|Justin Trudeau, St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle, dishing out biscuits at Cafe Gatti, St Catharines, Ont.|
"Great persons are able to do great kindnesses" Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
One generally likes to envision one's leader as a great person, but we in Canada have done without for far too long.
In the aftermath of the federal election there has been a lot of anger from the losing side, who have sat at the feet of their idol Stephen Harper, and who feel that the winners somehow robbed them, and who believe that every journalist is a pinko Liberal-supporting crook who should keep his mouth shut.
Those who excoriate the media should bear in mind that most of the news media in Canada - not just print - now is under corporate ownership and most were obligated by their corporate owners to editorialize in support of paranoid egomaniac
Stephen Harper in the election just past. We saw such stupidities as the Globe and Mail, which long called itself Canada's National Newspaper while it had not a single bureau west of Toronto, supporting the Conservatives - but they could not bring themselves to add Harper
to the mix.
Individual journalists are not automatically on the liberal end of the spectrum but one's occupation requires one to be skeptical and not to take "news" handouts or pronouncements of authority for granted. It was that way when I began many decades ago and it continues, even though individuals who are more right-of-centre are more likely to be hired by corporate media.
Harper is not a "nice" man
; his double-dealings to become leader of the merged Conservative Party of Canada and the Reform Alliance were quite convoluted
- leaving David Orchard and Preston Manning in the dust. Considering that this created a party with clout it was obviously acceptable in many party members' eyes. But that does not mean that journalists and commentators could not do so - and they did. If you don't like that I'm sorry but it is part of the job.
While he shed Manning like a snake writhing out of its useless skin, he managed to retain a number of Reform characteristics. As per Orchard
: "Manning's so-called Canadian Alliance attempts to import directly
from the United States a brand of right-wing evangelism, package
it with a Canadian name and declare the product to be Canadian conservatism". . . Harper was not just successful but conscientious in using those tactics, as he was successful in hiding his evangelical leanings
I read an article, years ago, Harper had written when he was young and
currying favour in order to consolidate his support; he sounded sane and coherent, had a persuasive point, and I actually thought
here is someone with whom I might like to work
. Seeing his performance certainly set me straight. I'd rather dance with a cobra.
Orchard quoted Edmund Burke's definition of a conservative "[having] A disposition to preserve and an ability to improve."
But Harper did not fit that definition - rather, he exhibited decidedly stalinist leanings in his need to micro-control absolutely everything. Oh, he restrained himself fairly well until he had a majority but then - like a girdle unsuccessfully trying to contain a 300-pound person - he flew out in all directions at once. What many Canadians did not immediately understand was Harper's millennialism, his apocalyptic vision which - as with many of his ideas - was imported
from the U.S. and his proprietary sense - that Canada belonged to him and was his to do with as he pleased: secret arms deals
, secret trade deals
, outsized focus on the energy sector, with job-crushing reaction
to the oil slump.
: his paranoia-riven personality erupted, unchecked, in such idiocy
as building huge new prisons when the crime rate was clearly going down
. Prisons that remain empty
, because, in order to present a "balanced budget" before the election, the Correctional Service of Canada's budget was curtailed
. By institutionalizing mandatory minimum sentences
for relatively small crimes he was arrogating to himself the power of judges to apply their discretion, based on the evidence heard in their court. The Ontario Court of Appeal struck down mandatory minimums
as being unconstitutional. Like the insanely obstinate robot
in the Terminator he dusted himself off and was at it again before the election, intending to introduce mandatory minimums for fraud
. He surrounded himself with largely third-rate MPs
. People who would not squawk too much when they watched the cost of a discredited aircraft, the F-35, rise into the stratosphere
. Again, the need to micro-manage. And he trashed
the reputation of Canada abroad.
: his often stated intent to annihilate
the Liberal Party, the Constitution, and Justin Trudeau
. That someone so fixated on destruction of an idea would surround himself with equally rabid sycophants and put in place unconstitutional and illegal mechanisms to further this goal was frightening - the sort of behaviour we have deplored for a century in countries and leaders that we collectively abhor. In preparation for this year's elections, Harper raided the contingency reserve and claimed a "balanced budget".
Even more troubling
: the denial of science
, the denial of one's right to one's own ideas
, the denial of science by suppression
of scientific facts, the muzzling
of an entire public service that serves the country, not the party, cancelling
the long-form census, thereby denying the use of facts
in assessing societal needs, and aligning unequivocally with a man who has cynically used paranoia to drive some citizens of Israel to unseemly callousness
- firebombing a sleeping family with young children, killing the father and their son, and accepting that as an appropriate punishment for people who had done no wrong to anyone. Blatantly stole material such as photos from websites and repurposed them without permission. That he double-crossed the veterans
this country seemed not to give him any sleepless nights, despite his
using their existence as a hook for his base, when expedient. Over all, when confronted with previously published quotes of ideas he was trying to hide, he simply denied them.
