In what is unquestionably his friendliest and least puerile campaign ad, Stephen Harper says that today’s election is not about him. It is, for my money, a good ad. If the Tories’ ads all felt as mature as this one, many Canadians would probably feel rather differently about the Prime Minister. The problem, of course, is that when Mr. Harper says this election is not about him, he’s dead wrong. It is most definitely about him, and if he finds himself genuinely bemoaning this, he only has himself to blame.
In general, people become overly emotional when discussing politics. Adversaries are confused with enemies; people of the other viewpoint are not simply wrong, they are dangerous. Usually, it is a mistake to think like this. The Globe & Mail’s John Ibbitson, a man who is, to put it mildly, far less critical of Harper than most, lamented the fact that we often see things this way.
As much as I agree with Ibbitson on principle, I disagree with him that to think of Harper in such extreme terms is a mistake. There is next to nothing about Harper that isn’t extreme. Yes, I do look at him as an enemy. Yes, I do think he’s dangerous. I do not think of him this way because he is a conservative. Conservatives can hold whatever views they like, for all I care. The problem with Harper, as it has been put so eloquently by many others, is not the ideas he defends; it’s his modus operandi when it comes to defending them.
There is nothing problematic with being an adversary of the left. If your agenda involves lowering taxes for the wealthy and for big business, if you want to eliminate barriers to the expansion of Alberta’s oil business or buy F-35s that are almost assuredly more expensive than the price you claim to have paid for them… Hell, if you want to eliminate the gun registry or reduce the length of the census, as far as I’m concerned, I’ll be sure not to vote for you, but that’ll be it. If that was all I could criticize about Harper, I wouldn’t look at him as a danger or as an enemy.
Our political system breeds people such as Mr. Harper as much as it attracts them. If and when we vote him out, it’s completely possible that the only change we’ll be getting is a new face and name at the head of our government. But when you…
- Cut the CBC’s funding, then pretend you haven’t actually cut it and then, when that bullshit idea gets blown up by the first journalist with half an analytical brain, you have the gall to say the problem with the CBC isn’t the cuts, it’s ratings;
- Cut or even quit funding government organizations and NGOs because you feel their findings might expose some of your economic policies as misguided;
- Cut funding to the arts because you cynically calculate that artists and the people who support them are unlikely to vote for you anyway;
- Prorogue the Canadian Parliament several times in order to dodge policy questions;
- Make it harder for journalists to do their job, which you know all too well is to hold you accountable, than any Canadian Prime Minister in modern history;
- Eliminate nearly all forms of environmental policy, and then pretend you’ve done the opposite;
- Base your criminal law reforms not on evidence, but on the kind of dogma that would be found in the hypothetical “Reactionary’s guide to politics” ;
- Use the aforementioned dogma to justify keeping a Canadian citizen locked up in Guantanamo;
- Make a mockery out the relationship between the legislative/executive branches of government and the judiciary as well as go out of your way to publicly ridicule the country’s Chief Justice.
- Pull a page out of the PQ’s book and bring up the stupid fuckin’ niqab as a so-called issue to boost your poll numbers;
- Use Karl-Rovian wedge politics at every possible turn to further polarize the Canadian electorate;
- Muzzle your own MPs and prevent them, through your all-powerful office, from answering questions and taking part in TV debates;
- Globally, generally, and continuously insult the electorate’s intelligence;
- Much, much more.
When you do all that, you are not merely an adversary of the left. You are an enemy of democracy. He who views democracy as a necessary evil is merely lucid, but he who treats it as a nuisance is a menace. For nearly 10 years, Mr. Harper has treated the democratic institutions of Canada as mere obstacles to be surmounted. This, and not because he is a right-wing ideologue, is the reason why he has to go.