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Prime Minister Stephen Harper wipes his brow as he addresses supporters in Forties, N.S., on Aug. 18, 2010.

ANDREW VAUGHAN/The Canadian Press

Political mathematics are endless fun.

For example, our friends at make a pretty good case that, contrary to some recent discussion in English Canada, giving more seats to Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta probably doesn't alter the political chessboard. It is still very hard to see, even after redistribution, how any of the three national political parties can put together a majority government as long as the Bloc holds most of Quebec's seats.

Another interesting piece of political math is the failure of Stephen Harper's Conservatives to grow or thrive beyond their base.

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In the 2000 election, Stockwell Day's Canadian Alliance got 25.49 per cent of the vote, and Joe Clark's Progressive Conservatives got 12.19 per cent -- a total of 37.68 per cent.

Mr. Harper's unified Conservative Party rarely polls that high. He has made progress in the seat count thanks to the undemocratic perversity of our electoral system. But very little real progress with Canadians themselves. Two-thirds of Canadians still reject Mr. Harper, his ideology, his party and his government -- just like they did ten years ago.

Why can't the Harper Conservatives do better?

Because issues like two illegitimate and inappropriate prorogations, the apparent muzzling of the RCMP's gun registry coordinator, and the gutting of a key component of Canada's census all tell Canadians the same story about this government. Canadians can't look to it to be respectful. And that they can't look to it to be fair.

"Respectful" was once a core principle of Canada's Conservatives. Respectful of the dignity of the Crown and the central role of Parliament in our system of government. Respectful of the police. Respectful of independent officials doing their job in the public interest. But this government respects nothing about our country, its democratic institutions or its public service. These are the same people who put Ontario premier Ernie Eves up to delivering a budget speech in an auto plant instead of in the provincial legislature. They haven't changed their spots.

"Fairness" is part of the character Canadians look for from all governments of all political stripes. Fairness towards other players and parties in the political system. Fairness to citizens. Fairness to public employees and officials. But this government still plots to bankrupt its opponents, and runs roughshod over anyone who stands in the way of its political agenda.

What is that agenda? Fundamentally, it is a calculation that if they can speak to and turn out their minority vote through a series of micro-moves, it won't matter what the majority thinks. Canada's majority gets that signal from Mr. Harper -- again and again, loud and clear this summer in the census issue and more. Which is why his party's political math hasn't gotten much better, so far, despite four years in office.

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