Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Top Conservative Leader in the World? Stephen Harper Is More Like Failed Republican Prime Minister

Prime Minster Stephen Harper with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
With Senate moratorium and more, Prime Minister abandons Conservative Party principles again.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday July 28, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"If Stephen Harper were a Republican in the United States, he'd be at the top of his party... He's the top conservative leader in the world."

- Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes


Because after the prime minister's abandonment last week of yet another of Canadian Conservatives' holy grails -- an elected, equal and effective Senate -- Stephen Harper looks more like a failed Republican.

So much for the vaunted "Triple E" Senate that Harper and then-Reform Party leader Preston Manning campaigned very hard for in the 1990s.

Now Harper says he'll simply stop appointing Senators until the provinces agree to change or abolish the discredited institution.

But as Canada slides into economic recession with the budget possibly out of balance again after years of deficits and state-funded stimulation -- all Kryptonite to Conservative supermen -- it's clear little remains of their right wing ideology.

Party's over

Instead, Harper presides over a sad tarnished Tory-ism that can hardly inspire either economic or social conservatives, with an election mere months away.

Sure, the Conservative government can still beat up on unions, the public service, scientists, environmental groups, the judiciary and other annoying enemies to throw some red meat to the right wing base.

But when it comes to meaningful lasting change, the party is over.

And with New Democrats taking over Alberta's provincial government, it means the lights have been turned on to tell Conservatives to go home.

That's a good thing for Canadians who want a socially progressive approach that includes supporting a social safety net, a key role for government in keeping corporations accountable, protecting the environment and promoting international cooperation.

However for die-hard Conservatives, Harper's years in power can only be seen as a lost opportunity.

"I know the things that we stood for back then. They ain't happening now. It absolutely disappoints me," former Calgary Reform MP Jim Silye recently told The Tyee's Jeremy Nuttall.

Since Harper became prime minister in 2006, social conservatives have watched efforts to reverse same sex marriages abandoned; marijuana be sold openly in Vancouver dispensaries over vehement Tory objections; and the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously reject a prohibition on physician-assisted dying.

Fiscal conservatives are equally appalled that Canada's debt has risen by over 12 per cent from 2006 to 2014 or that seven budgets in nine years had deficits or that federal program spending as a proportion of gross domestic product has actually gone up under Harper.

Even worse, it was the Liberals under Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Finance Minister and later Prime Minister Paul Martin that ended years of Brian Mulroney Progressive Conservative deficit budgets and reduced national debt.

Kryptonite buffet?

The Conservatives would rightly point to the worldwide recession of 2008 and financial crisis as overwhelming reasons to use state spending and corporate bailouts -- like Canada's $9 billion to General Motors and Chrysler -- to avoid further economic collapse.

But that doesn't change the fact that conservatives have long argued against any government intervention in free markets and opposed stimulus budgets.

And so ditching ambitious plans to reform the Senate is merely the last course of an unappetizing buffet of policy reversals for Harper.

The remaining question is whether Conservative voters will experience electoral indigestion in October's federal election.


1 comment:

scotty on denman said...

My parents taught me that bragging is a sign of insecurity; I see Harper theology the same way. No, he didn't slay the evil Liberal dragon with one hand tied behind his back---they beat themselves to a pulp, and he simply sneaked a trophy-selfie when he found the unconscious Liberal corpus near dead in the alley. True, he did a lot of hacking and slashing of areas within his direct control, but these were the lowest-hanging fruits that, short of eradication and severe pruning, will grow back when Harper's gone---hardly the unrecognizable Canada he promised. But Harper only needs to impress certain people with these hillocks of bull: his base needs its own insecurity soothed too.

My folks taught me that bullying is a sign of immaturity and insecurity too. Harperological thesis would have his base see him as the heroic warrior wreaking revenge for past slights; the rest of us were appalled at the Harper-handshake, a sucker shot to the groin upon introduction which he assiduously meted to every branch and bureaucracy of government. His base lapped it up, and their dysfunctional relationship thrived. The rest of us quickly passed judgement: this will be his last majority.

But when Big Bad Steve waved his fist in front of real checks and balances, he got stomped: the judiciary, provinces, and Senate all made him look like a kid in short pants, armed with plastic toy weapons (he actually took a couple runs at the courts as if they didn't get it---and now he gets it: time to change the channel---these institutions, the heart of our sovereign democracy would henceforth redact into the irredeemable evil ones---and basement Con meetings began to resemble prayer sessions; armageddon and the rapture now figure heavily in Con theology.)

I learned that bragging and bullying are often symptomatic of psychopathy, especially if it isn't a phase one grows out of. Harper began lying to, showing false sincerity to, and eventually smearing First Nations when it became plain that they and the courts would not allow his big-ticket pipeline to go through. He attacked Attawapiskat, fabricating innuendo of malfeasance from racist-inflicted poverty as prelude to his final pipeline push over the Rockies so's to dismiss FN legitimate and Constitutional concerns as malicious freeloading. What blew up in his face was Idle-No-More, a seminal and popular protest against his heartless toying with Canada's most victimized and disadvantaged citizens. It showed his "official apology" to be as sincere as a Hannibal Lecter dinner invitation. The movement, coupled with Occupy, is irreversible.

The list of Harper failures is long and consequential; my favourite is the HST collusion with BC's Gordon Campbell; while right-wing pundits applaud Harper's dubious "successes," they might think of global corporatists of the future who will doubtlessly curse the precedent set by Messrs Harper and Campbell: the successful Anti-HST Petition and subsequent HST-Referendum was the first time a legislated tax was repealed by popular force in 800 years of Commonwealth parliamentary history (thanx, Bills!)

The rise of the Canadian Left, from Layton to Notley to Mulcair to Horgan and beyond will be viewed retrospectively as a response to Harper's hubris, meanness, and dishonesty, the wave washing clean over his native Alberta and neighbouring BC. But naming Harper the "world's greatest conservative" is typical of what insecure people do. To the rest of us he is merely a footnote: never elect neo-rightists again: they boast about what we abhor, bully the weak when the strong deny their demands, and lie and cheat when honest people challenge them. "Best conservative" isn't much of an accolade, and Harper proved it as best example of how bad neo-right governments can be.