Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just called an election, and in my humble role as the West Coast Odysseus, I’m asking you, my very few loyal readers, and various assorted googlers, to vote out Harper’s Conservative Party.
Canadians are fortunate that it is Canada we live in. Disturbing trends that are amplified in much of the world are more muted here, but they are still real nonetheless. Russia was once a democracy; now it is a dictatorship. Turkey had achieved democracy, but now amidst the politicized crackdown on the police and the judiciary, and the shutting down of social media, even if you’re an underage student who criticizes the Prime Minister, you can be sentenced to jail. Russia has Putin. Turkey has Erdogan. Canada has Stephen Harper.
Electing Stephen Harper for another term after all the damage he has done–sometimes boldly, sometimes on the sly–is tantamount to national suicide. To be sure, Canada will most certainly not go up in flames the day after he takes office again, but consider the very real trends within Canada that he is responsible for presiding over.
Declining standards of living. To be sure, this began under Chretien’s Liberals, but it has accelerated as the Tories have become the party of Big Business. Canada is the only member of the G7 without a national housing strategy. In Vancouver, oil-rich Saudis and moneyed members of the corrupt aristocracy in mainland China routinely buy up multiple properties as investments while thousands go homeless. This is not racist. Every property that is bought up by foreigners is a property that landed immigrants and Canadian citizens–some of them refugees–who were born in places from Hong Kong to Manila to Somalia cannot have access to. A housing crisis is occurring in Canada, and Harper’s Conservatives sit idly by and refuse to care–on principle! And that’s just housing. There’s much to say about the growing problem of wealth inequality that concentrates wealth in a tiny fraction of the populace.
Gutting of environmental protections. Harper’s Tories don’t just deny climate change. They are actively bringing it about through their policies. The burning of fossil fuels and coal is contributing to unprecedented climate change. Canada’s glaciers are melting, its West is experiencing the beginning stages of multi-year drought, and the aboriginal villages in its North are being moved because of rising ocean levels caused by melting ice. But don’t ask any of the government science departments about this. They’ve had their payrolls slashed and the few remaining scientists muzzled.
Conservatives such as former PM Brian Mulroney–who won an award as the “greenest” Canadian PM ever–used to feel that part of “conserving” had to do with protecting nature. But Harper’s Conservatives have not only destroyed the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (which had for 25 years assisted Canadian governments beginning with Mulroney’s), and they’ve not only gutted the Coast Guard, but they’ve also removed hundreds of protections that had been previously built into development regulations. A “Drill, baby, drill” philosophy rewarded corrupt companies at the expense of Canadians’ publicly-owned land, water, and air. And it’s going to get a lot worse.
Mismanagement of the Economy. Many Canadians point to the fact that Canada emerged from the 2008 recession in about the best shape of the G8 countries as evidence of Stephen Harper’s wise leadership. Unfortunately, they forget that Harper was in a minority government at the time, and his hand was forced by the Opposition parties to engage in economic stimulus.
But now, seven years later, our PM, who never met a pipeline he couldn’t like, has placed all his economic eggs in one basket, turning our dollar into a “petro-dollar,” with all the disastrous consequences that has brought us. When Canada needed to diversify its economy and its jobs, it didn’t. Our economy is now likely in a new recession, our dollar is in a free-fall, and our desiccated export industry is no longer in a position to take advantage of our low dollar. Where was Stephen Harper’s leadership during the last seven years? Where was his much-vaunted economic expertise? And I have not even brought up the boondoggle involving the three-times over-budget F-35 fighter jets that Canada spent so much on–with not a single fighter jet to show for it.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office brought in income-splitting, which benefits by and large only their core supporters. The government did this even over the publicly-stated opposition of its then Finance-Minister, Jim Flaherty. Income-splitting is one of a number of measures taken to basically give money to the groups that vote Tory. Not a single expert in Canada thinks it fair.
Attacks on Canadian Institutions, the Rule of Law, and Democracy. Instead of using the last few years productively, Prime Minister Harper has employed increasingly rabid partisans to cheat Canadians. He has demonstrated spectacularly bad judgment in hiring, for one thing. Many of Harper’s hires have either been charged or convicted, and a few have actually been incarcerated. Harper has made bad appointments to the Senate, and now instead of making good appointments that would benefit the “chamber of sober second thought,” he’s fast-tracking bills through the senate while simultaneously blaming the Senate he has stacked for its problems to the point where he has become an abolitionist.
Meanwhile, Harper has changed the law so that illegal acts committed by the RCMP that are currently under investigation will no longer be considered illegal. It’s unprecedented, and it’s wrong. He’s also had retroactive legislation going the other way–criminalizing the past–thrown out by the courts.
