The Harper Government™’s Coalition Conspiracy Theory is still being relentlessly pushed on Twitter, but has been largely excoriated in the media. In addition to the Firewall Letter, which I’ll post shortly, I’d like to give it one last parting shot, one which the media seems to have forgotten but is much, much worse than the Firewall Letter. This is, according to Harper today, the sort of anti-patriotic stuff that just can’t be trusted in government. He should be called upon to explain it.
It was December 2000, and the right had just gone down to another defeat, thanks to the dramatic crashing and burning of Stockwell Day. Harper, then at the anti-public healthcare group the National Citizens Coalition, was losing his own battle to overturn Elections Canada’s election spending limit laws. (The same sort of laws he flaunted in 2006, you may recall). He had had enough of Canada. So he fired off a paranoid letter to the National Post proposing “Separation, Alberta-Style.” It was a call to arms, inspiring Albertans to create a party modelled on the Bloc Quebecois (the one Harper now denounces as separatists) and explicitly daring the federal government to provoke a nascent Albertan separatist movement:Tweet
Quick: If the Harper Government™ loses this election, what will it be remembered for? I don’t mean this in a partisan way. Here’s another question: what is the singular most important achievement that we remember the Chretien government for? Any answers?
The current election isn’t the first time in Canadian politics that we have been mostly bereft of big ideas, where not just the daily grind of Parliament Hill but the collective sum of Canadian political culture seems preoccupied with minor and uninteresting questions like tweaks to corporate tax rates and the propriety of inter-party Parliamentary cooperation. But we are in a period where our nation is simultaneously far wealthier, more resourceful, and therefore more capable of reaching forward than ever before, yet is stunningly bereft of any vision of where we might reach to. For the moment, I like to think of some of the more important areas where vision is sadly lacking as the missing planks of the election campaign.Tweet
A few days ago, CTV published a piece about how many federal lobbyists, nervous about the tight new lobbyist regulations, were staying home this campaign instead of volunteering for political parties. Certainly a few have loudly and somewhat pathetically complained that their rights are being violated by regulations that say you can be a political party activist or a corporate mercenary, but not both at the same time. But this also is a very narrow view of what is actually happening. Many of the lobbyists have just taken to Twitter.
The Conservative Party in general has also taken to Twitter for the campaign. This raises important questions. The Lobbying Commissioner can hardly ban people from blogging (or tweeting). She has said that lobbyists can’t actively participate in election campaigns. But the Tories’s small army of unofficial spokesmen on Twitter doesn’t really qualify. The intervention of these lobbyists is an important signal, though. They expect the Tories to win, and when that happens, they don’t want to fall afoul of the Harper team’s legendary grudges by not having “done their bit” in the election.Tweet
The rule of law is one of the most important elements of Canadian democracy. It is what separates conscientious collective action from partisan mob rule. Everybody plays by the same rules — including the Crown, and including the government. A lot of blood has been shed over this principle, not always justly of course. But it underlies Canadian democracy just as it does all other British democracies.
Except for Harper democracy, though, which is noted for its contempt for the rule of law. The recent round of contempt rulings and the election fraud (the “In and Out” scandal) are good examples, but a much more relevant one is the Harper Government™’s law fixing election dates every four years. Remember that one? It’s still there. It’s still a law. Which means that for the first time in Canadian history, in 2009 a government decided to cancel an election. Surprisingly this historic moment passed without much comment.Tweet
I decided last week that the main purpose of this blog during the election period would be a review of the Harper Government™, which in my opinion has seriously endangered the future of Canadian democracy. But before going forward on that, I want to be clear on another point: Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, in its present form, is very unlikely to advance a fundamentally different alternative if they form a government. I wish I could say otherwise, because the course we are on is a very unhealthy one. But this was made clear Tuesday with the first major announcement by the Ignatieff campaign, the Canadian Learning Passport.
This was the first major announcement of the election campaign, and the start of the election campaign was not a surprise. So it is safe to assume that this announcement — and other “first planks” from the NDP and the Conservatives — were carefully planned out in advance as the right start to the campaign: impressive enough to draw attention, but not so huge that there is nothing to follow up with next week as voter attention starts to wander. Unfortunately, the Liberals have completely blown it with this one. It might have been okay, if Ignatieff hadn’t chosen to call it “revolutionary.” It isn’t. He is lying, plain and simple.Tweet
Amidst all of the complaints about the F-35 and Harper’s inane new election proposal to allow income splitting after the budget is balanced, there’s another important element of the Harper Government™ budget which is skating by unnoticed. It’s the projections. Each budget, the government discloses what it spent the year before, what it plans to spend in the current year, but also what it expects to spend in future years. These are key because they let us know when Harper can be expected to introduce his promised tax reforms. The Conservatives, incredibly, have blown every projection since 2007.
Everyone who’s ever had trouble with credit card debt — or with losing weight, for that matter — knows the psychological trap it’s so easy to fall into: one last big purchase, one last chocolate bar, and then I’ll start cutting down much more seriously tomorrow. The Conservative budgeting over the past five years shows the same problem. Every year, the government has started out in a worse fiscal situation than it promised it would be the year before. But, each year, they promise that in subsequent years, they’ll be making ever-bigger cuts to make up the difference:Tweet
Next time you read a letter to the editor in your local newspaper supporting the Conservative Party (or, more to the point, defending the Coalition Conspiracy Theory), now you’ll have to ask whether you’re reading the thoughtful commentary of a fellow citizen or a summary of talking points supplied by the party via one of its new social media experiments, the Tory Nation “virtual campaign office.” Tory Nation provides fundraising tools, networking services, and, most importantly, a tool that helps you select both a media organization to contact, and a message to deliver to them.Tweet