Friday, August 14, 2015

Does the Harper government deserve to be re-elected?

 Photo Attribution:

The campaign is on!  Canada's 42nd general election will be held on Monday, October 19, 2015. We have been given the opportunity to replace a tired and exceedingly mean-spirited government.  We have a chance to remove from office one Stephen Joseph Harper, the most ideologically-driven and partisan prime minister in our history.  It isn't going to be easy.  The Conservative Party of Canada has a war chest just with funds.  The party will continue to spend millions of dollars on ads attacking Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

The election was called on August 2nd.  At 11 weeks, this is the longest campaign in modern Canadian history.  Don't be deceived by the bombardment of negative ads.  Don't be sidetracked by the Conservative Party's fixation on Justin Trudeau's hair.  Concentrate on the real issues and make an informed decision.

This is not an ad hominem attack on Mr. Harper.  It is an attack on his policies and a lament for the damage those polices have inflicted on Canada.  The Harper government should be soundly defeated for what it has done to this great nation and its standing in the world.  I will outline my reasoning in a clear and concise fashion:

1.  The Economy: Canada's economy is sluggish.  It is stagnating.  It has contracted over the first five months of 2015.  We are on the verge of  a recession.  Yet the Harper government refuses to take responsibility for the country's poor economic performance.  Of course, it is quick to accept the credit for good economic news.  In the August 24, 2015 issue of Maclean's magazine, columnist Scott Feschuk writes that Stephen Harper is "running on his economic leadership,even as the economy hurtles toward recession.  He's running on his fiscal record, despite seven straight deficits and an addiction to bribing Canadians with their own money."

Prime Minister Harper has blamed the sluggish economy on external factors and low oil prices.  Yet the economies of other developed countries are not performing as poorly and it was Stephen Harper himself who placed Canada's hopes for economic growth on the oil industry. He is the one who put all this country's eggs in one basket.

2.  The Environment:  The Harper government's record on the environment is absolutely disgraceful.  Canada's record on decreasing green house gases is shameful and it is a blight on our world-wide reputation.  At home, the government has reduced environmental regulations and muzzled the findings of scientists.  It regards them as "radicals."

3.  Jobs:  Where are the jobs, especially for our young people?  Ask anyone sending out resumes how difficult it is to find work other than part-time, seasonal and contractual.  Are we suppose to just meekly accept that our children will not have long term jobs and secure pensions in a country as rich and full of resources as Canada?  Surely young Canadians deserve better.  Surely they deserve a more hopeful future.

The Harper government believes in the fallacy of trickle-down supply-side economics. Conservatives argue that lower taxes and less government create jobs.  They contend that the private sector will create employment for the masses.  So, why hasn't it happened?  It seems that more companies are laying off employees rather than hiring.

4.  The Long Form Census;  The Harper government has put an end to Canada's long form census, a useful tool for planners and an invaluable source of information about this country.  Ask any librarian or urban planner or researcher about the usefulness of the long form census.

5.  The Post Office:  Thanks to the Harper government, home mail delivery is being phased out. This will cause untold hardship for the elderly and the disabled.  We will have people falling on ice as they try to retrieve their mail during the winter.  We already have large and unsightly outdoor mail boxes littering the landscape.  If other countries can afford home mail delivery, why can't Canada?  Canada Post has been poorly managed.  Stamp prices rise exponentially and postal services continue to deteriorate,

6.  The CBC:  The Harper government is destroying the CBC, our public broadcaster, in a piecemeal fashion.  It is starving Canada's national network bit by bit with budget cuts.  With each budget cut, the CBC bleeds more and more,  Quality goes down because of a lack of financing and people complain about using taxpayer funding for inferior programming.  The CBC is necessary because it shines a light on Canada.  It brings Canadian communities together.  Private broadcasting, on the other hand, tends to simulcast commercial-filled American shows

What the Conservative government is doing to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is not only reprehensible, it is insidious.  Rather than taking an axe to the CBC, it is wounding it one cut at a time until it dies a long and lingering death.  That is why it is why it is a essential that a new government restore funding to our public broadcaster.

7.  Gun Control: The Tories have relaxed gun control laws and they have killed the long gun registry.  As the American experience has taught us, the more guns available, the more murders and firearm accidents.  Do we really want to emulate our neighbours to the south with regard to firearms?

8.  Fear Mongering:  Canadians certainly should be vigilant where terrorism is concerned, but the Conservative government has played on people's fears.  It has used the fear factor for partisan advantage and has portrayed the parliamentary opposition as naive and soft on terrorism.  It has done this for electoral advantage. Furthermore, the Conservatives have demonstrated a lack of concern for the civil liberties of Canadians with the passing of its controversial Bill -51.    

9.  Aboriginal Peoples:  In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the Indian Residential Schools and began setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  In 2010, he signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Unfortunately, however, his government is responsible for severe cutbacks to aboriginal organizations and the abandonment of the Kelowna Accord of November of 1985.  The accord, a ten-year plan to improve the health, education, living conditions and economic opportunities for Aboriginal peoples, was the result of consultations between the federal government, provincial and territorial governments, and five national aboriginal organizations.

