Justin Trudeau is all the rage as potential saviour for the troubled Liberal party. Other leadership candidates are vacating, Twitterdom is a-flutter and all that. But alas, Justin is not his father Pierre's primary political heir. Jean Chrétien is, and he has already declared that the Liberal party should merge with the NDP to stop the Harper rampage.
Further, Justin himself created a stir a while ago by telling a Quebec interviewer he'd rather live in an independent Quebec than in Stephen Harper's authoritarian Canada. Alas again, any uptick he gives the Liberals will split the opposition and serve Stephen Harper primarily. Irony of ironies -- a not uncommon thing in politics -- Harper, who is said to want nothing more than to destroy the Liberal party, is likely Justin's biggest fan.
This is no doubt a torn young man in a torn party. But if he really wants to serve the country rather than the rearguard of his party, he has no choice but to acknowledge the reality: The NDP is the new Liberal party, without the baggage, and the old Liberal party must pass into the history books. Otherwise ...
Well, otherwise, more of this ... What follows is the harvest of just the last few weeks, all matters that in normal times would be real news. But these are not normal times, as Harper applies the shock doctrine: keep blasting away with one outrage after another so fast that neither the media, nor the opposition, nor society at large can get a fix on it, all under the long cloak of the increasingly iffy boom in our resource economy.
In Yarmouth, earlier this month, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced that chaos would be introduced into fisheries management and licensing across Canada. Yes, I said chaos. How else can I put it? When outraged fishermen used the term "utter chaos," the unfortunate DFO official whose job it was to announce the news more or less agreed with them, saying, according to the Yarmouth Vanguard, "I've used the word chaos as well."
Half the licensing centres in the country are being shut in favour of a fast and anarchic move online; new costs are being dumped on the industry; Ottawa is out of the observer and logbook programs (rig up your own is the message to the fishermen) and will not even be giving out identifying tags for lobster traps, the key to enforcing trap limits. "How will fishery officers know how to enforce the rules?" was one dumfounded question. "Who knows and who cares?" seemed to be the answer.
In normal times, we'd call this incompetence. But Harper's been after the fishery from Day 1. Handing it over to big corporations is part of the agenda. Harassing small fishermen -- the EI "reforms" will help in that -- and inducing chaos looks like Harperite design.
Meanwhile, Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, in a letter that has just come to light, describes the amended Fisheries Act as a law that will "establish new tools to authorize deposits of deleterious substances." Thus adding profitable pollution to profitable chaos.
And there's this. Minister Bev Oda is gone amid a flap about a glass of $16 orange juice, thus camouflaging the real scandal, which is that Canada has just dumped another bunch of the poorest countries on Earth from its foreign aid. She dumped a dozen in 2009, but now, according to an analysis by the non-profit Canadian Council for International Cooperation, the omnibus budget bill just did it again, with money diverted to rising countries which Harper is courting for trade deals.
What has been slashed is the arrangement with non-government agencies, mostly efficient deliverers of private and public aid to poor countries in which the federal government added a dollar to every private dollar raised. The Canadian International Development Agency is now instead making deals with corporations in mining, where Canada's reputation in the Third World stinks, and agribusiness.
To round it out, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, using the Friday afternoon after-deadline trick, announced banks will be able to handle serious consumer complaints using their own private ombudsmen, bypassing the apparently effective national Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments. So if you have a big problem with a bank, complain to the bank. Get it?
Now back to Trudeau. The point is that all this and much more has to crystalize in the public mind in a political way, or we're being handed to Harper's corporatist vision like pie-eyed zombies. Someone with the national attention, in the right spot, showing courage, could do it. Imagine the impact if Trudeau declared that he was jumping to the NDP, maybe taking with him the other Liberal young guy, Dominic LeBlanc, leaving yesterday's men in their favourite time zone. Is that just a fantasy of mine, or what?
Ralph Surette is a veteran freelance journalist living in Yarmouth County. This article was first published in the Chronicle Herald.
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