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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Stephen Harper's Canada: The Non-Society

Does anyone remember the Great Parliamentary Crisis of 2008/09?  Stephen Harper's Conservative Government proposed eliminating the public subsidy political parties get in an election.  The Opposition Parties opposed this move, and planned to bring the minority government down.
Instead of taking the issue to the public, Harper decided to prorogue Parliament. 
To the ensuing outcry that Team Harper was circumventing the democratic process, then-House Leader John Baird said this:
"We'll go over the heads of the members of Parliament; go over the heads, frankly, of the Governor General; go right to the Canadian people."
The big problem with that statement, of course, was that it reinforced the argument being made against the Tories.  Who, exactly, was going over the heads of Parliament and the Governor General?  The government, or the Conservative Party?  Government is legally an agency of the Crown, represented by the Governor General, answerable to the people's representatives, Parliament.
The Conservative Party had recognized their superior ability to raise money from the public and decided to undercut their opponents' ability to compete with them on the paid media war.  Faced with opposition from Parliament, the Conservative Party circumvented that opposition.
Now, the Conservative Party has a majority - a challenged one, thanks in no part to scandals related to their partisan fund-raising apparatus.  In addition to Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin were key fundraisers for the Tories.
The Conservative Government has brought forward a new bill, the Fair Elections Act, which increases the amount of money Political Parties can raise and kills the public's ability to promote voter participation.  Particularly impacted by this move are Canadians with disabilities/mobility challenges and youth.  As it happens, these groups don't tend to be traditional supporters of the Conservatives.
It's worth taking a look at the Conservative's economic policy as a good frame to understand what they're trying to do with our electoral system.  They have decided that it's in Canada's best interests to be strictly a natural resource export economy; more external trade will create better opportunities for us to sell these resources while anything that gets in the way of the process, like eco-extremists, are threat to their plan.  Anyone who may have other ideas about what Canada should look like are excluded from the process, defunded and demonized.
That's exactly what they're trying to do with our politics.  The Conservatives are attempting to reduce electoral competition (you need big bucks to play) on the back end and reduce voter participation on the front end.  Big picture, it's people with money or that fit a narrow definition of citizen that are encouraged to play.  Those who do play will play dirty - it's compete to win, victory absolves sin.
There's no place for the public in this picture, no real sense of confederation, just individual interests competing monetarily for success.
Which brings us back to John Baird's statement.  It's rather telling when a Party feels it's okay to circumvent the process and "go over the heads" of both their boss and auditors to get what they want.
Now, it's as if the Harper Conservatives are willing to go over the heads of the Canadian people who won't support them, either, to get what they want.
There's a reason the Tories don't believe in committing sociology - from their apparent point of view, there's just them and the people in their way.
So much for the Just Society.  After all, we're an empire now, aren't we?

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