“Our Canada. Our Values.”

In Life, People, Social Commentary on May 4, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Sometimes at 4 in the morning I wake up with the inexplicable conviction that society has been swept away by the zombie apocalypse, leaving me in a desolate world with no company besides walking corpses that wait to break down my door at any minute. I lay still, too scared to move even as the full bladder that woke me becomes an ever more pressing concern, while beneath the fear there’s a surreality born out of the uncertain knowledge that this isn’t really happening. A train passes or a toilet flushes or my neighbours start having unnecessarily loud sex; the world turns right-side-up again, and I avail myself of the loo and go back to sleep.

This Tuesday at 4am, I was fully awake and huddled around my laptop. I had that same feeling, but it wasn’t zombie related. As the CBC called a Conservative majority, a healthy measure of blinding rage made its way into my gut to mingle with the the fear, the disbelief and the 3 Hobnobs that had been there since about 3:30. But that faith that at any minute something would come along to shake me out of my bizarre hallucination never waned. At least, not until I went to bed.

Amanda Leduc, author of "A Letter to Stephen Harper"

Yes, I am biased because I would never vote Conservative. I find, and have always found, the values attached to conservative political parties abhorrent, whether American Republicans, UK Conservative Party, or the Canadian counterpart. But there is something uniquely dangerous and scary about this administration.

A good friend of mine wrote a letter to Harper which outlines much of those concerns with a measure of composure and grace that I can’t ever hope to muster. I think it’s something that Harper would do well to read, as would most Canadians. It offers a clear appeal for a majority government that is aware of, and sympathetic to, the opinions of the largest section of Canadians who did not vote for them; however, it is also a plea for a more sensitive and well-rounded approach to democracy in general.

The statement “It is not possible to argue that the Conservative agenda is an agenda for all Canadians” rings true, yes, but the word “Conservative” could be easily replaced by any other political party or ideology. It is a sentiment that every Prime Minister should take into consideration in claiming to represent their country. Of course, the author is right in noting that in choosing to define his party as representative of “Our Canada. Our Values”, Harper is committing a more egregious negation of the idea.

But there are some pressing issues that I think the author, in her diplomacy, has not addressed, and which are specific to Stephen Harper’s Conservative government of the last five years, and the one which he will be running for the next five.

My issues largely centre around the lack of respect that the Harper CPCs have demonstrated for the democratic process in Canada. The behaviour began in 2006, with the election that first brought Harper to power, as four party members have now been charged with submitting “false or misleading” election expense documents. In 2009, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda ordered the altering of a document in order to deny funding to the Kairos foundation, and lied about it.

Long live the King.

And Harper is the worst offender. Twice during his time as Prime Minister, Harper has shut down Parliament because it posed a threat to his intentions. His government has been regarded by many as the most secretive, controlling, and manipulative in Canadian history.

I don’t want to simply compile a list of the multitude of ways in which Harper’s government has demonstrated contempt for Canada’s political system. My point is simply this: a government which is willing to so frequently violate the process by which Canadians’ voices are represented is dangerous. It is a deliberate silencing, and it constitutes a violence towards Canadians that should offend us all, regardless of political affiliations.

Even more dangerous is the way that Stephen Harper’s manipulative rhetoric has filtered throughout the country. After the election, a friend who admitted to disliking the Harper government described his distrust of minority governments because of their failure to accomplish anything. This fiction that minority governments are some sort of democratic failure is a worrying trend with Canadian voters. “It is not possible to argue that the Conservative agenda is an agenda for all Canadians,” and for this reason minority governments should be seen as a greater success, in that they place a stronger barrier between the political platform of any one party and its ability to pass legislation that effects the nation as a whole. It also ensures, crucially, stronger and therefore more effective debate.

I was told once, by a friend in a Master’s programme in Literature at a Canadian University, that a particular student in the class would go out of their way to prevent their peers from accessing the assigned readings in an attempt to improve their own standing. Yet what this student was in fact doing was limiting their own education as well as their peers’; it is through discussion, through the introduction and consideration of conflicting or different opinions and ideas, that we gain the most knowledge. We don’t only accumulate facts, we cultivate new ideas and perspectives.

It might seem counterintuitive, but the level of argument and discussion in minority governments which prevent things from “being accomplished” has a better chance of ensuring that what is accomplished will, in the end, be worth accomplishing, if you’ll pardon the repetition. So long as Canada retains a democratic system, minority governments are in the country’s best interest.

Yet throughout the 2011 campaign, Harper hammered on the importance of a majority government to provide security in a time of international turbulence. He asked Canadians to vote Conservative not necessarily because they approved of his economic proposals or his social platform, but because the the big, bad world is a scary place and we are safer under his wing.

That certainly is an interesting way of saluting your victory, Mr Prime Minister

The same scaremongering cadence defined Harper’s incessant badgering on “Canada’s economic policy”: “We need a Conservative majority to fix the economy,” he said. And, apparently, people bought into it, despite the fact that the Tory government got Canada through the economic crisis because of a strong(er) economic foundation built up over time largely by Liberal governments – and a healthy measure of sheer dumb luck – not responsible fiscal management. Dan Gardner accurately sums it up: the Harper government “spent money like crazy, expanded the federal government, cut taxes, and turned a surplus into a structural deficit (yes, it’s structural, as even the International Monetary Fund agrees). He has no real plan for getting the budget back into balance.” Although as part of an attempt we’ll no doubt see plenty of ideologically driven austerity measures akin to those proposed by David Cameron’s coalition government.

I reject the assertion that a political majority constitutes a united nation or ensures any safety. Whitewashing a country’s political scene will make it weaker, not stronger. It gives greater power to a Prime Minister already dangerously controlling and dictatorial (uncomfortably, the rhetoric that Harper used throughout the campaign was already eerily similar to that which characterised the fictional English dictatorship in the graphic novel and film V for Vendetta).

In the end, asking Canadians to vote for a majority rather than for a representative who best reflects and represents your vision of what Canada is and what it should be constitutes an even bigger step towards silencing the population altogether. And unfortunately a Prime Minister who manipulates voters into surrendering their political voices so that he can play an even larger role in shaping the country into what he thinks it should be, and who attempts to deny opposition parties the right to speak at all, is certainly never going to give pause to consider the 60% who stand in the way of our Canada. Our values.

  1. Ally,

    You are, as usual, one hundred percent correct. You are also, as usual, writing the kind of sharp and no-holds-barred commentary that makes me feel like a waffling hack. (Even in the midst of my struggle for diplomacy.) The kind of government that Harper is hoping to create now is indeed dangerous. We all need to be on guard, and aware of how the democracy of this country is slowly being chiseled away. Thank you.

    I really need to call a spade a spade, don’t I? Maybe, in the face of zombies and all, diplomacy is somewhat overrated. 🙂

  2. Haha well despite the fact that there’s no diplomacy needed when dealing with zombies (it would be ill advised to try)… I think that both have their roles to play in a cautious and critical response to Harper’s immanent majority. There is too often in any form of opposing beliefs a gap in more diplomatic, nicer criticism.

    Because of people like me I’m sure many right-wing supporters think that anyone who opposes them must be a narrow-minded, idealistic communist fool. But intelligent voices like yours deny that kind of vitriol by remaining relatively non-partisan whilst still outlining a clear and difficult to refute criticism that simply raises an issue few rational people could deny exists and deserves attention.

    Plus yours was prettier. 🙂

  3. This was very eloquently written. It’s too bad work of this quality isn’t published in Canadian newspapers.

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