The problem with deciding to throw out a governing party that truly deserves to be defeated, as we did with Paul Martin’s Liberals earlier this year, is that we must inevitably, if only by default, choose another group of power-hungry wannabes to take their place.
The bigger problem, of course, is that, too often, this new, collateral-damage government — the current Conservative administration will serve nicely as our Exhibit A for this morning — will decide we really did mean to elect it, and then proceed to act as if we’ve somehow magically, mystically, mysteriously conferred on it a “mandate for change.”
But the biggest problem of all comes when this accidental government with its self-conferred people’s mandate is run by a man — cue Stephen Harper — who convinces himself we not only intended to elect Him to rule over us but also that He, and He alone, knows what’s best for us.
We have seen it coming. Everything that Stephen Harper has done since the federal election — appointing to his cabinet floor-crossing and unelected supporters who owe their loyalty to him rather than the party or the voters; firing communications advisors who don’t tell him what he wants to hear; muzzling cabinet ministers who just might possibly stray from his self-selected message track; slapping down MPs who forget they really are, in Pierre Trudeau’s famous description, “nobodies;” ignoring, avoiding or, if necessary, barring reporters who have the temerity to question his decisions — fits with a career-long pattern of behaviour.
Stephen Harper has always been an arrogant, hypocritical, blinkered, paranoid bully. The problem is that Stephen Harper is now an arrogant, hypocritical blinkered, paranoid bully… with power.
Consider, for just one arrogant, hypocritical, blinkered and paranoid example, Harper’s recent choice of former EnCana president Gwyn Morgan to head a new Public Appointments Commission, a key part of the prime minister’s much-ballyhooed accountability plan, which was one of the reasons many Canadians voted for him and which is supposed to put an end to political partisanship in the appointment of public officials.
The man Harper chose to put an end to cronyism, it turns out, is an Alberta-based a crony of the new prime minister not to mention a fundraiser for and donor to the Canadian Alliance/Conservative party.
In a recent speech at that august Toronto businessmen’s luncheonette, the Empire Club, Morgan went out of his way to attack the by-then-out-of-office Liberals for having been “embroiled in behaviour that is comparable to that of countries at the bottom of the world corruption index,” while praising his good friend Stephen Harper as a man “whose integrity is beyond reproach.”
Why wouldn’t you choose a man who said such nice things about you?
Leaving aside the perhaps deserved fate of bottom-feeding, bottom-of-the-world Liberal job seekers for the moment, just how even-handed can we expect Morgan to be in his dealings with non-Liberals and non-fellow corporate executives? Well, in the same speech, Morgan attacked immigrants from some black and Asian countries for importing violence to Canada, and argued that multiculturalism “has created ‘subcultures’ bearing little relation to the mainstream culture and values of the country.”
Harper’s response to criticism of his choice? In his own recent speech to the Empire Club — are we sensing a pattern here? — Harper insisted “no one is better qualified” than Morgan, and argued that the very idea of Liberals daring to question his accountability plans was “intolerable.” He urged his big business audience to instruct their politicians to “get with the program” — which is to say His program.
His program is not even to be confused with the Conservative party’s program.
If Harper’s appointment of Morgan reveals him to be no less arrogant or hypocritical or partisan than his Liberal predecessors, his decision this past week to pretend that Canadian soldiers are not dying in Afghanistan shows he has little more regard for the views even of his own political constituency when it comes to his my-way-or-the-highway policies.
Harper’s decisions to not only end the recent but widely accepted tradition of lowering Canadian flags to half mast as a mark of respect when our soldiers are killed in war but also impose a ban on media presence at the solemn ceremonies when their bodies are returned home were made for the most crass of political reasons. Harper wants to keep Canadians from noticing that more and more of our soldiers will be dying in the war in Afghanistan and keep a lid on any public policy debate about whether theirs is an acceptable, justifiable sacrifice.
While a majority of Conservatives probably do support sending our troops to Afghanistan, many are outraged at what Harper is doing.
Conservative politicians from Nova Scotia’s Ron Russell, himself a military veteran, to gadfly MP Garth Turner, who claims his emails are running 30 to one against the prime minister, to former Mulroney chief of staff Norman Spector, to former federal candidate and journalist Peter Kent have spoken out against the new policies.
Stephen Harper? He advised interim Liberal leader Bill Graham, who’d called on Harper “to reverse this unfortunate decision so that all Canadians can participate and pay their respects to our soldiers in a military ceremony” that “politicizing these funerals is entirely unbecoming his office.”
Unbecoming is a good description of Stephen Harper’s latest unilateral decisions.
Is this really why we got rid of Paul Martin?