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Friday, November 28, 2008

Canada, where democracy comes to die

If Stephen Harper used his powers for good instead of evil can you imagine the utopia we might all live in?

Can you imagine what might happen if the Prime Minister spent even a faction of the time addressing the real issues of the Country that he now devotes to his personal political ambitions.

Canada is suffering and will continue to suffer for some time to come but instead of doing anything about it Mr. Harper, in what can only be described as a cold, calculating and heartless political game, has decided to use this opportunity as an excuse to choke off funding to his political adversaries and strengthen his grip on power.

As a result, instead of our elected officials spending their time addressing the real problems facing Canada they are now battling for their political survival while Mr. Harper masterminds his attack to its inevitably successful conclusion: The destruction of all opposition to his rule.

911 was the crisis that gave the Bush administration the excuse they needed to move forward with a pre-planned war in Iraq and to oversee the removal of civil liberties and freedoms through the “Patriot Act”. The Harper government learned much from the U.S. Republican Party. So much that one might suspect Dick Cheney himself of working in the Conservative war room these days.

Thanks to the current financial crisis Stephen Harper now has the 911 he needs to move his political agenda forward.

For many voters the cutting of federal subsidies for political parties might seem reasonable. In fact I agree that it might even be the right thing to do, if handled properly, but doing it under the guise of defending the economy and without giving reasonable notice to the affected parties is nothing more than an opportunistic attack on democracy itself.

The halting of the $1.95 per vote federal subsidy for parties will save taxpayers about 27 million dollars but that’s a drop in the bucket in a multi-billion dollar economy.

The cut itself might not have much of a financial impact but doing it this soon after an expensive election, without warning and without giving the opposition parties a transition period that would allow them to adjust and evolve is like dropping an atomic bomb on your enemies.

This cut will all but silence political opposition in Canada for years to come and the only people who want to do that are within the Conservative Party of Canada.

These cuts will essentially destroy the ability of the Liberals, NDP, Bloc and Greens to wage any kind of campaign in the foreseeable future. In fact it might even lead to the total collapse and disappearance of one or more of the parties and almost certainly prevent new political parties from ever forming.

Some analysts have referred to the Harper move as a gutsy “roll of the dice” but I disagree. In fact, just he opposite is true. This comes across to me as the act of an intelligent though gutless individual who doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to face his opponents head on.

No matter how many times I run the possible outcomes through my feeble mind I can’t find a single scenario that would see this backfire on the Conservative party. I can, on the other hand, find many that will be disastrous to their opponents and to democracy itself.

If one of the opposition parties decides to vote in favor of this action, or even to sit out some members so it can “passively” get through the House, it will mean that several of the opposition parties will find themselves teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, if not pushed over the edge, by losing between 60% and 80% of their funding.

This might not worry some voters who think the mainstream parties should raise their own money, but consider if you will that cutting off this funding will almost guarantee that small “grassroots” parties just starting up and hoping to bring a fresh new voice to Canadian politics will be crushed into silence before they can even get out of the starting gate.

It will also mean that only those with deep pockets can take part in the political debate of the federation and that’s a reality that should concern everyone.

In this scenario the Harper Conservatives are the only winners.

If, on the other hand, the opposition parties decide to topple the Conservative government they have two options before them.

The first is forcing another election. An election Canadian’s don’t want and the opposition parties can’t afford just 5 weeks after the polls closed on the last campaign.

The only party in the financial position to fight another election today is the Conservative party.

With the opposition parties nearly broke and because the Conservatives will be able to claim their adversaries forced an election because they felt “entitled to their entitlements” Mr. Harper will surely walk away with a majority.

At the end of the day, with the opposition parties even more in debt and their coffers emptier than they are now, Mr. Harper will simply re-introduce the funding cut and totally wipe his opponents off the political map.

In this scenario the Harper Conservatives are the only winners.

A third option is for the opposition parties to topple the government and form some sort of loose coalition to lead the federation.

This move will allow Mr. Harper to sit in opposition while his opponents are thrust into governing at a time when the economy is collapsing, job losses are growing, businesses are shutting their doors and deficits are mounting.

