Grit plan: Let Harper be Harper

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $1 per month!

First, all the experts said no Canadian would vote based on the issue of delivering Afghan prisoners for torture. But Stephen Harper killed Parliament anyway, to squelch that debate. Why? What did he know? Perhaps what anyone studying PR at a community college learns: that impressions are cumulative and, as a series moves along, each new one weighs heavier. Firing nuclear watchdog + global black eye re tar sands + ending KAIROS funding + torture scandal = bad election news.

So he annuls Parliament, a procedural act, not a personal one, like attacking conscientious civil servants. He tells the CBC's Peter Mansbridge that prorogation isn't No. 1 on anyone's radar, and the experts agree again. Pollster Nik Nanos says it won't hurt him. "Hardly anyone cares," writes Margaret Wente. Yet, now half of Canadians say they are watching the issue "closely," and he's in a virtual tie with a Liberal leader who hasn't even been in the country.

This comes from thinking that Canadians only want a "capable manager" (The Globe's John Ibbitson and Gloria Galloway) who can "lead us back to ... balanced budgets" (the National Post's John Ivison). It's the cost of misreading the democratic impulse.

The first political uproar I ever knew came in 1957 when I was a kid in school. The Liberals had held power for 22 years and were great managers. They managed Canada through a depression, the Second World War and postwar prosperity. But in the "pipeline debate" that year, they invoked "closure," though only to end debate, not kill Parliament. It reeked of arrogance, and they lost power to Prairie populist John Diefenbaker. It shocked the experts.

Lorne Gunter says in the National Post that most Canadians today couldn't tell you if Parliament is in session, and he's probably right. But most Canadians don't watch the CBC, either, yet they often want it there, just to prove the country and its culture exist. The same for Parliament: It proves democracy exists. I think most people sense it's a pile of political pretense that is only minimally democratic, and that elections are what they give us instead of a real democracy in which we'd have a genuine say.

But why shut it down? At least it's a token acknowledgment of what we deserve. And even as a pile, it is the achievement of centuries of popular political contestation, from the Magna Carta through the Chartists, the Canadian rebellions of 1837-38, the women's suffrage movement etc. These are historic, if half-assed, victories that ought to be built on, not trampled on.

Canada went to war twice for "democracy." Today, Canadians come back from Afghanistan dead to protect our democratic values and way of life. Do the Harperites think nobody gives a damn when you defecate all over those values, even if it's a symbolic defecation over symbolic values and a largely symbolic way of life? Democracy isn't just practical, it's aspirational. It's about trying to exert some control over your life, individually and collectively. Otherwise, what's the point of a life? People draw a line, maybe more so when it's about symbols, because once those are gone, there's nothing left to take pride in and hold out hope for. So don't treat our Parliament as a piece in your private chess game of power, eh? Show respect.

It's also a slap at the Reform Party's heritage of democratic renewal, which flowed from its Prairie populism. But Stephen Harper arrived out west from suburban Toronto, and was mainly attracted by the party's right-wing ideology; clearly, the democratic element wasn't part of its appeal.

As for Michael Ignatieff, I think doing nothing is working. Let Stephen Harper be Stephen Harper. His historic mission is simply to deny a Conservative majority in the next election, after which both leaders might move on, allowing us yet another shot at the elusive goal of a more truly democratic politics.

Make something happen -- please support rabble.ca's independent media with a donation today.

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.