Derrick O'Keefe's blog

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former rabble.ca Editor Derrick O'Keefe is a writer and social justice activist in Vancouver, BC. He is the author of the new Verso book, Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? and the co-writer of Afghan MP Malalai Joya's political memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice. Derrick also served as rabble.ca's editor from 2007 to 2009. Topics covered on this blog will include the war in Afghanistan and foreign policy, Canadian politics, media analysis, climate justice and ecology. You can follow him at http://twitter.com/derrickokeefe

One year into Harper's majority and no media culpa in sight

| May 2, 2012

Not that I really expected anything better, but I was nonetheless floored by today's editorial in the Globe and Mail on the anniversary of Harper's majority election ('Harper government has had a good first year').

Given the growing evidence of widespread electoral fraud and the exposure of an at least $10 billion lie about the F-35 acquisition, I naively expected something just a little less obsequious than this: 

"It has been a year since the Conservatives won a majority government, a year in which there have been plenty of ups and downs, the latter including the robo-calls controversy and the Auditor-General's scathing report of mismanagement and a lack of accountability on the F-35 purchase. But on most of the issues that matter, on the economy, on reining in public spending, on addressing the long-term structural challenges of Old Age Security, on immigration and on the sustainability of health-care funding, the government headed by Stephen Harper got it right..."

So it is that the mainstream corporate press, which in its overwhelming majority endorsed the Conservatives before the 2011 vote, attempts to minimize public discontent.

Lies and fraud are reduced to "downs," unfortunate little blips. The message to the newspaper reading public is easy to decipher: nothing to see here folks, please move along. 

But as Vic Toews (#tellviceverything) and Harper (#HarperHistory) have recently learned, the 'newspaper of record' and the big corporate media are not the only ones who get to have their say in the public sphere, nor are they guaranteed to have the last word.

The real majority in this country will have its say, and recent evidence - Quebec's Maple Spring, May Day across the country, and the anti-austerity rallies in Ottawa and Toronto - suggests that the resistance to Harper's agenda will soon be spilling over from the tweets and into the streets in larger and more sustained ways. And once we do that, silly editorials with banal headlines like today's in the Globe will be powerless to stop us. 

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These following additional reflections on one year of Harper's majority were recently published in The Source / La Source, a bilingual Vancouver newspaper where I contribute a regular column.

One year later: Harper government far from invincible

Today marks one year since Stephen Harper won a majority government. May 2, 2011 was the day Harper got his long coveted majority.

If Canadians knew then what we know now, would Harper still have prevailed?

The Auditor General’s recent report on the F-35 fighter jets amounts to a scathing indictment of the integrity of the ruling federal Conservatives. There is little doubt that Harper’s cabinet, and of course the micromanaging prime minister himself, knew that the cost estimates were low-balled by at least $10 billion.

Add to the F-35 fiasco the so called “robocalls” scandal, with growing evidence of widespread, coordinated voter fraud disproportionately benefiting the Conservatives. The lies plus the fraud equal an increasingly illegitimate Harper government. Despite all this, Stephen Harper is firmly entrenched in power and pushing forward on his rightwing agenda. Every week, sometimes every day, brings new bad news for the environment and for social justice in Canada.

With things seemingly so bleak and immovable at the federal level, the push back against procorporate, right-wing politics looks more hopeful at the provincial level.

In Ontario, despite Harper’s boastful wish at a fundraiser for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford that Conservative leader Tim Hudak would complete the rightwing “hat trick,” Liberal Dalton McGuinty won re-election, though he now has only a minority government. This hasn’t meant any fundamental move away from neo-liberal politics and austerity measures, but McGuinty was forced to impose a new surtax on the rich to get the NDP not to defeat his budget.

In Quebec, the Charest government faces a massive student strike that has sparked a broader movement some have dubbed le printemps erable (the Maple Spring). This type of social movement has not been seen in years, and represents an inherent threat to everything for which Harper stands.

Even in Alberta, Harper’s politics suffered a sort of setback, when the upstart Wildrose Party went down to defeat to the Progressive Conservatives. Although the prime minister of course wisely stayed ‘above the fray’ of Alberta’s election, it was no secret that many of his key operatives – past and present – were working on the Wildrose’s (even more) right-wing campaign.

Then there is B.C., where the NDP has surged to a big lead in the polls. Under Christy Clark, the 12- year-long rule of the B.C. Liberals appears headed for an end by May 2013, the next fixed election date, at the latest. Following two recent by-election losses to the NDP things have gotten so bad that the party is now openly entertaining a name change.

An NDP win in B.C., whatever the name of the governing party they defeat, could become a significant rallying point for the political forces across the country who want to unseat Harper. Harper has proudly tilted the balance of power in Canada to the West. Having an NDP premier in the West’s most populous province could act as a serious brake on Harper’s plans on issues ranging from pipelines to health care.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, NDP leader Adrian Dix raised four major areas where his administration would differ with the federal Conservatives: “the law-and-order agenda, which could crowd provincial courtrooms and prisons and drain provincial budgets; the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline between Alberta and the Pacific Coast; the reduced increases in federal health transfers; the Canada- EU trade agreement, which could increase drug prices as a result of tougher patent protections.”

This quick overview of provincial politics standing in the way of an unfettered Harper agenda is not to suggest that electoral politics is the only, or even primary, challenge to the corporate power running this country. Rather, it’s a reminder that Harper is not invincible, far from it. But we will have to organize a mighty response in the streets and in our communities; in other words, there’s a huge job of political organizing ahead.

Our brother and sisters in Quebec – led by the feisty students standing down the government – are showing the way. Here on the West Coast, the movement against tar sands pipelines – both the Enbridge and the even bigger Kinder Morgan proposal – would seem to have the most potential in the near term to lead to a truly large-scale movement.

If the inspiration provided by the Maple Spring can reach all the way to the Pacific coast, there’s no way those pipelines are ever getting built.

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