question was indeed one which would have us consider a number of key points: Who between the two was the most influential on domestic policy? Who was able to afford to take risks without worrying about their poll numbers? Who’s reign was strongest?
Upon reasoning these key points, I was able to come to the conclusion that it was in fact Stephen Harper that was the most powerful amongst the two North American leaders.

Firstly, one would need to consider that since the unification of the political right in Canada, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have led Parliament and have fared successfully in the polls since 2006. They have increased the size of their caucus during each of the four federal elections we have had since the unification. The exception being of course the New Democratic Party who had momentum behind them during the last election, however it still doesn’t change the fact that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives led in the polls consecutively since day one of the campaign without dropping in support once; the exception being of course in Québec where the Conservatives haven’t fared well since the days of Mulroney.
It would be more challenging to take down Stephen Harper than it would Barack Obama. In the United States, Obama is the victim of a strongly polarized electorate. He relies on moderates to remain in power. These people, often referred to as swing voters will have a lot of influence on whether or not Obama will be a one or two term president.
The right is no more fragmented than the left, each are in their own respect powerful as the other. In Canada that is not the case, the unified right dominates while the parties on the centre-left fight amongst each other for progressive votes, which within our electoral system leads to spilt votes which directly benefit the right.
As well, it is worth noting that while the President of the United States has the power to veto legislation he doesn’t agree with that the Republican controlled House of Representatives may put forward, this creates tension, and may cause an unnecessary stalemate between the Legislature and the Executive branches of Government, whereas here in Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds a majority in the House of Commons and the Senate. To put it colloquially,  the Tories have the green light to pretty much pass or kill whatever legislation they see fit, and there is nothing the Opposition can do to stop them because the way the opposition parties vote in a majority Parliament is largely symbolic and has little to no sway as to whether or not a bill becomes a law.
Bottom line is, Stephen Harper could lead with an iron fist (many would argue he is already) and not much would change in public opinion. As long as the right remains unified, and there is no strong voice on the left this will most likely continue. I’m certain Obama wishes he had it half as good as King Harper and his band of neo-cons do right about now.
KAV Productions


  1. Great article Stéphane, well written and I think you made your point.

    I love to see young people getting interested in publishing their opinions on our little web site. It gives me hope for the future of not only CFN but of Canada.

  2. Many interesting points to back claims, good work.

    Mr Harper (Canada does not have a King yet,but I understand the connection) will do what people will allow. If enough of us organize with a legitimate cause, get in the papers and keep up the pressure, we the people will still have control.

    Most sit back and mumble in our Timmies though and or even fail to vote.

  3. Eric, are you saying that drinking bad coffee causes political apathy?

  4. Author

    Reg is it true that too much caffeine makes people Conservative?

  5. Jamie, I’ve swilled barrels of bad coffee over the years, and have NEVER been tempted to vote Conservative.
    Maybe I’ve been blessed with a decent immune system.

  6. Author

    or are drinking decaf 🙂

  7. Decaf is the drink of the devil! Never!
    That’s worse than tea!

  8. Caffeine clears the mind and focuses the thought process therefore it must be Liberal. Too much caffeine makes you hyper and nervous like the NDP. Conservatives drink Texas tea. The green party drinks chamomile with a side of herbal brownies.

  9. Author

    geez I need an herbal brownie….

  10. Herbal brownies, at least most of them, are illegal. In some cases they can be consumed safely, but only in moderation, following a meal of spaghetti topped with a good fire and brimstone sauce and lots of cheese.

  11. Hey guys, let’s get back on topic, lest we have the “Pastor” intervene with the Teachings of Tom.

    Excellent article, Stephane, and I’m sure you did well in your exam. Please contribute more of your thoughts to CFN.

  12. Just an afterthought. This thread seems to have been hijacked (derailed?). 🙂

    Stéphane D. Groulx makes a very good case that Harper has a lot more power than Obama, domestically.
    Harper’s only real opposition right now are the Supreme Court, the provinces, and the press. He can and will do pretty much what he wants short of blatant human rights abuse. Obama can’t do anything because the opposition (Republican) is strong and is determined to destroy the Obama presidency at any cost. Sort of like what Harper is trying to do to whatever remains of his opposition in Parliament.

  13. Very astute Reg associating bad coffee with Timmies, however, my point was we just complain to others who also complain to others, not in an organized way with direction to someone that can change things though. This just allows a country leader more latitude.

  14. Furtz, count out the press as opposition these days. Print news editors across the country sided with Harper last May, and voted the Conservative majority as news story of 2011. Pathetic. I repeat: We need a vigorous Fifth Estate, i.e. largely the Internet, to expose Harper’s destructive ways and keep his gang accountable. CFN is making a good contribution.

    Good article, Stéphane.

  15. True PJ. I lump most print news in with TV and radio news, aka “mainstream media”. Our local rag in Brockville has reported a few times that the Harper government was defeated on the budget bill! Even CBC TV and radio pads their news with (self moderated) sports scores! I do, however, agree that the Reform majority was the biggest Canadian news story. A depressing and scary story for sure, but the biggest one to me.

  16. Reform majority as biggest Canadian news story, Furtz? I see why. However, I also see news editors’ voting it as such as giving the Harper gang satisfaction and validation.

    Now as to the really significant news story of the year, how about Attawapiskat and the continuing scandal of aboriginal peoples’ living conditions? Or Canada’s (read the Harper government’s) perennial spinelessness over climate change?

  17. We’ll have to agree to disagree PJ. Attawapiskat brought to our attention, yet again, the living conditions on northern reserves. It’s a sad story that’s been going on since the 1860s.
    The fact that Neocons are climate change deniers is hardly news at all. Is the pope Catholic?
    I still think the Reform majority is the biggest, not the best, story. As I said before, it’s going to change Canada in ways we’ve never seen before.

  18. OK Furtz, point taken: Canadians have gone to sleep on climate change and northern reserves. Guess I’m saying they OUGHT TO BE the biggest news stories of 2011.

  19. Do they still teach that Canadian politics as having a political right ? I think we should re evaluate the course content at Ottawa U

  20. Attawapiskat, they could still be living in igloos or building their own accommodations as well as hunting the resources to build….

  21. There was a Reform majority last year?
    Thought they merged with the Alliance or something then merged with the Progressive Conservatives changing the name to Conservatives. Are there even more than a handful of the original group still serving?
    Mr Harper was not with Reform I thought, Alliance sure, but saying something often does not make it right.

  22. Smee, I have to think that you aren’t big on learning Canadian history.
    Good for you! It would only clutter your mind.

  23. Thank you Furtz, I spent a bit of time going to various sites. Learning that Mr Harper has a masters in economics, believes in God, and conducted research in areas besides economics while cutting his teeth in politics was very helpful.

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