Okay, I admit it. This will come as no surprise, but I have never voted for Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party or its predecessors the Canadian Alliance, the Reform Party or the Progressive Conservatives (dumbest party name ever). However, just so I'm not mistaken for some ideologue who votes for the party his parents voted for out of habit, I like to give reasons why I'm not voting for Harper. It's only fair.
In 2004, I didn't vote for Harper because I heard that he was a member of a Christian sect that recently stood outside a tavern and prayed to God to make it collapse. I figured it would be a bad idea having a guy like that guy in charge.
In 2006 I was disgusted at the Conservatives' stance against criminals. They wanted to make more laws that would create more criminals and then they wanted to strip those criminals of their democratic rights as citizens and not allow them to vote.
In 2008 Harper revolted me with his comment that ordinary folks don't care about art. As I explored in this post, I don't think he's incorrect. I merely understood loud and clear what he meant: "I don't care about art".
So here it is, 2011, and Harper is running again. Normally, my not voting for Stephen Harper wouldn't be news, or even worthy of a blog post. This year is special. It's special because if he wins, he'll be justified in pulling all his undemocratic horseshit. Read on.
It's fair to say that Harper has been a clever Prime Minister. Since he first formed a minority government, he's known exactly where he is. He knows that he can't get everything he wants because Parliament won't let him. For his first term (2006-2008), he laid very low indeed. He even, dare I say it, governed well. He was receptive to the wishes of the people and he tried to work with Parliament. What resulted was a government that was moderate and responsive.
During this period, I have to admit that I was surprised. I wondered, fleetingly, if Harper was worthy of my vote. But then I thought about it a little more and realized that Harper was biding his time. He had his own Conservative dreams and would have loved to realize them, but he had three left-wing parties breathing down his neck, constantly threatening to topple him if he didn't play ball. He knew that if he governed as a populist, he could maybe win a majority government and then truly do what he wanted, free of meddling.
In 2008, he made his bid for a majority government, called an election and got another minority. It was immediately obvious to me that he was frustrated and losing his patience. The man has dreams after all. He had plots to hatch and Parliament was getting in his way. Harper's government went from being clever to ruthless. This began a new phase for the Conservative government, what I call the "undemocratic" phase.
Since 2008, he has since done everything he could to do to push his agenda and thwart parliament. Remember this? He shut down Parliament. Twice. In 2008, after the election, he told the Governor General to shut down the show. Why? Because it looked like some other parties were going to form a coalition government. Then he did it again! In order to keep a Parliament prying into allegations that Canadian soldiers had handed prisoners to torturers, he closed down parliament. Why? "Uh... the Olympics are on... or something..." Can you imagine that? Imagine the government of the United States shutting down because there were Olympics happening! It would never, ever ever happen. Is Canada even a real country? Disgraceful. Disgrace, shame and INFAMY!!!
Why does this bug me so much? These are our elected officials. He was using proroguing, a rule used in the past to allow our elected officials to go home and help their constituents, to prevent himself from losing power and getting embarassed during the Olympics. If he is re-elected, what kind of message are we sending him? We are telling him it's okay to thwart democracy.
Well, it's not. It opens the door for future abuses, and greater ones. What's stopping Harper from shutting down Parliament whenever it's inconvenient for him? What's stopping him from closing Parliament indefinitely? Legally, nothing. The Governor General can legally do just about anything here, and he/she usually does whatever the Prime Minister asks. The only way to keep Harper accountable for this total bullshit is at the polls. Vote him out!
Need another reason? Okay. How about this? His government was found in contempt of Parliament. His own government! This is the first time in the history of Canada that a government has been found in contempt of its own Parliament! Why did this happen? He's buying some really expensive military jets from the States and refuses to tell Parliament how much they really cost.
Well, Steve, we have a right to know. It's our money and our elected officials get to find out what you're up to. That's why we have Parliament and opposition parties. What are you hiding? Why are you hiding it?
Once again, if we re-elect that guy, it's sending the wrong message. If we put him back in the PMO, it tells him, "Go ahead, Steve. Govern without our consent or knowledge. We think you're cool for being such a rogue! Would you like to hit us over the head with a truncheon?"
(The funny thing is that, you know what? I think the Canadian Forces could use some modern jets. Those junky CF-18s are nearly thirty years old. The Americans seem to be getting a bit, um... unreliable. We can't continue to rely on them to protect us from commies and we need to be more self-sufficient. Bring on the multi-million-dollar hardware. Just be truthful about how much it costs.)
This undemocratic strain in Harper's governing style is now leaking into his campaigning style. If you want to attend a public rally where Harper is speaking, you have to submit to a pre-approved identity check. Then, once you're there, if Harper's goons see that you're wearing a T-shirt they don't like or not acting enthusiastic enough, they can toss you. Then when Harper takes the podium for questions, we only get five. If we ask him why we only get five questions before he leaves, he refuses to answer.
But here's what makes this scary. Our loveable mounties, the beloved RCMP, have recently admitted that they've helped Harper investigate and remove people Harper doesn't like. Can you imagine that? Our national police force is helping the Conservative party conduct its unwholesome business!
I'm reading now that Harper has actually apologized for chucking people out of his gatherings. Is an apology really in order? What does this apology really mean? Is he sorry for being creepy and undemocratic? I doubt it. He issued the orders in the first place. Surely he thought about the moral consequences and decided to do it anyway because he didn't want to be embarassed. No, what he's really sorry for is that people called attention to his George-Bush-style campaigning.
Dear Canadian readers, Harper has kept his minority government since 2006. He has been waiting for his majority for a long time. I now know in my heart what he wants. He wants American-style Republican government. It's not religious, because if it was, they would actually abide by Jesus' wishes to live poor and await the next life. It's not capitalist, because if they were true capitalists they would want fair trade, not monopolies. They don't really believe in smaller government because they spend billions on authoritarian institutions like the military and police. They're not democratic because they are hell-bent on locking more people behind bars and then denying their right to vote. The only word I can use to describe them is Opportunists. They wrap themselves in religious, capitalist and libertarian rhetoric when they are, in fact, the antithesis of all they proclaim. They are servants of powerful men who want more power.
Don't believe me? Go ahead and vote for Harper. Give him his majority and see. Then come back in four years, read this post and weep.
Alternately, why don't we all save ourselves a lot of trouble and vote the crooks out? If we hand government to another party, I guarantee Harper won't run again. We'll be rid of him and maybe, just maybe, the Conservatives will get the message that it's not okay to pull this bullshit.
I once took a political leadership class in university. In it, my professor told me about many of the constitutions of other, less-democratic countries. These constitutions are well-thought-out and sincere in their desire for democracy. However, powerful dictators in these countries routinely declare martial law, choose not to hold elections and make people disappear at night. By contrast, Canada has very few legal safeguards on our constitutional monarchy. Our Governor General has the power to roll tanks through the streets, dissolve Parliament on a whim and choose not to hold elections.
Why doesn't it happen here? It just isn't done. We have inherited a British Parliamentary tradition of fair play, compromise and reverence for our method of legislating and certain things you just don't do.
So please, dear Canadian readers, when election day arrives, vote NDP. Vote Green. Vote Liberal (even though they started this proroguing bullshit in the first place). Vote for the skeleton of Abraham Lincoln. Vote for the giant, malevolent toad who only you can see and tells you to do things. Take your ballot and wipe your ass with it.
Anything, anybody but Harper.