Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Log 337 Jan 17 2013 Getting rid of Harper: 1: Joining the campaign

Front cover of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of...
Front cover of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Mi...
President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper hold a joint press conference in the East Room Thursday, July 6, 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It has been no secret that this blog lacks a strict focus. It was never intended to be focused on any one subject, having been started in 1996 as a personal Web site in which I could sound off on anything that took my fancy.

A couple of days ago I began to wonder if it couldn’t be put to a better use. Like, for instance, in working to get rid of Harper. Possibly the impetus for that came from my having (at last!) read Naomi Klein’s remarkable book, Shock Doctrine, the sort of work that is likely to drive even a well-adjusted person completely bonkers.  In 561 meticulously researched pages she totally destroys whatever pretensions the right-wing might have to claiming that they work in the interests of the ordinary person. In fact, she shows that the global economy has been dominated at least since the 1970s by an unholy alliance between the torture techniques perfected at the instance of the CIA by Dr Ewan Cameron in Montreal at the Allan Memorial Institute, techniques that have been used ever since by right-wing torturers in the name of enforcing through domestic terror a secular religion  called Pure Unadulterated Market Forces, propagated at the University of Chicago by Milton Friedman, and transmitted by his pupils to one country after another. Klein’s thesis is that this religion can be imposed only in conditions of national shock and trauma, and she even argues that those at the command centres of the movement are willing to create shocks if no natural shocks exist --- tsunamis, earthquakes, droughts, floods, terrorist bombings, all manner of shocks are grist to their mill, paving the way for application of their terribly destructive doctrines. Klein says many tens of thousands of people have died in this unholy campaign, which has not only ruined one national economy after another, but has also come to within a whisker of bringing down on the entire world the worst economic depression in history.

Okay, let’s get back to where I started: although Canada can never be said to have suffered from the more extreme applications of the shock doctrine, nevertheless, we have in power here a Prime Minister and government, elected to an absolute majority of seats in the House of Commons by a tiny proportion of the eligible voters, a Prime Minister  who, as far as one can tell, is positively aching to put into operation some of the negative aspects of shock doctrine economics.

Everyone I talk to seems to agree with the proposition that Canada’s major priority should be to, somehow, get rid of this government before it  completely ruins the delicate balance between private and public ownership that has made this country one of the most admired throughout the world. By global standards, Canada has a fairly advanced welfare state, its legislation creating the publicly-funded health service standing at the peak, in most Canadians’ minds, of Canada’s achievements.

In preparation for this article I googled Getting Rid of Harper, and came up with an astounding 314,000 links which revealed that all across the country desperate people have been thinking about what to do to get rid of this pest. Unfortunately, most of the entries date from 2010 or 2011 --- there seems to have been some drop off in the intensity of Harper-hatred in the last 12 months.

Still, the arguments mobilized against him are formidable, and create a veritable catalogue of bad government.

I had thought of creating a catalogue of the Harper government’s misdeeds; but such lists have been published many times by dissident groups, and I thought it perhaps better to simply say in what way I find Harper and his attitudes inimical to the best of Canada’s values. In my view --- and this is an opinion shared by many thoughtful foreign observers of Canada --- this is a country distinguished by a certain moderate open-mindedness, capitalist, to be sure, conservative to a certain degree, but with a tendency to keep asking questions, as if everything is not yet known, as if new paths lie ahead to be trodden, as if there is a certain collective interest among Canadians in constantly pursuing a path that will result in every person having the opportunity to develop his or her talents to the best advantage.  Some may think that to write this is to damn with faint praise: would that one were able to write it of many other countries, of class-ridden nations like Britain, of rigidly militaristic and business-oriented nations like the United States, of authoritarian nations like any number one could name. In fact, this moderate stance taken by Canada and Canadians has been manifest for many years in Canada’s moderate foreign policies --- at least until Harper began to dictate them --- in Canada’s essential role in peacekeeping, as distinct from war-making, which distinguishes the United States, manifest also in the creation since the 1960s on a social system designed to support those who are less well-off than the average.

