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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 1 October 2015

If Harper wins a Majority

Under our First Past the Post electoral system, a majority win for an incumbent party serves as both validation of everything they've done before and dismissal of any past sins.  As there's no way (other than polls, ahem) to know exactly what the electorate voted for or against, the incumbents can claim that Canadians like everything they have done, don't care about the scandals they have perpetrated and have flatly rejected the other parties and everything they stand for as dangerously risky.

Stifled Members of Parliament and Oppressing science?  Canadians are cool with that!

Partisan ads using public dollars?  Canada doesn't mind!

Senate scandals, PMO cover-ups?  Nobody cares!

Dangerously inexperienced young voices like Justin Trudeau's?  Gotta remind them where there place is.

Having a firm grip on power and validation for all the things they've done to stay in power, the Harper Conservatives will be justified in doing more of the same (because it worked); by the same token, the other parties will take a serious second look at the tactics used by Team Harper to win (because in politics, winning trumps values).

Meanwhile, barring some massive shake-up at the top, Team Harper will continue to look at the courts as an opponent to their agenda/straw man to use in getting their low- to middle-income base to place more of their hard-earned cash in the Tory coffers.

Picture less public and media access to a government increasingly comfortable in reducing transparency and doing what they feel they need to do without scrutiny.  Imagine even less useful data being collected for policy-crafting purposes, more Minister's Office pressure on the public service to tell only those stories that favour the Conservative narrative yet more monitoring of so-called foes of the public interest, including social justice advocates, First Nations groups, environmental activists, scientists, etc.

That would clearly be what Canadians want, right?

How might those Canadians who feel Harper's style of governance is increasingly anti-democratic and dangerous to Canada's public interest respond to this?  Ads in the media?  Those can be spun as union-backed attempts to undermine Harper's Canada's Government.  Critical pieces in the press? That damned media party again.  Protests?  Dangerous attempts to undermine the elected governing party at best, foreign-backed or infiltrated opportunities for civic unrest and cover for terrorist acts at worst.

Even if the government uses those lines strictly as pokes for fundraising campaigns, their loyal base will accept the emotional truth of these attacks and internalize them.  

I'd point out that CSIS feels that ISIS is less of a threat to Canadian security than domestic anti-immigrant groups, but hey - it's just the lefty media talking.

How about the political staffers weaned on the tactics and attitudes of the current crop of Harper cronies?  What entitlements will they feel are theirs for the taking?  What lengths beyond the norm may they go to so as to impress the boss and climb the ladder?  What of a caucus with little to do and, therefore, little sense of personal accountability?

The picture painted is a pretty grim one, but it's one we're rather likely to encounter.

It's not all bad, though.  

As we've seen already, an oppressive government with reduced capacity loses the ability to back its bluster with substantial action beyond turning off the taps.  Despite protestations that ignoring federal laws is not an option for the provinces, they're increasingly doing so anyway - and filling in where the feds have backed off on everything from healthcare to pension plans to boot.

Government can take money and charitable status away from advocacy groups, but they have a harder time impacting collective impact funding and grassroots-based initiatives that require only dedicated time and the use of free digital platforms to mobilize.  Beyond this, there's the growing movement of Virtuous Schemers working for the public, even if it means working against the government.

And all these groups are increasingly working together in coordinated fashion.

Despite the closing of Canadian government (and, to an extent, the Canadian mind), there is hope emerging from beneath the veil of Harpernian control. 

Harper promised us we wouldn't recognize Canada after he was done with it.  I agree - but I don't think the end product is going to be at all like he expected.

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