This week we have asked Huffpost.ca contributors to tell us what they considered the biggest story of 2011.
In 1997, on the eve of another winning Liberal campaign by Prime Minister Jean Chretien, two Canadian conservatives wrote a dispirited essay on our politics.
Conservative governance was unlikely to happen, they argued, since it would mean defeating the governing Liberals, the most electorally successful political party in the Western world. "For a hundred years since 1896, Liberal government has been the rule, their opposition habitually weak, and alternative governments short-lived." Canada had become "our benign dictatorship," they wrote.
The only option? Without the possibility of meaningful election victories, conservatives should fight instead for democratic reforms like proportional representation.
One of the authors had particular reason to be discouraged: Stephen Harper had just been railroaded out of the leadership of the party he helped found. At that moment, he appeared to be politically finished, destined to write essays about politics, rather than actually participate in it.
But, of course, the years have been kind to Mr. Harper. In less than a decade, he won the leadership of his party, merged it with another to solidify the right-wing vote, and brought his Conservatives to power in 2006.
On May 2, he scored the first non-Liberal majority in 23 years. He won the West and Ontario, and -- in doing so -- has forged a lasting political coalition that could reshape Canadian politics for years to come.
And that is why I choose the Tory win as the biggest Canadian news event of the year.
Of course, with the opposition weak and divided, bigger news may lie in the future. Even with minority governments, the Harper Tories have achieved impressive results: cutting taxes, passing a focused stimulus bill despite strong temptations to do more, and (based on IMF projections) keeping the debt-to-GDP ratio largely unchanged compared to the start of the recession. Give these guys the keys to the metaphorical state car, and great possibilities abound.
But in mulling the biggest news of the year, I'm tempted not to think of policy, but politics. This was a remarkable political win, after all. It's as if an aged hockey player dusted off his equipment, came out of retirement, and took his team to the Stanley Cup finals -- oh, and swept the series.
Stephen Harper suggested in 1997 that a non-Liberal party couldn't win the country and argued that the rules of the game needed to change. Lucky for him that he's better at campaigning than political prognosticating.