Sunday, March 13, 2011

To Understand Stephen Harper is to Understand the National Citizens Coalition

I've read a great many books on the rise of Neoconservatism in Canada, in particular as they related to the Western Reform Movement (now the Conservative Party of Canada) and the Mike Harris government in Ontario (now headed up by Harris' lapdog, Tim Hudak).

But I thought that to really understand the philosophy behind it, I'd also read books written by some of the major players.

Anything Preston Manning churned out was revisionist history that left out many important details, like the influence of the American Republicans and the National Citizens Coalition. He only stopped short of suggesting that God himself wrote their platform, chiseled it in stone and delivered it on Mount Sinai.

It wasn't of course. In fact the Reform polices were written by Stephen Harper and most "cribbed from the National Citizens Coalition handbook". (1)

Gerry Nicholls, VP of the NCC when Harper was president, also laments the fact that Stephen Harper fails to mention his involvement with the group, in his own official bio.

Stephen Harper fails to mention a lot of things. And for good reason. The NCC being the least of them.

However, what I've discovered in my journey to the dark side (I'm kidding. Just using a bit of neocon-speak), is that there may be another reason why Harper leaves out some very important elements of his life.

It's because he not only plagiarized the NCC handbook to appear that he knew how to draft policy, but he also stole most of his ideas, from not only the NCC, but many of the players in the early days of Reform.

One of the authors affecting his ideology was Peter Brimelow, so I read his book Patriot Games, that had such a profound affect on Harper that he went out and bought ten copies (2) to give to friends (Shut up. Yes apparently he did have 10 friends, though it is rumoured that he thinks his cat can read).

From that book, I found most of Harper's political "ideas", including the notion of a Belgian model, that made headlines during the 2004 election campaign. Not his idea it turns out, but Brimelow's.

Stephen Harper is a smart man, but not a wise man, and his strengths are in cunning and combativeness. He has no fresh ideas to help the country, so instead attacks the ideas of others. And when he can't attack their ideas, because they make too much sense, he instead attacks them.

This commando style "guerrilla warfare", comes from the National Citizens Coalition and Arthur Finklestein, who was a master of the simplistic attack ad. KeepItSimpleStupid with the emphasis on 'Stupid'.

What Is/Was the National Citizens Coalition?
"Not only was I helping to make Canada a better, freer country, but I had the pleasure of knowing my work was upsetting the left-wing elite." Gerry Nicholls
In his book, Loyal to the Core: Stephen Harper Me and the NCC, Gerry Nicholls speaks of the misconceptions surrounding the NCC and what they were, and attempts to correct them.

He also follows Manning's lead (Preston Manning is the recipient of the "prestigious" medal of freedom given out by the NCC, as is Stephen Harper and Conrad Black. Enough said), and writes a bit of revisionist history of his own.

1. The NCC was started by Colin M. Brown "one of the country's leading life insurance salesmen". It was started by Colin M. Brown, however, he was hardly a mere life insurance salesman, but a wealthy agent for London Life. Most say millionaire and I think they're right. And he was inspired, not by a desire to help others, but in response to the promise of public healthcare, fearing it would hamper his business.

The idea behind the creation of the National Citizens Coalition as an advocacy group, came from Ernest Manning, father of Preston, who had many connections with the American Republicans. It was Manning who came up with the idea of making the NCC non-profit, so that they could take advantage of tax breaks. (2) Meaning that while they screamed "lower taxes", they were enjoying tax benefits, passing more of the burden onto the working class, while soliciting the same people for their funding.

2. The National Citizens Coalition is not "extremist", "radical" or "extreme right-wing". However, in their early days they championed the causes of the extreme right. Case in point, is the horrendous "boat people campaign", to keep Canada from accepting Vietnam refugees.

You can listen to the podcast here. And this was launched the same year that Stephen Harper joined the NCC.

They were also involved in circulating the video of Peter Worthington's propaganda documentary against Nelson Mandela. The mainstream media wouldn't broadcast it because it was too one-sided.

They only became involved in political campaigns when Brown hired Art Finklestein.

Finkelstein had created the concept of independent expenditure campaigns (third party advertising), which could operate behind the scenes, to get a chosen candidate elected or defeated.
Finklestein was the chief strategist behind the most successful IE operation of this period, the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC). In 1981 New Right activist Richard Viguerie wrote, "NCPAC relies heavily on research and polling, a reflection of one of its founders, conservative pollster Arthur Finkelstein."

In 1978, NCPAC was instrumental in the defeat of Democrats Dick Clark in Iowa and Thomas J. McIntyre in New Hampshire. Both liberal Senators were replaced by committed conservatives. NCPAC ran hard-hitting ads for television, radio and newspapers, crafted by Finkelstein. A central idea behind the strategy was to expose the liberal words and actions in Washington of elected officials ... (3)
From then on, this became the mandate of the NCC. Their most successful independent expenditure campaign, in fact, first got Stephen Harper elected as an MP in 1993, when he went up against his former boss, Progressive Conservative Jim Hawkes.

The campaign was so ugly that Harper's former fiancee, Cynthia Williams, went to work for Hawkes, feeling that he was being unjustly vilified. That campaign cost the NCC about $50,000.00.

They were also responsible for the four-year campaign against Bob Rae when he was premier of Ontario, through their spin-off group: Ontarians for Responsible Government. Billboards, bumper stickers, radio spots. They were relentless. And of course the same group was instrumental in getting Mike Harris elected.

So even that far back, the American conservative movement was interfering in our elections.

But instead of just exposing the roots of Stephen Harper, we can actually use some of their logic against them, with simple ads. Not personal attack ads, but attacks against policy and strategy.

The "In and Out" is not an "accounting problem", but involved Conservative operatives fabricating receipts for government rebates, they weren't entitled to.

Harper is not for lower taxes, but his government is behind the HST and the payroll tax on workers.

They are not fiscal conservatives, but have racked up a record debt and deficit, exploiting the Wall Street "heist", dubbed the "global economic crisis".

They are not worried about creating jobs, because during the same period when we were experiencing massive job losses, their government stepped up the use of migrant workers.

Bang, bang, bang. Simple facts. Guerilla warfare.

Thank you Gerry Nicholls and thank you Arthur Finklestein.


1. Loyal to the Core: Stephen Harper Me and the NCC, By: Gerry Nicholls, Freedom Press, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-9732757-8-0

2. Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, by William Johnson, McClelland & Stewart, 2005, ISBN 0-7710 4350-3

3. Wikipedia: Arthur J. Finkelstein

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