To me, an underlying value of most Canadians was illustrated when the CBC a few years ago held a contest to establish who, in the opinion of Canadians, was the greatest Canadian ever: to my intense surprise, the chosen person was Tommy Douglas, the former Premier of Saskatchewan and later leader of the CCF and NDP, who brought into Canadian politics the concept of a single-payer, universal health care system; and events indicated that these values I have described appear to be embedded into the attitudes of a majority of Canadians. Not that it would be easy to get most people to admit them (a symptom of Canadian modesty.).

Okay, into this nation has been catapaulted as leader Stephen Harper, whose attitude towards the country he now governs he once described vividly when he was leading something called the National Citizens Coalition, an extreme right-wing group to which he had gravitated after trying out as a Reform Party Member of Parliament from Alberta, and giving it up in disgust.

In a speech delivered in the United States he said this:

"Canada is a northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it", and he added, for good measure, a note of contempt for his fellow-citizens when he said: "if you're like all Americans, you know almost nothing except for your own country. Which makes you probably knowledgeable about one more country than most Canadians". Just to make sure anyone thought he had any admiration at all for his country he added that   "the NDP [New Democratic Party] is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men."
Latter, in  2000 Harper transferred his contemptuous attitudes towards Canada into concrete political policies when he wrote something called the Alberta Agenda, in which he suggested that “firewalls” should be built around Alberta in order to stop the federal government from redistributing its wealth to less affluent regions, and as a measure of defence against Canada’s publicly-funded health care, and Canada Pension Plan.  Later that year, Harper wrote that  Canada "appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country".
These are just outliers, suggestions as to the terrible government he has provided us with during his  seven years in power. The worst of it has been since May 2011, when he won a majority of seats in the House of Commons, although by no means a majority of voters were on his side.  In fact, the number of voters who have supported him in any of the three elections in which he has been declared victor, has never risen above 40 per cent (and has been quite a bit below that, with 36,3 per cent of cast ballots in 2006, 37.7 per cent in 2008, and 39.6 per cent in 2011.
 In countries with a proportional representation system of voting, where coalitions are the norm, it would not have been automatically accepted that since the Conservatives had the largest single bloc of voters, they would therefore be given the chance to form the government. In fact, Stephen Harper himself recognized this was not an immutable rule of Canadian politics when in 2004 he joined with the leaders of the Bloc Quebecois and New Democratic parties to sign a letter to the then governor-general, Adrienne Clarkson, which said: “We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority.”

The three party leaders held a joint press conference at which they expressed their intent to ask that the Governor General consult  them before deciding to call an election, in the event of Harper’s defeat in the House. At the news conference, Harper said "It is the Parliament that's supposed to run the country, not just the largest party and the single leader of that party. That's a criticism I've had and that we've had and that most Canadians have had for a long, long time now so this is an opportunity to start to change that." 

A measure of Harper’s unquenchable hypocrisy is that in 2008, when the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois proposed to form a coalition government, should Harper be defeated on a motion of no-confidence, which was due to be voted at the beginning of the following week, Harper asked for, and received, for the first time in Canadian history, a prorogation of Parliament which enabled him to escape the suggestion that in the event of defeat (which was staring him in the face) the governor-general might ask the other parties to form a government  The inexperienced governor-general Michaelle Jean, granted the prorogation, and  meantime the Liberals changed their leader, and their new leader Michael Ignatieff decided he didn’t have the stomach to become Prime Minister immediately, and the opportunity to get rid of Harper was lost.

Harper’s willingness, in 2004 to be part of a combined coalition to overthrow the Liberals, evaporated when his own government was the target, and he conducted a disreputable campaign suggesting that somehow the opposition parties were proposing to undermine the whole system of Canadian government.

Anyway, we all know Harper’s record as Prime Minister, his excessive secrecy, his love of brute force (indicated by his “tough on crime” legislation, even though crime has been reducing in Canada for several years), his slavish kow-towing to the U.S., his mean-spirited closing down of such things as the grant to citizens to pursue cases under the  Charter of Rights and Freedoms, his slaughtering of environmental regulation established by previous governments, and so on and on.

So this is Article No. 1 in my intention to join the campaign to get rid of Harper by whatever means are necessary within the confines of civilized behaviour.

More will follow.

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