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Polishing a … tarnished reputation: the 'National Newspaper' as Stephen Harper's pathetic enabler

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Bill Phipps

"The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures."
 Junius, published in 1772, from the Masthead of the Globe and Mail

I was sitting in Calgary's airport the other day reading about Stephen Harper in a free copy of the Globe and Mail when, lo and behold, I spied Bill Phipps, who used to be the moderator of the United Church of Canada.

Rev. Phipps is one of the many Canadians who are despised by our prime minister -- although he is distinguished from the rest of us by the fact Harper actually said it aloud.

That was back in 2002, when Phipps had the temerity to run against the then Canadian Alliance leader in "his" Calgary Southwest riding. Harper refused to debate the cleric, or even appear in the same room with him during the campaign. The reason was that he despised him, or so he said.

As for why the PM felt this deep contempt, we and Phipps may never know. Like almost everything else in Harper's Canada, it turns out, it's a secret. Apparently it was just something he blurted out without further explanation or exegesis.

Could've been the Reverend's liberal theology, I suppose, or it could have been his history of social activism, but personally I suspect it was merely that roundabout that time Phipps suggested we Canadians would be smart not to elect Harper as our prime minister, and that if we did we'd regret it.

Well, we're there now, and we all have a clearer idea of how that kind of thing goes over with His Nibs.

Phipps is retired now and calls himself an "Earth Urbanist," but I reckon he's still a reverend because that's a job description that's at least partly assigned by the Almighty, not the almighty prime minister, and therefore ought not to come to an end just because his pension has kicked in.

I mention all this only because, by odd coincidence, while I waited in the airport I was reading a lengthy apologia in the Globe about Harper, in which the authors went to considerable lengths to explain away some of The Despiser's rather unattractive personality traits as, you know, not his fault…

For example, Globe heavyweights John Ibbitson and Steve Chase, in their long story about why the prime minister is really a very fine fellow indeed, told the (not very) persuasive tale of how unidentified sources who spoke with the Globe had "refuted" Senator Mike Duffy's "allegation" that he'd been coached to lie by PMO officials like former chief of staff Nigel Wright, the owner of Canada's most famous chequebook.

Touchingly, they also noted that, around the time he threw Wright under the bus, the prime minister was "personally devastated by what his chief aide had done." I'll just bet he was.

The Globe reporters strove mightily, indeed, as most of the media is doing of late, to ensure readers understood the issue was the conduct of the senators -- as opposed to the conduct of the PMO.

But that's the thing. We all could have forgiven a bad hiring decision. But this is not about Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin. It's about the $90,000, stupid!

And finally, in the piece de la resistance of the authors' thesis, they explained why Harper doesn't want to have a public inquiry into the seedy matter.

You see, as is often the case with such explanations about Harper's behavior in the self-described national newspaper, it all turns out to be a Liberal's fault.

"Mr. Harper watched and learned as Paul Martin's government was brought down by the judicial inquiry he appointed into the sponsorship scandal," the two Globe worthies intoned. "The Prime Minister decided that on his watch, information would be closely guarded and released only when necessary or advantageous to the government." (Emphasis added.)

"Oh baloney," I mumbled, rolling my eyes and remembering how Harper has always been a secretive and covert operator on the national stage, right back to his days as the supremo of the so-called National Citizens Coalition -- an Astro-Turf front-group that was never national, never represented citizens (or for that matter had them as members) and was never a coalition. The NCC, of course, is famous for being so secretive it's practically vacuum packed and lead shielded.

In other words, Opacity is the man’s middle name, or ought to be, and it's been that way right from his emergence on the public scene.

And that was the moment that I looked up and saw Phipps. We chatted. I told him what I was reading. He quickly confirmed that he agreed with my view.

Then he reminded me of the fact noted above -- that all the way back in '02, Harper was so committed to a lack of transparency that he refused to turn up at all-candidates meetings with his opponents, presumably for fear he'd have to answer a question about something the public had no business knowing.

As the Other Harper -- Tim -- put it in an entertaining summary in the Toronto Star, at the Conservative convention in Calgary what we got from the prime minister was "the tried-and-true, create enemies, whether it is the courts, the media elites, the union bosses, your public servants or the opposition parties."

"The tried-and-true has worked, of course," Tim Harper summed up. "The question is whether it can work indefinitely." One wonders about that, with even former Tory stalwarts like Andrew Coyne publicly expressing their doubts.

Still, with all this going on, in a way it's reassuring the that the staff of the Globe and Mail, the fatuous claims on the paper's masthead notwithstanding, is still reliably shilling for Canada's tinpot Chief Magistrate and his omnibus arbitrary measures.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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