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There is plenty of room under Stephen Harper's bus

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Image: flickr/ajcgn

There is no limit to Stephen Harper's throw-them-under-the-bus list. For him and his ministers there is always room for the next victims. The list of those run over in the past eight years is already extensive. But it's clear we've seen nothing yet. Mr. Harper doesn't like to be crossed. His capacity for vindictiveness seems to have few limits. Here are four of the latest losers.

1. Most reckless surely is the blatant attempt to smear the integrity of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by the Prime Minister and his minister of justice. This is unprecedented in all of Canadian history. Stephen Harper is simply wreaking vengeance on Chief Justice McLachlin because the Court had the gall to find several of his initiatives unconstitutional. To drive poor Mr. Harper even crazier, his own Court appointees have ruled against him in almost every case. Who should Canadians trust here: the PM or the Chief Justice backed by an army of constitutional and legal experts who support her position?

2. Most inexplicably comes the treatment of Canada's vets, who once again this week have been demeaned by the government that claims to embrace them unconditionally. From the first, this government's bizarre actions -- as opposed to its bombast -- have elicited protests from Canada's vets also unprecedented in all of Canadian history. Even the Royal Canadian Legion is furious at the endless broken promises Harperland has made to our vets. To pour salt in the many wounds, today's National Day of Mourning, for Afghan vets and those who didn't come back, has been a debacle from the start. Vets are being exploited so that Mr. Harper can have his photo op and giant corporations can have a marketing bonanza. A headline in HuffPost Canada says it all: "Harper, Please Don't Make the National Day of Honour About You."

3. Most despicably was the reply in Question Period by Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, when Opposition MPs pressed the idea of Canadian support for a UN peacekeeping mission to the anarchic Central African Republic. It's not just domestic adversaries who get tossed under the Harper government bus. Whole nations do as well.

Here is Mr. Obhrai's statement:

"Of course, we are very much concerned about the situation in the Central African Republic, and are working with our allies in the United Nations to address the issue…. What is more important is that the Liberal Party, as well as the NDP, would like to put Canadian soldiers' lives in danger out in the region. My question to them is this: who is going to pay to have all these soldiers out there? Is it Canadian taxpayers? Have they checked with the Canadian taxpayers to see if they would like to send soldiers out in this zone?"

Given UN warnings of genocide in C.A.R., NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar called Obhrai's statement "stunning and offensive". True enough. But it was so much more. It was un-Canadian. And it did reflect his government's policy. Using less egregious language, Foreign Minister Baird has confirmed that no military-related aid will be offered to the all-important UN peacekeeping force for C.A.R., and so far only a relatively trivial amount of desperately needed humanitarian aid has been pledged.

4. Finally, and perhaps most shocking of all, was John Baird's brief trip to Cairo last month to offer Canada's moral support to the brutal military government of Egypt. His meetings with Egyptian officials, so he himself reported, was "warm and productive," not surprising since the Harper government wants to "effectively assist Egypt at this critical juncture."

We're talking here about an Egyptian government that has been sharply rebuked by much of the world and is enthusiastically supported mainly by Israel and Saudi Arabia. A government whose tame judges recently condemned to death, in two mass trials that lasted only minutes, 529 people and then 680 people. That harasses and jails Coptic Christians, Shiite Muslims and atheists; where is Mr. Harper's vaunted Office of Religious Freedom? A government, as the New York Times puts it, with "ruthless disregard for the law and contrary political views that go far beyond anything that former president Morsi was accused of doing when he was deposed by the army." A government that Stephen Harper described as a "return to stability."

Under Mr. Harper's foreign policy, who gets to ride inside the bus? Israel first and foremost, of course, and its great military pals in Cairo. Saudi Arabia, great mid-East rival to odious Iran; indeed the Saudi tyrants get large shipments of Canadian arms. And those with lots of voters in Canada -- Ukrainians and Tamils from Sri Lanka, for example. So significant military support goes to the unelected government of Ukraine with its anti-Semitic cabinet ministers, and none at all to the critical UN peacekeeping initiative for the Central African Republic, since few C.A.R. citizens vote in Canada. And in order to punish the Sri Lankan government for human rights abuses against Tamils, Mr. Harper childishly cuts funding to the valuable Commonwealth Secretariat which has no responsibility whatever for the policies of the Sri Lankan government.

But at least the Commonwealth Secretariat will find a great deal of congenial company under Stephen Harper's bus.

This article orginally appeared in The Globe and Mail.

Image: flickr/ajcgn

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