I am tired of hearing that Mr. Harper is a "strong leader." So were Stalin and Pinochet. I would much rather have a good leader. A good leader inspires others with a strong, positive vision. She respects and works with other people, including those holding other views, for the common good.
By contrast, Mr. Harper functions as a one-man band. His only vision consists of maintaining and fortifying the greed-based society of the past 25 years, which has led to an almost unprecedented wealth and income gap and has now culminated in the implosion of the now deregulated US financial system.
A leader, especially a "strong" one like Mr. Harper, sets the tone for his associates. What goes on inside Mr. Harper's Conservative party and government are hidden behind a curtain of paranoid secrecy, but the prevailing tone is clear. The almost daily Conservative Party of Canada apologies all stem from a conceited, self-righteous and juvenile disdain for other people, other parties, and other ethnic groups (?If you behave and you're sober and there's no problems..."). That is why Mr. Harper tries so frantically to gag and control his fellows. He knows they have not mastered the crocodile smile and robotically bland diction behind which he hides his disdain for everyone who does not share his belief in survival of the fittest, and devil take the hindmost.
It is especially discouraging to hear Mr. Layton speak of Mr. Harper as a "strong leader" and try to position himself as similarly "strong" - presumably as distinct from M. Dion, whom they both try to portray as "weak" despite his having demonstrated his ability to gain respect and consensus not only from the strong and disparate people in his own party but also from the international community when he led the talks on Kyoto. Although I will be voting Green, I have far more respect for the well-informed, thoughtful and positive M. Dion than for the self-proclaimed "strong" Messrs. Harper and Layton.