Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stephen Harper's Social Contract. Are we Really Prepared For This?

In June of 2004, when it looked like Stephen Harper's newly formed 'Conservative' Party might win the upcoming election, journalist Frances Russell asked her readers, if voters were really prepared to give this party a mandate for radical change.
Are voters so angry they are prepared to relive the trauma of decades-old searing national debates on a woman's right to control her own body and the death penalty? Are voters so determined to get "change" they are willing to jeopardize the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and his spin doctors are working overtime to convince Canadians he and his party are mainstream. But you don't need the Liberal attack website to measure the paradigm shift the Harper Conservatives plan for Canada.(1)
Indeed it was his party's attack on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that resulted in their losing the election.
Mr. Harper's antagonism to the charter is fundamental and well-documented. He said this week he would propose for the top bench only candidates who agree courts must defer to Parliament. "The role of the court is not to invent rights that are not in the Charter."
He was on record many, many times opposing the Charter and the judiciary:

"1 share many of the concerns of my colleagues and allies about biased 'judicial activism' and its extremes. I agree that serious flaws exist in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms." (Globe and Mail June 13, 2000)

"I consider the notwithstanding clause a valid part of the Constitution." (Canadian Press March 15, 2004)

"Right from the beginning, the charter has been controversial. There were a large number of politicians who did not support that approach to civil liberties. They prefer the traditional approach of common law and parliamentary supremacy." (Kitchener-Waterloo Record Sept. 29, 1994)

Just because he no longer speaks of these things, does not mean that he does not still hold those views. And as Russell stated: "Consider how all this would play out with the possible reinstatement of capital punishment by a Conservative government. The high court would almost certainly strike it down as unconstitutional, inviting the use of the notwithstanding clause." Ultimate power to a government of one.

There is an excellent new book, written by Christian Nadeau, Rogue in Power, that will serve well as an election primar. It does not contain ad hoc statements like 'Harper is an idiot' (guilty as charged), but is just a practical, yet fundamental assessment of this movement. And it is a movement, as confirmed recently by Conservative MP Rob Anders.

This is something that every Canadian should be concerned with, even Conservative supporters. Are we ready for this?

In his now famous 2003 Civitas Society speech, he outlined his plan.
Harper distinguished between two versions of conservatism. The first, economic conservatism, attaches vital importance to individual freedom, and therefore promotes private enterprise, free trade, religious tolerance, and legal limits on government action. The other type of conservatism, inspired by Edmund Burke, argues for respect for customs and traditions, especially religious traditions. To achieve this goal, unbalanced moral standards and misconduct need to be corrected through moral and legal sanctions.(2)
In other words, he would like to legislate morality.

This comes as no surprise. One of the founding members of the Civitas Society was the late Ted Byfield, who was also one of the founding members of the Reform Party. Byfield once claimed that the only thing the government should legislate is morality.

This was a deliberate move away from the Libertarian principles of individual freedom. You are only free if you do as you're told.

Stephen Harper is an ideologue, who believes that if we go back to the 1950's and search for the lives portrayed by shows like Father Knows Best or Leave it to Beaver, then everyone will be happy. We won't sin, we won't commit crimes, and if we do we will not be rehabilitated, but severely punished.

- We will rise out of poverty through hard work.
- We will become better citizens if we all convert to Christian fundamentalism.
- We will no longer "choose" to be gay, but can be cured.
- Women will stay home, stay married, and look after their own children.

And perhaps more importantly women will have those children.

They've defunded family planning, so the only plan is for "married couples" to have very large families. But as Gloria Steinham said recently, the Right's belief is that "life begins at conception but ends at birth". Don't be expecting no government hand outs.

This is social engineering.

Tom Flanagan in his book Harper's Team, admits that Canada is not a right-wing conservative country, but that "it can be governed by conservatives as long as they know what they are doing".
Hence Flanagan has formulated a series of precepts aimed at gaining power (the Ten Commandments of Conservative Campaigning), which he describes in his book. According to him, the Conservative Party must avoid useless internal arguments and instead seek unity, which implies moderating its political objectives and directing its actions towards making slow but sure progress. The caution is only strategic, as the party's political ambitions can and should be set quite high. When the Conservatives do form the government, says Flanagan, a hard line is required. (2)
And whether we want to admit it or not, in the five years that Harper has held power, he has radically changed how we do business. We have lost our standing in the world as evidenced by our loss of the UN Security seat, for the first time in our history.

And if you need further evidence of how he has undermined our democracy and time-honoured institutions, you can pick up an Australian newspaper. They know.

The good news is that we are no longer boring. The bad news is that until then, the Australians are singing "Oh Canada, we cry our hearts for thee."

So again I ask: Are we really prepared to give this man another mandate? Or more importantly, are we prepared for the consequences?


1. Harper Hides His Social Agenda, By Frances Russell, Winnipeg Free Press, June 11, 2004

2. Rogue in Power: Why Stephen Harper is remaking Canada by Stealth, By Christian Nadeau, Lorimer Press, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-55277-730-5