A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Harper History, Part 1 - The Early Years

This is the first of a series of monthly articles examining the actions of Stephen Harper and his Party colleagues both before and after his rise to power with particular emphasis upon words and actions that effect our democracy. The 2015 Federal Election will undoubtedly be critical to to whether or not our Parliamentary Democracy survives or degrades further into the abyss of an elected dictatorship. It is I believe important that we remember the actions of this Regime over the last 15 years or so that have moved us so close to this situation. It is these things that I hope to highlight during the coming months.

Its hard to know where to start but in order to 'set the stage' and with the above in mind, let us start with Harpers view of our democracy just after he had resigned his (Reform Party) parliamentary seat on January 14, 1997 to join the National Citizens Coalition. He and Tom Flanagan coauthored an article entitled "Our benign dictatorship" in which they bemoan the “concentrated power structure” of the government and the “winner take all” election system and praise the “sharing of power” and coalition governments.
This is, of course the exact opposite of their polices once they come to power, it has become in fact more of A Malignant Dictatorship.

It was during this period that he delivered a speech to the Council for National Policy, a conservative American think tank during which he called Canada "a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it" and other disparaging remarks. He was also involved in an ultimately unsuccessful legal battle against federal election laws restricting third-party advertising and several campaigns against the Canadian Wheat Board,

After the Canadian Alliance's poor showing in the 2000 election, Harper coauthored the infamous "firewall letter" which called on the provincial government to "build firewalls around Alberta" in order to stop the federal government from redistributing its wealth to less affluent regions, and replace the Canada Pension Plan with a provincial plan! He also launched a constitutional challenge against the 2002 Canada Elections Act regarding the limits that it set upon 3rd party spending The court found that, though the spending limits infringe upon section 2b of the Charter, the law is reasonable and is justified in light of section 1. The majority concluded that the objective of the spending limits is electoral fairness. The law has an effect in creating "a level playing field for those who wish to engage in the electoral discourse, enabling voters to be better informed". (We note that the Harper Regimes recent “Fair Elections Act” has increased the spending limits considerably)

In a 2001 article in The Report magazine, Harper expressed his support for a 'presidential' system and cast aspersions on the calibre of elected representatives showing a preference for forming cabinet from non elected individuals.
"[T]he superiority of Congress over Parliament pales beside a comparison of the executive branches in our systems. The difference between the calibre and experience of the Bush cabinet - or even the worst American cabinet in recent years - to any Canadian equivalent is embarrassing to us. The consistency with which the American executive system recruits top people compared to our 'fused' system, in which cabinet members are chosen from among MPs, is one reason why the United States has made the long climb from peripheral outpost to the world's sole superpower."
After a very hostile leadership campaign in 2002 Harper defeated Stockwell Day to become leader of the Alliance Party and took the seat vacated by Prestom Manning in a by election, where both the Liberaials and the Conservatives did not run a candidate following a parliamentary tradition of allowing opposition leaders to enter the House of Commons unopposed.

Tom Flanagan in spelling out how the Harper camp used the membership lists and a phone and mail out campaign to promote Harper in this race, has this to say:-
It is fitting that database technology helped revive the party, because the Reform Party from the beginning had always been based on database technology.......   The single database has sustained the Reform Party and Canadian Alliance, in good times and bad, by allowing the national office to conduct a unified program of internal communications and fundraising within the membership.  Founded in 1987 when the new era of communications technology was just starting to come into its own, the Reform Party (and the Canadian Alliance as its successor) is truly a database party. “ As indeed the Conservative Party of Canada was to become and who quickly learned how to use and abuse such systems to their own ends.

Shortly thereafter Harper said that the Atlantic Provinces were trapped in "a culture of defeat" and that much of Canada was trapped by the same "can't-do" attitude. These remarks were widely condemned by both Federal and Provincial politicians. In 2003 Harper and Stockwell Day co-wrote a letter to The Wall Street Journal in which they condemned the Canadian government's unwillingness to participate in the 2003 invasion of Iraq
In the great wars of the last century -- against authoritarianism, fascism, and communism -- Canada did not merely stand with the Americans, more often than not we led the way. We did so for freedom, for democracy, for civilization itself. “
Standing against authoritarianism & for democracy does not now seem to be his focus!

On January 12, 2004, Harper announced his resignation as Leader of the Opposition, in order to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. He ran against Belinda Stronach and Tony Clement, Peter McKay did not run but was named as deputy leader afterwards. Harper was elected the first leader of the new Conservative Party of Canada on March 20, 2004 in his speech to the convention he said:-
I stand before you on my record. It is a record of uniting people and uniting organizations. It is a record of tearing down walls and of building bridges. It is a record of representing conservative ideals, of putting forward conservative policies, of fighting for conservative values.”
It is true that he was fundamentally responsible for 'uniting the right' but went on to become one of the most divisive Prime Ministers in Canadian history and aggressively partisan in HIS view of 'conservative values'.

Next up 2004-2006 Conservatives in opposition.

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Owen Gray said...

In retrospect, two things stand out, Rural:

1)Harper's utter contempt for parliamentary government.

2) Harper's focus on destroying what he called "a Welfare State."

Rural said...

The first item becomes even more obvious as we move forward Owen. Keeping the articles to a reasonable length is going to be a problem!