Last week, I was talking to a young guy at work who was pondering who to vote for in this election. He doesn’t want to vote (he “doesn’t have the time”), but his mother told him he must. Knowing my antipathy towards Stephen Harper, he asked: “Things are pretty good, aren’t they?”
That was a light bulb moment for me. I’ve been trying to figure out why anyone would vote for the Conservatives, knowing the damage they’ve done to the country, and the possibly irreparable damage another four years of Harper could do. That “things are pretty good” question gave me an answer.
If you look at Canada in purely economic terms, we’re going OK, I suppose. Here in Alberta, due to the collapse of oil prices, the economy sucks somewhat, but as much as I would like to blame Harper, that’s not his fault. The economy is not firing on all cylinders, but it’s not off the rails, either. Most of us have jobs. We’ve got our Tim’s. We’ve got our hockey. We’re all right, right?
We’re not all right. I firmly believe, when history passes its judgment, that Stephen Harper will be seen as one of the worst prime ministers in Canadian history.
Surely, you may be saying, he’s not that bad? After all, Canadians voted for him, didn’t they?
Well, yes, some of us did. In the election of 2011, the Conservatives won less than 40 per cent of the vote. In 2006, the Cons won less than 38 per cent. In 2004, it was 36 per cent. Put another way, in every election won by the Conservatives, more than 60 per cent voted against the Conservatives. But hey, that’s our system, screwed up as it is.
If you’re one of those people who votes on purely economic matters, well, shame on you. Canada is not just a great, big, moneymaking machine. It’s a country, with laws and rules and traditions and values. Stephen Harper has trampled all over the Canada we’ve built for generations.
His government has crapped on our democratic traditions. Successive governments, both Conservative and Liberal, have weakened parliament, but Harper has nearly destroyed it. He has coarsened political discourse to such a degree that getting an honest answer from his ministers was nearly impossible. He neutered Parliament with omnibus bills designed to push through contentious legislation with minimal discussion. His government was found in contempt of parliament, the first time in Canadian history. And no one has politicized the civil service to the degree of Stephen Harper. Some time back, civil servants were ordered to dump the traditional “Government of Canada” in their correspondence, in favour of the “Harper government”. And while the rest of the civil service was cut back, Conservative government advertising budgets ballooned. At one point, the Conservatives were advertising a program that hadn’t even been approved by parliament.
Harper has gone to great lengths to muzzle any information that goes against his narrow worldview. The Harper government instituted rules that stopped every government scientist from answering even the most innocuous question from the media, leaving it up to government PR hacks to write out answers. Why? Well, government scientists frequently uncovered information that was at odds with Conservative party policies, so they had to be silenced. Long-standing government research projects were shut down, and in some cases their information was destroyed.
He has wrecked our international reputation. In 2010, Canada did not win a seat on the Security Council of the United Nations, an embarrassing rebuke of this nation’s previously stellar international standing. Harper’s slavish devotion to Israel is cynical politics; even Israel isn’t as big a supporter of Israel as Canada has become.
We have never had a prime minister who is such a relentless, vicious partisan. It was Stephen Harper’s party that introduced attack ads that ran during non-election times, aimed at destroying Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff (mission accomplished). This election, virtually every Conservative ad is negative in tone, aimed not at selling the Conservatives but destroying the other parties, particularly the Liberals.
The niqab debate is the Conservative party in a nutshell. Until the Conservatives made it an issue, most Canadians had never heard the word niqab, much less met even one woman who wore it. But Harper and company made it an issue. And by announcing a “barbaric cultural practices” tip line run by the RCMP (another example of Harper using the public service for his own ends), he has stepped over the line. Do yourself a favor and read this excellent letter signed by 587 academics who decry Harper’s dangerous, crass politics.
And then we have Harper’s Senate appointments, a rogue’s gallery of partisan conservative hacks who face a variety of criminal charges. The Mike Duffy trial revealed that the Prime Ministers office concocted cover-up schemes and planned to falsify audits to mislead the public. Harper’s solution to the uselessness of the Senate? He’s just not going to appoint any more senators.
After all this, if you still say Harper is the man to lead Canada economically, ask yourself this. Harper has pegged the economic wellbeing of Canada on pipelines, like Keystone XL. In nearly a decade, how many pipelines have been started, much less built? The answer is zero.
And finally, in almost a decade of power, Stephen Harper has not one single signature policy. He will not be remembered for any progressive legislation, or any major accomplishment. Stephen Harper will be remembered for portraying Canada as a cold, negative, unwelcoming place, beset by enemies from within and without, who are intent on destroying his conservative vision of Canada.
We’ve had nine years of this guy. For the good of the country, Stephen Harper must go.