Stephen Harper has shown indifference and a lack of understanding with regard to the more than 1,100 aboriginal women gone missing or murdered since 1980.  He has refused to call a formal federal inquiry into the tragedy.  He regards it merely a criminal matter and will not consider the social implications.  According to the prime minister, an inquiry would be "another study . . .in place of action."  Meanwhile, in May of 2014, the RCMP stated that the number of indigenous females missing or murdered was three to four times higher in proportion to the rest of the population.

10.  Poverty: That is the issue none of the party leaders want to talk about much. However, it is a sad reality in this country.  Under the policies of the Harper government, the gap between the rich and poor is growing wider every day.  Our social safety net is fraying.  In this purportedly "developed" nation, children are going to bed hungry or without proper nutrition and many people are homeless and destitute.

11.  Taxation and Government Ads:  Due to their ideology, the Tories will not raises taxes on the wealthiest Canadians and neither will they increase corporate taxes.  They claim to be careful with taxpayers' money.  Yet they have wasted millions of dollars on government ads that are thinly-disguised pro-Conservative propaganda.  The government's 2009-10 Economic Action Plan ad campaign cost $52.3 million (Toronto Star, April 30, 2015).  In addition, the media have been inundated with ads featuring contented Canadian families and soccer-playing children.  They promote the supposed benefits of Conservative budget measures such as income sharing (which only helps those who don't need help).

Since the Conservatives came to power, an estimated $750 million has been spent on government ad blitzes (Toronto Star, April 30, 2015).  Admittedly, some of the ads, such as public health alerts, have provided necessary information.  Most, however, have shamelessly promoted the policies of the Conservative government.for partisan gain.  Remember the 2013 Job Grant ads?  Those ads ran before the program was even implemented.

It should be noted that both the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation and Democracy Watch (an Ottawa-based citizen group advocating democratic reform) have been highly critical of the Conservative government's ads.

12.  Foreign Policy: Canada has traditionally been regarded as a middle power, an honest broker and a peacemaker.  Under the guidance of Lester Pearson, this country pioneered the concept of sending peacekeeping troops to areas of conflict.  Stephen Harper, however, has tried to change Canada's image to that of a warrior nation.  He has not been supportive of the United Nations, which, although imperfect, is the only international organization for achieving peace, security and co[operation among nations.  It promotes human rights and tries to solve humanitarian and social problems.

Due to the Harper government's policies, Canada suffered the embarrassment of losing its 2010 bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.  Yves Fortier, Canadian ambassador to the UN from 1988 to 1991, stated that Canada's humiliating failure to win the seat was "a reflection of things that Canada has done or not not done that a majority of nations disapprove of."

Here are just two examples of Conservative policy that cost this country an important a voice on the UN Security Council: Some countries, especially vulnerable island nations, were displeased with Canada's lack of enthusiasm for taking measures to decrease greenhouse gases, while African nations were upset about Canada's reduction of aid to that continent.

13.  Fighter Jets:  The Conservatives have planned to purchase 65 very costly fighter planes (Kevin Page, Canada's former parliamentary budget officer, has estimated that the cost of the planes would be a whopping $29.3 billion over 30 years).  The Tories chose the F-35 jets without a competitive bidding process. They plan to spend billions of dollars on planes that are unlikely to meet Canada's needs,  University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers has contended that the F-35 is not designed to suit Canada's Arctic and Maritimes.  He has written that purchasing a single-engine fighter "would almost inevitably result in the needless loss of Canadian pilots."  Byers has also stated the following: "“Instead of blowing the defence budget on a fleet of unproven, hyper-expensive F-35s that could soon become outdated, we should be looking for a lower-risk, lower-cost alternative.”

The purchase of the F-35 jets is currently on hold, but has not been ruled out.

14.  The Mike Duffy Scandal and the Senate:  The Mike Duffy scandal has further tainted the record of the Harper government.  As Senator Duffy's fraud trial continues, more will be revealed about the inner workings of the PMO and it won't be pretty.  Duffy and another Conservative appointee to the Red Chamber, Pamela Wallin, have been accused of making fraudulent Senate expense claims.

Many Canadians are calling for reform or abolition of the Upper House. In July of 2015, Prime Minister Harper vowed not to name any new senators until the Senate is reformed (there are currently 22 vacancies).  The prime minister is leaving it to the provinces to sort out the mess, putting the onus on them to come up with a plan for reform.


I have focussed on 14 issues in my reasoning as to why the Harper government should be defeated. There are certainly many more, but I do not have the time or space to write about them in one opinion piece.

This federal election provides a chance for Canadians, especially those between the ages of 18 and 25, to exercise their franchise. On October 19th, let your voices be heard.  Please get out and vote!  It costs nothing and you will be doing something that people in many countries don't have the right to do.  Our democratic system is far from perfect but, as Winston Churchill pointed out, it's better than all the others.  You may be disillusioned and disenchanted, but apathy is not the answer.  Would you rather live in a dictatorship or a totalitarian country?  I don't think so.

Be a part of the democratic process,  Let the politicians know that they have to listen to you if they want your vote.  Don't get fooled again!  Put an end to the Harper era.  Vote this tired and cruel government out of office.  Put an end to this ugly regime.

- Joanne