The real legacy of Stephen Harper

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Want to know what the real legacy of the Harper government is? Look no further than Canada After Harper.

Edited by veteran journalist and contributor Ed Finn, Canada After Harper is a collection of essays by such notable Canadians as Maude Barlow, David Suzuki and Linda McQuaig that essentially outline all the ways in which, as Finn points out in his preface, "we have fallen far short of creating the 'just society' that Pierre Elliot Trudeau claimed to be his goal."

Not to put too fine a point on it, American author, lecturer and activist Ralph Nader adds his American perspective in the introduction with, "the visions of your distinguished forebears are being clouded by the forces of greed and narcissism."

The collection is divided into four digestible sections: the environment, the economy, social issues and government and politics, each offering up five or six essays. Each essay shows not only how little we currently deserve our 'progressive' international reputation in these areas, they also reveal how this reputation is tarnished almost beyond recognition in the eyes of the international community.

We are no longer leaders in environmental protection; instead we are ruinous to the environment and it's only going to get worse with tar sands expansion and the emphasis of corporatism over the very air we breathe. As David Suzuki puts it in 'Finding Solution to Save the Environment': "when we are told that 'we can't afford to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it will destroy the economy,' the economy is being elevated above the very atmosphere that sustains us. This perverse attitude verges on the suicidal."

Not only does it verge on the suicidal, it simply isn't true.

Former economic policy director Andrew Jackson, in 'The Economy: Whose Interests are Being Served?', writes quite clearly that polluting industries like oil and gas production don't play a significant enough role in the economy to seriously damage it should production become static. "The direct impacts of higher oil and gas production on GDP growth over the past decade is miniscule, adding just 0.1 percentage points to the annual growth rate, and creating 1.7 per cent of all new jobs."

So essentially there is no reason, other than "greed and narcissism" that oil and gas production need to increase and several strong arguments that it needs to retreat.

According to Maude Barlow in 'Water Water, Clean Water -- But Not Everywhere', the energy industry is setting environmental policy. It seems ludicrous but it's accurate. The Ottawa-based Polaris Institute issued a report that found that the energy industry in Canada has almost unfettered access to the Harper government. "Since 2008, there have been 2,733 meetings between the oil industry and federal government officials, many of whom are cabinet ministers, a number that exceeds meetings with environmental organizations by 463 per cent."

This combined with outrageous subsidies to the energy industry in the billions of dollars as funding for environmental research and science in general is being slashed and programs shut down.

But what is fuelling this disregard for the environment we rely upon for our existence in favour of emission-heavy energy and tax cuts to corporations and the super rich?

Joyce Nelson, in her essay 'Religious Fundamentalism vs. The Environment', quotes author Andrew Nikiforuk: "Given this government's pointed attacks on environmentalists and science of any kind, Harper would seem to take his advice from the Cornwall Alliance, a coalition of right-wing scholars, economists and evangelicals. The Alliance questions mainstream science, doubts climate change, views environmentalists as a 'native evil', champions fossil fuels, and supports libertarian economics."

In other words, the Harper government is doing God's will in gutting environmental regulations and cheerleading the oil and gas industry. So much for separation of church and state!

The attack on science is particularly disturbing as we get much needed information from scientific research. Oh, I might mention that not all science is under attack, just the science that doesn't align itself with the particular "political priorities of the current government."

James L. Turk's essay 'Science Under Siege' makes it clear that it's not about spending, it's about how the spending is distributed and by what criteria and who makes the decisions about what to fund.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), a major scientific funding body, has no natural scientists on its governing council, no physicists, no chemists, no biologists and no mathematicians. What it does have is engineers, corporate officials (one of which used to run the Fraser Institute), a couple of academic administrators, "and it is chaired by a former Conservative MP with a background in broadcasting."

Canada After Harper is not an easy read for anyone concerned with the direction Canada is going. Though the essays do contain some messages to encourage direct action and strategies to undo the damage, it is mostly a distressing litany of just how much of this country has been changed by Harper.

As Finn writes, "Canada's fate is in the balance, teetering between a future of worsening decline and a future of restored advancement, security, equity and climatic health." And so it is.​

Basically, if this book doesn't make you get out and vote, nothing will.

For more information on the 2015 federal election, check out rabble's election issue page.

Meg Borthwick is a freelance writer and moderates rabble's discussion board, babble.


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