The timing drama is over and the spring election is definitely on. Thank goodness. I am one Canadian who couldn’t be happier to see an end to the Stephen Harper government’s giant fuck-you to the values of the majority of Canadians.
I’m sorry, but strong language is called for. I am not talking about a government that has won a mandate to radically re-engineer the social fabric. That would be terrible, but I couldn’t cry about democracy.
Two-thirds (63 per cent) of all voters voted against Harper and his Conservative party. Election results don’t lie. But the Harper government does. Oh, pardon me — evades, misinforms, denies, twists out of shape…
I’m talking about a political leader who has consciously taken pride in pursuing a path of prejudice, punishment and climate crime at odds with the documented thinking of most of the electorate. And then used deceit and cover-ups to make it happen.
And the stuff he has gotten caught at is so outrageous it steams the brain. I mean, who would make this up? Do you remember the head of Stats Canada, Munir Sheikh, who had to resign rather than shore up Industry Minister Tony Clement’s misstatements about the statistical irrelevance of the long-form census?
By the way, StatsCan is a pillar of the knowledge base of democracy. It is one body that actually reflects us back to ourselves in ways not distorted by words and spin. But you would only want the facts if you actually wanted to govern for the people, as opposed to simply as you wished.
Maybe the word “tyrant” is going too far, but it’s no stretch to say that Harper does have one big three-letter word in common with the leaders now being challenged in the Middle East: oil. The price of this little problem child has gone from $64 bucks a barrel when he first took power in January 2006 to about $104 today. And with everything going on, those prices are going in only one direction. For most, the equation is high prices paired with our greenhouse gases.
We need environmental regulation, renewable development and energy efficiency for job creation, global competitive advantage, future price spike protection as well as climate control and life on earth. But the Conservative stimulus package snubbed the chance to create an estimated 150,000 more jobs in the green sector while allocating a quarter-billion of its slim eco-budget to funding carbon capture and storage research for tar sands developers.
No wonder former Environment minister Jim Prentice, who actually acknowledged the existence of climate change at the Copenhagen Climate Conference, had to step away.
For the powerful oilmen who love Harper, high prices mean big money and big plans. And that’s exactly what the PM himself has coming into this election. Big money and big plans.
Of course, big money opens one to certain classic temptations. Over-spending your election limit is just one. Oops, Elections Canada caught you on that one just in time for this round. Now, that’s irony in action.
Two of the four members of the PM’s campaign crew who engineered the plot during the 2008 election — documented in a long Elections Canada investigation — to spend more on advertising than the laws of the land allow were actually appointed as senators to our highest chamber. Limits on campaign spending are just one more manifestation of our democratic way of life that Harper’s people don’t appreciate.
This government has shown no heed for the rule of anything but the Tory leader’s will. The list of examples is so long it hurts.
Democracy gets no respect. I won’t repeat all the current acts of contempt on the table right now, because, thankfully, they’re getting lots of attention. But here’s a twisted example from memory lane that’s dropped off the radar. I wonder, will he get away with his command-and-control crap again?
During the last election, Conservative candidates were actually directed by the party to avoid talking to the media and appearing at all-candidates meetings. I mean, that sounds unbelievable — but it’s standard-issue Harper. The same strategy was shockingly reprised recently when former Toronto police Chief Julian Fantino was muzzled by his party during the Vaughan by-election. He won.
Harper is a bully. And if given more power, I wonder. We Torontonians have the horrific experience of the G20 still sticking in our craw. The event’s sugar daddy spent close to $1 billion for military-type might on our city streets.
Of course, our situation is a piece of cake compared to what’s going on halfway around the world. People are standing up and fighting for democracy right now in a fashion that hasn’t been seen for decades, at least. But we are part of the matrix in ways we know — and ways we probably can’t fathom. After all, in the Conservative party, the people calling the shots have actually been caught plotting to purge the “dissidents” who won’t toe their line.
Take diplomat Richard Colvin, hounded for telling the truth about the treatment of Afghan detainees by our forces. Or that troublesome Linda Keen, of the Atomic Security Commission, who refused to bow down on nuclear safety at the Chalk River plant way back at the start of Harper’s mandate. Somehow, right now, firing the nuclear watchdog seems beyond disturbing.
The PM has taught us that democracy is even more fragile than we thought. We know the opposition party leaders and old political formulas aren’t going to pull the country back from the precipice we’re teetering on. Like others around the world, we the people will have to invent a way to make sure he gets the life lesson this time.
This article was first published in NOW Magazine.