Harper only gains political traction through populism, much like the neoconservative movement in the US. He treats his supporters like fools and that strategy seems to work.
- you're scared of criminals, therefore I will build prisons (despite the falling crime rate)
- you don't like the expenditure on prisons, therefore I shall reintroduce the death penalty (despite the fact that it is more expensive)
Populist strategy is a highly effective means to gain short-term, political advantage (on the left or right) at the expense of the civil and social "long view". We can see this with McGuiny's provincial liberals and their mishandled green energy strategy.
Currently, in North America, conservatism has been hijacked by populism and turned into this horrid, hateful beast that is not in keeping with it's own traditions. Limbaugh, O'Riely, Beck, Flanagan, O'Leary, Chery, etc. are all over the media, every day, telling people to fear progressive thought while promoting ideological lies and attempting to rewrite history. Harper plays this game extremely well and his Rovian strategy seems to hold onto a constant third of Canadian voters, despite the ready availability of cold, hard facts that contradict his narrative.
Of course, they are further bolstered by a complete lack of backbone in the opposition and a liberal class that is betraying it's own history... but that's another story.