Monday, October 18, 2010

HarperLand - Is It Too Late to Save Canadian Democracy?

Just how much damage has Stephen Harper caused the PMO and Canadian democracy and can we really expect his successor to undo the damage?   This dark question is posed by Crawford Kilian writing in The Tyee.  What begins as a review of Lawrence Martin's Harperland turns into speculation of whether Harper's successor will simply continue Furious Leader's excesses:

"...the really depressing aspect of Martin's book is this: After all these years of watching [Harper] in action, a third of us still support him. 

Think about that. Anyone can see how he's attacked the values and institutions of 20th-century Canada. He promised "transparency" and delivered an information clampdown Stalin would have admired. He sent Canadians into harm's way in Afghanistan, and then smeared Richard Colvin for saying our troops were handing prisoners over to torturers. He sacked, or drove from office, the brilliant people who ran AECL and StatsCan, because they told inconvenient truths.

This is the kind of culture-war wedge politics that Nixon exploited in the 1960s and 70s. It has become routine in the U.S. since then because some American cultures intensely dislike other American cultures.

Similarly Harper has attracted plenty of Canadians who despise other Canadians. Many are willing to run as Conservatives for a seat in his emasculated Parliament. His senior public servants have decided their careers are more important than their country, and go along with him. Canadian reporters let him frame the issues. So do the opposition parties."

 Kilian warns there's no reason to accept on blind faith that even someone like Ignatieff might not find Harper's abuses of democracy quite convenient or far easier to continue than to dismantle.  I think it's a legitimate point, one that needs to be addressed before, not after, we have a change of government.   The Liberal rank and file need to do a little soul searching and obtain concrete commitments from their man that he won't settle in to Harper's status quo but will break the shackles Harper has used to bind our democracy.


Jim Parrett said...

We are our own worst enemy.

Beijing York said...

Ignatieff, like Harper, is a Republican at heart.

The Mound of Sound said...

I have long been concerned about the IgLibs and the abandonment of progressivism. This would probably be a good time to nail him down on just what he would do to unravel Harper's excesses. If not we may indeed be heading for an imperial prime ministership for Canada.

Anonymous said...

I think this post comes from a feeling of despair? Prevailing hopelessness from the current political condition can be debilitating and how missing-the point it would be to suggest a focus on something like the light in the tunnel or any other vacuous or obnoxious inspiration. Our alternative is no alternative, substantially. I can imagine that some thoughts happened to right-wing persons during the 1960s when their new articulate, Barry Goldwater failed his promise. What did they do? They hunkered, contrived and built the new and devious 'neo' this and that ('liberal' and 'conservative' effective device, which works very well for them after about 20 years) and what can we do? If only I had 50 million dollars per annum to create a national newspaper - something attractive to the kids and their parents - but that seems like the most impossible thing. Who has the money? It would take too long? It is impossible? But if we had an attractive space of non-distorted communication in print nationally and the accompanied webspace the hopelessness of the current situation might be dispelled. Would anyone want to spend 60 dollars a year to participate in such a product? Of course not. What if it required a long time like 5 or 10 years. Such an idea - it is unthinkable.

Tom said...

Er.... Harper didn't send our troops into Afghanistan, the Liberal government did.
Maybe you should blame him for the Korean War as well!

The Mound of Sound said...

No, Tom, you're quite right. Chretien had us in Kabul as part of a multi-national force policing the capital and protecting Karzai. Then the Americans got bogged down in Iraq. At that point Hillier conned (and I mean just that) Martin into the Kandahar combat mission. He assured the PM that CF could handle Kandahar and another have enough strength remaining to take on a similar commitment elsewhere. Hillier told the Canadian public his force was going into combat to "kill scumbags" which he assured us numbered just a "few dozen."

Because we were there to cover for the U.S. while they overstayed their welcome in Iraq, ours was a limited time obligation. We should have been long gone from Afghanistan in 2009.

Harper, sensing enormous political gain, turned all macho (curious for a fatboy milquetoast) and ranted on about how he would never cut and run and similar bullshit. It worked and Dion capitulated.

During Harper's four years at the driver's seat, the Taliban strength in Kandahar province has multiplied substantially. Yet the PM never provided, never even sought to reinforce the Canadian contingent accordingly. As a few dozen turned into a few thousand we plodded on with a battle group of barely a thousand rifles.

That is the biggest as yet unknown scandal of our deployment to Afghanistan - the failure to reinforce. Few know what has only been publicly admitted a couple of times in passing that there were considerable stretches of time where we were fighting for our own survival in Afghanistan, fearing an actual military defeat at the hands of a bunch of farmers armed with Korean War vintage rifles and rocket propelled grenades. And yet we never multiplied our force.

The two-legged tantrum that passes for our prime minister has acute political awareness and, when he senses that Afhganistan was really just an open sewer that could create a huge political liability, he suddenly went from prime war booster to total mute. The greaseball fell utterly silent even as he figured out how we would "cut and run" when the extension he bullied out of the opposition expired in 2011.

So, when others proposed getting our soldiers out in 2009, Harper accused them of being unpatriotic and disloyal to the troops. He does exactly the same thing, with exactly the same result save for more dead Canadians two years later and it's just dandy. You have to be a Conservative to believe that crap.

Harper shamelessly exploited this war for his partisan personal advantage. The man's a pig.