Saturday, 17 October 2015


If consistency in public opinion polls means anything, it would appear Canada is ready to give PM Stephen Harper the boot.

The Country needs a new Prime Minister. This one does not suit the Canada most of us have come to know.

Harper needs to go, not because Danny Williams’ jingoistic rants are deemed, by some, superior to his, or even because Harper’s Administration is deemed to have treated NL poorly.  

He needs to go for even larger and more fundamental reasons.

Harper is a corrosive, even divisive force for an entire Country; a man who subscribes to a value system claimed by a narrow far right, narrow-minded, bigoted, some outwardly racist, and reactionary constituency. This is not a group preoccupied with tolerance, generosity, or the nuances of a liberal democracy.

Harper is not just an irritation in NL; he is a blight on the entire nation.

Politics doesn’t always provide us with good leadership choices.  But, amidst other poor choices, Canada, elected a rogue group variously known as “Alliance” and “Reform”; one that hijacked a once moderate Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. Most of the “progressives” left or were forced out. The result is a Canadian version of the American “Tea Party”.

Canada is now known for “wedge” politics. The PM heads a right wing political cabal, with access to the tools of democratic government.

Right thinking Canadians, who subscribe to concepts of an open and tolerant society, will send them flying.

Still, no one should think Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair represents all the tools of a skill-set Canada desperately needs. Likely, though, they represent something better, even if Canadians will have to endure the economic trials of their lack of economic vision; something that the “niqab” debate masked in all three leaders.

Trudeau extolls deficit financing as a virtue in a country already heavily indebted and facing serious economic decline from Alberta to Newfoundland and Labrador. The fall of oil, low productivity and competitiveness seek repair in a low C$. Good luck with that!

Mulcair displays no economic aptitude either; his sudden lurch to the middle-of-the-road adds reason to why the NDP’s nascent love of the middle class, and balanced budgets, is viewed with skepticism. Yet, he deserves particular praise for his steadfast rebuke of racism. The “niqab” may have cost him voters, but unlike the PM, it leaves his respect for values unassailable.

All societies aspire to prosperity; some have done well enough not to measure progress using only financial metrics. Enlightened countries don’t see prosperity as incompatible with good governance, strong values, notions of responsibility, compassion, generosity, or a strict regard for the rule of law.

We like to think Canada one of them.

For many decades, this country has been a beacon to the international community; a civil society worth emulating.

But, more recently, Canada has been a back slider; a condition which has picked up speed under Stephen Harper. The fact is manifested not just in our meagre share of foreign aid (relative to GNP), or in defense spending, as a Member of NATO, or that we cower in the face of a massive human tragedy playing out in Syria, and other countries. 

We have a PM brash enough to upbraid the Chief of the Supreme Court for denying him validation of policies that conflict with the Charter of Rights. He submerges civil rights under unproven security concerns. Police officers are given positions on parole boards. Important rights legislation is embedded within an unwieldy omnibus Bill. Important veterans’ services are refused even when Parliament has approved funding.  A cover-up in the PM’s Office gets a “good to go”. Cabinet government is all but thrashed; message control is given paramountcy in the PMO.

Then there is the phony “niqab” issue; an incitement to alienation and to hate. Some may think it ‘just’ wedge politics. It is corrosive stuff; it has no place in the Canada I want to be part of.

It is not too much to expect that even a desperate Prime Minister, one facing electoral defeat, might try to retain some dignity. But when the values of “Ford Nation” are embraced to curry favour with ignorance, and a kiss-my-ass regard for laws and institutions, in the popularized phrase describing crisis, “Houston, we have a problem”.  

A democratic country is under greatest threat when the citizenry fail to stay engaged. Luckily, they seem engaged now. For that reason, there is hope the problem can be remedied.

Whether the choice is Trudeau or Mulcair, they will have to be evaluated, each given scrutiny for his ability to lead this Country with a larger vision than the one they exhibited during this campaign, or, for that matter, the one to which the Tories’ subscribe.

Voters will need to stay engaged. The Country is on the cusp of great change; it won’t all be easy. For that reason, we may need to change governments again, if the winner on Monday, isn’t up to the challenge or if it continues on a path even remotely similar to the agenda of the present one.

To press the point:  

As a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, I bristle when I see the likes of Jean Chretien trotted out with Trudeau the younger, given what I know of his behavior as PM, and not just with respect to the sponsorship scandal.  I worry that Justin is “not ready” but also that he is unsuitable; that he might have inherited the sins of Trudeau, the elder; he having denigrated the view of Canada as a confederal entity, and kept NL begging for resource rights held by other provinces, under the guise of resources “under water” (as most of Newfoundland and Labrador’s are) distinguishable from those found on land (where most other province’s resources are found).  It is no comfort that NLers supported him and Chretien, en masse, but that is another matter.

I worry that the NDP, never having held the reins of power at the federal level, understand only spending, possessing little appreciation that a strong economy is the basis of better social programs.

That said, at some point in this 78 day election campaign, Stephen Harper counted on both leaders to self-destruct. Neither did.

For that reason, and most certainly for all the others, Canadians should deny Stephen Harper a fourth mandate. The Conservative Party needs to be reborn. The hijackers need to be banished.

Trudeau or Mulcair deserves a chance. Either one is better than the status quo.

We can’t risk a right-wing ideologue controlling Parliament for a third term.

If our collective choice does not work out, let’s make change again.

The economic challenges Canada faces are undeniable.

But if we are as smart as we think we are, we can face them even as we rid ourselves of the politics of hate and fear.

After this election, I want a return to a Canada in which tolerance, inclusiveness, and respect for civil rights, are part of a strong economy.

I am not interested in Harper’s Canada.


  1. Very well said! I have come to despise Harper and I have despised very few people in my life. If he is out come Monday, we have a chance to start to make this a country we can be proud of again. The choices of NNP or Liberal are a worrying for differing reasons but less a concern than another term of Harper. Somewhere out there in the ether is a small sign sketch thst states" Proud to be a Canadien, ashamed of my government" and that is the way most folks I talk to feel. I just hope enough are compelled by the unease they feel to vote him out, and we'll out. They can rebuild the party and its principles and we can consider them again next time when we consider the performance of Muclair or Trudeau.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly........especially the "voters need to stay engaged" and not just at election time.

  3. Great article! I agree with the above comments as well. Stephen Harper has taken the political system in Canada to it's lowest level. As for the conservative party, they have to share the blame by allowing this to happen. If they had forced a leadership review two years ago, the election would have taken on a very different tone. I remember when John Diefenbaker passed away, he lay in state in Ottawa and on his final journey by train to his home province, Canadians waited by the side of the track to pay their respect. While many may have had differing views of his policy and direction, all respected him as a statesman who believed in Canada and the people of this fantastic country.

    Stephen Harper on the other hand, exemplifies many of the negative and at times vulgar traits of an individual who is anything but Canadian. He is a disgrace to the office he holds.

  4. Harperman... its time for you to go.

  5. Let us hope the voter suppression, electoral fraud, robocalls tactics fail the undemocratic ideologues in the PMO. Lets hope the high early voter turnout holds true today. The Cons count on alienating voters to strengthen the vote of their base.

  6. Good commentary - unlike that of your more partisan rival in the SRBP. The essential point is to rid this country of Harper and his allies, and re-establish sensible domestic and foreign policies.