Harper has also sought to undermine Quebec’s constitutionally-protected role on the Supreme Court, and then had the gall to publicly feud with the Chief Justice (who did not, however, defend herself in public). And that’s just scraping the top of the iceberg. Harper’s Tories have also been engaged in unprecedented politicization of the judiciary. Merit is no longer the primary criterion for the appointment and promotion of judges. Harper has appointed nearly all the members of the Supreme Court, dear reader. Do you really think he should have the chance to appoint all of them when you give him another term in power?
Stephen Harper doesn’t like the courts. He doesn’t like Canadian law. He does’t like democracy. That’s why he brought in the so-called “Fair Elections Act.” When Elections Canada said there was little to no elections fraud in terms of voter ID, Harper’s Tories publicly misrepresented Elections Canada’s statements to mean the exact opposite of what was said! In the guise of “protecting” Canada from voter ID fraud, the Conservative government then decided to take votes away from those least likely to vote for them: students studying away from home, First Nations, the homeless, even the elderly in old folks homes. Meanwhile, real fraud was committed: by Conservative M.P.’s and their staffers, who accepted illegal funds during the last election (see the Youtube link above), and by “robo-call” Liberals! And then there’s the fact that Elections Canada itself has been violated and tampered with.
And then there is the increasing role of money in elections. Harper changed the laws to allow the political parties at the federal level to collect and spend more money in the event of a longer campaign. And then he called that campaign early. Harper’s Tories have more money in the bank than all the opposition parties combined. That is why Harper called the election today, giving Canada the longest federal campaign in Canadian history.
If all this wasn’t bad enough, Harper has refused to take part in the time-honoured tradition of public debate hosted by our national broadcaster. Once upon a time, there was one debate in English, and one in French–all carried by a consortium of broadcasters headed by our CBC. This time, though, Harper has agreed to take part in several debates, but only ones hosted by his corporate facilitators, such as MacLeans (owned by Rogers media). This will have its obvious effect: with more debates, the importance of each becomes less. Since there is now no single event of national importance for voters to focus on, fewer Canadians will have access to the debates, or care about them. Harper wants to guard against moments like what happened to John Turner in a debate with Mulroney, who told him, “You had a choice, sir!” It was a watershed moment that caused support for Mulroney to skyrocket.
I should also mention the government’s attacks on Canada’s charities and non-profits. Non-profits are basically being stopped from engaging in meaningful political participation in any substantial way. It’s more than a little curious how it’s basically been non-profits only on the center-left who have been targeted by the CRA under Harper’s government.
Bill C-51. If you haven’t heard of Bill C-51, you should have. It’s a bill that is nothing less than an assault upon our cherished Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Parts of it will no doubt be overthrown by the Supreme Court in due time. It’s a measure of how far removed from “conservatism” that Bill C-51 is that even an arch-conservative like the founder of the ultra-conservative Free Dominion blog could say: “If people were using Section 13 to go after people who weren’t posting hate speech, they’re going to use this to go after people who aren’t terrorists. It’s inevitable. The lack of due process in this bill is very frightening.”
Missing Talent. Our Prime Minister has another fault: he has not only not developed talent, he has presided over its mass exit from his government. Under his watch the respected Jim Flaherty quit cabinet protesting government policy. For one reason or another many others are leaving, too: John Baird, Peter MacKay, James Moore, Shelley Glover, Christian Paradis, Diane Ablonczy. In the next election, one thing the Tories will say about their opponents is that they have little experience governing. And the response will be: so will the next batch of Tory M.P.’s, because they’ve lost all of their best and brightest. Of the “big names,” who’s left who can carry the banner? Only the hyper-partisan Pierre Poilievre.
Despite writing this very long post, I have only been able to scrape the tip of the iceberg of Conservative financial and legal mismanagement. There is so much I have not even had time to mention–for example, the increasing use of omnibus bills that Harper himself once railed against while he was in Opposition, or the fact that Canadians have never had so much of their money spent touting government “accomplishments,” or the absolutely disgraceful treatment of our Afghanistan veterans. In this post, I have quoted from major media from the ultra-conservative National Post to the true blue Toronto Star. I am without doubt that Stephen Harper’s Tories have engaged in unprecedented actions taken against the institutions of Canada: our land, water, air, democracy, our Supreme Court and the lower courts, our standards of living: all stand to lose so much from his reelection. After nine years, Stephen Harper has governed long enough. You Tory supporters, at what point does the human Stephen Harper cease to be God and the Conservative Party his ministering angels? Nine years is long enough in Ottawa, and too much power breeds corruption. Stop Canada from becoming a polluted wasteland where only the wealthy can vote. It’s time to let someone else have a chance to govern.
In a later post, I will argue why it is only the NDP that deserves your vote.
Reproduction rights: provided my name, “Nathan Bauman” is included in reproduction, I am granting all individuals and non-profit organizations and political parties the right to reproduce this post, in whole or in part. This broad permission does not apply for any other part of this website.