: Illegality and Amorality
. Voter suppression
...he could put Machiavelli to shame, he could
. Harper imported the underhanded and frequently amoral, possibly illegal tactics of the American rabid right, the truthers and the Tea Partiers. The electorate did not know about this until it began coming to light in the Cons' majority government, when Harper created a Constitutional crisis by proroguing
Parliament twice, named senators who were ineligible
because they did not live in their province - and whose spending was on a shocking level
. One of those - former TV frontman Mike Duffy, was secretly paid off by "universally respected"
Nigel Wright, Harper's then-chief of staff, who claimed, in court, under oath, that Harper knew nothing
. If that's the case, the micromanager clearly lost his grip. Pass the salt - buckets of it. He was the only Canadian prime minister ever found to be in contempt of Parliament
, misspent millions of public dollars on trashing Trudeau and maintaining a 24/7 media studio documenting his "achievements" - which will be lost for a long time in the wave of contempt that has now swept him out into the doldrums.
His shocking lack of response in defending the rights of Canadians incarcerated
abroad rankled, as did his sniffy delineation of "old-stock Canadians"
somehow more entitled than immigrants, with no regard whatsoever for our indigenous peoples. Well, he does trace his line back to an immigrant to the Atlantic provinces in the 1700s - but ask any Native person how old stock that makes him.
That there were well over one thousand missing and murdered Aboriginal women
seemed not to disturb his arrogant persona; note that these figures may be higher but they are legitimate, being provided by the RCMP. It was cutesy-poo that he liked cats, going so far as to transform part of leaky, energy-starved, unkempt 24 Sussex Drive into a cat sanctuary
, but as an old stock Canadian he couldn't give a damn about those women or their families.
He attacked a Supreme Court judge
when all she did was point out that a nominee for the court was not qualified. I have no doubt that he - who, in a prior decade, railed against "MPs' gold-plated pensions
" - will not be an honourable man and refuse the pension as per his oft-stated "principles". Three years ago, a reader in Lotus land - as Canadians affectionately call British Columbia - expressed his conviction that Harper would end them
. Turns out that when he saw the figure - $224,000 per annum for the remainder of his life - burning into the paper he'd written it on, he salivated so hard he put the fire out.
Journalist Michael Harris enumerated
the repellent turns Harper took in his nearly-500-page book Party of One
. Near the end, feeling begrimed by it all, he visited the legendary writer Farley Mowat, who told him "“Stephen Harper is probably the most dangerous human being ever elevated to power in Canada,” "
Not only did he ignore the provinces for years, starving them of tax resources that were rightly theirs, but he cutely told Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams “You’re not going to fuck with my country.”
context: beginning at 9m50s.
Internally and externally, Canada became somewhat of a joke, not as innocuous as it might sound - we had become "Harperland"
. And in response to Harper's pervasive contempt, Canadians who did not like the outline of Harperland began to make their distaste known. Even the usually astute Andrew Coyne wondered at the time why the reaction to Harper
was so out of proportion - it wasn't, really.
By the time this interminable election campaign, clearly designed to bankrupt the Liberal party, began, his constant pronouncements of half-truths and attacks on divisive issues was raising numerous flags. And his supercilious, dripping-with-oil use of "friends", interspersed every few paragraphs in his speeches, became an irritant even my clearly conservative friends wanted to mute. A recap of his regime, a blight on our history, was published in The Atlantic Monthly
when it still appeared that there might be a three-way tie.
But the gods smiled upon us
No one is claiming that Trudeau is a gift from Olympus, though he is rather more attractive that Harper, whose fixed half-smile and beady eyes expressed his inner being to the outer world. Trudeau is young and optimistic, open and inclusive. He will be beholden to some interests, as is anyone who reaches that lofty goal. He will make mistakes - that is a fact of life. But he will never behave as irrationally as Harper did; he simply does not have that disposition.
But the point is not about who is liberal, conservative, libertarian or just plain Con. It is that Harper's failings were of such a magnitude
that the country ejected him in a life-or-death spasm, a Heimlich manoeuvre, if you will, so that we can breathe again and begin to undo the strangling strands of his distrust as expressed in recent law.
Labels: 2015 election, Canada, Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper