Thursday, August 20, 2015
Stephen Harper and the Fateful Attraction of Ray Novak
He's trying to carry on his campaign as if nothing has changed. As if the Duffy trial was a mere distraction.
But Stephen Harper couldn't conceal a wince yesterday, when reporters asked him about his beloved Ray Novak.
And whether he was planning to fire him.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is staying mum on the fate of Ray Novak after court testimony that his top aide had direct knowledge of the secret payment to cover Mike Duffy’s disputed expenses.
The Conservative leader refused to respond to direct questions whether Novak had his support and would remain involved in the election campaign.
And with good reason.
For as the Harper fluffer John Ibbotson points out, as I have, the deranged Harper and the boyish Novak have a very special relationship.
Losing Mr. Novak would be very hard for Mr. Harper. There is no one closer to him outside his own family.
Quiet, competent and loyal beyond measure, Mr. Novak became Mr. Harper’s executive assistant when he became leader. The young aide lived in an apartment above the garage in Stornoway and often ate with the family, becoming practically one of them.
Novak has been with Harper forever, and has done EVERYTHING for his adored leader. From sweeping the floor, to bringing him coffee, to burying the family cat.
There is a story that, when the family cat was run over one day, Laureen Harper asked Mr. Novak to bury it, because the sight of it would upset her husband.
He fulfills a role similar to the one played by Julius Ceasar's faithful body servant, who would shove a stick in his master's mouth to prevent him from swallowing his tongue, when he had an epileptic fit.
Or in Harper's case a partisan fit.
But loyalty isn’t the young adviser’s only essential quality, say those close to the situation who spoke on background. He is less hyper-partisan than many of the Conservative Leader’s advisers, and has a natural empathy for people that Mr. Harper, who approaches most relationships in transactional terms, conspicuously lacks.
And most importantly for a man who has no friends, and whose marriage is said to be little more than a hollow shell...
Ray Novak is Harper's only companion.
The only man he doesn't feel threatened by. The only one who who can calm him down when his anger rages out of control. And all others in the PMO are too scared to approach him.
The only one who can pick him up when he is tormented by bouts of depression, and control the wild mood swings Harper's former advisor Tom Flanagan described in his portrait of an isolated leader.
“He can be suspicious, secretive, and vindictive, prone to sudden eruptions of white-hot rage over meaningless trivia, at other times falling into week-long depressions in which he is incapable of making decisions.’’
And to understand how much Harper depends on Novak, and how grateful he is for his faithful service, all you have to do is read this paragraph from this story.
He is described as a populist, a monarchist and a libertarian with a sharp anti-Communist streak, the latter perhaps attributable to the influence of his late father, who fled Czechoslovakia in 1968 after the Soviet Union-led invasion.
And then ask yourself why did Harper become such a rabid monarchist and start sticking the word Royal all over the place?
And for whom is he really building this ugly memorial to the victims of Communism?
And when you think about that, you can understand why it is such a fateful attraction. And why the Con flak Kory Teneycke couldn't have been more right when he said this:
“I’ve known Ray for 20 years. It’s unfathomable that Ray would be aware of a payment from Nigel to Mr. Duffy and not tell the Prime Minister. It’s unfathomable.”
And why the latest revelations couldn't be more devastating for Harper.
For if it can be proven that Ray Novak knew about the Wright deal, as the former PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin will claim when he starts testifying today, Harper will never be able to convince Canadians that he didn't know as well.
And that could force him to make the most painful decision of his political career.
One that would almost certainly destroy him, from the inside out.
But would at least give historians a great line when they write his political epitaph.
He was a lonely leader. He had many enemies.
But before they could topple him.
He was brought down by his only friend....
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