This scenario will see the fallout of Canada’s economic woes rest not on Conservative shoulders but squarely on the shoulders of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc equally. The Harper Conservatives meanwhile will be free to attack from the opposition benches while never getting the least bit sullied by the economic mess.

After a year (at best) of taking a political beating any coalition will likely fall apart, Canadians will end up back at the polls and Mr. Harper will be free to bill himself as a knight riding to the rescue on a shining white horse to claim a majority victory. (At which time he will once again simply re-introduce the election funding cut and strangle his indebted adversaries to death).

In this scenario the Harper Conservatives are the only winners.

It may be a brilliant political move but unfortunately the people who will suffer the most are the ones who have the least to gain from all this political wrangling, but everything to lose, the voters.

They are also, by the way, the last thing anyone in Ottawa is thinking about these days.

Once the political intrigue is over on Parliament Hill the economy will still be in the toilet and the smaller provinces or regions at the edges of the federation will still be neglected, abused and forgotten. As an added bonus however, any hope of nurturing a new or different political perspective in Canada will be dead once and for all and the Conservatives will have achieved their ambition of ruling with an unquestioned iron fist for many years to come.

Welcome to Canada, where democracy comes to die.


Anonymous said...

First of all Mr. Higgins I would like to applaud your writings. You truly have a gift that would make most writers envious. Your tell it like it is style is a straight forward honest approach, to the current political climate in Canada. It also shows your true intuitive nature. Not only are you capable of telling it like it is but you take an honest approach to the problems that your province faces in its dealings with Canada.

Now if I may comment on your writing.

What I cannot understand Patriot is how complacent Canadians truly are. Are we that ignorant to the fact that we are unable to stand up for what we want or need as a country. Let’s face it. The opposition parties are fubared if they do and fubbared if they don’t. Most Canadians, those that do actually vote, will see this as nothing more than the oppositions trying to save its pocket book. The other ten percent that actually pays attention to what is happening on Parliament Hill will realize that this is nothing more than an attack to completely kill of all enemies of the Conservative party.
Does this scare me? Damb right it does. What we have here is a regional party trying to take control of the House of Commons anyway it possibly can. Alberta is not hurting for jobs .It isn’t going to get that big of a surplus, but that’s still not too bad compared to what the rest of the world is going thru, let alone the rest of the country.
Now if we do get that coalition government, who is going to stand up for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Who is going to stand up for Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick? The point I’m trying to get at is that certain regions of the country will be totally forgotten accept those that vote for a party that has enough seats to make a difference in Ottawa. It seems we have many a dark day to look forward to in this country. Who is going to save Canada from Harper? That it seems is the million dollar question.

The Public Eye said...

As much as I dislike the Harper Conservatives, I have less sympathy than you might think. Here is where I am coming from: The self-declared objective of all political parties is to gain power and use the levers of government to reward friends and punish enemies. The fact that professional politicians will have to earn their own way, and take their tin cups to their wealthy benefactors rather than to the taxpayers, does not cause me great worry.

Might this move "lead to the total collapse and disappearance of one or more of the parties"? It might well. If so, to this extent, I applaud it. I devoutly hope that one political party does disappear, and indeed devoutly hope that they would all disappear and take their rotten lobbyist-infested kleptocracy (aka the Government of Canada) with them.

Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, just like the citizens of all provinces and territories, we will only be free when the Maple Leaf exists only as a historical remnant.

That being said, I'm not blind to the main point of the article. Of course, as you suggest, it's quite obvious what the Conservatives are up to. They are simply refining and taking to the next level the Nixonian/Rovian strategy of defunding-enemies that caused them to eliminate Charter Challenges and sundry other programs. As political tacticians, they are reckoning that this will be a one-week blip in the polls at best, and then they will reap long-term benefits of cutting off other parties' communication channels. In this political calculation, the Tories are likely correct. People will forget, as they always do.

As I said, I'm not overly sympathetic to political parties' abilities to camapaign; but I do see what the Tories are doing here and hate it (and them) for doing it. It's sad, and part of the reason they'll get away with it is that Canadians are increasingly disaffected from and apathetic to ANYTHING "our" government and parties do. Canadians in overwhelming numbers are as the Ancient Romans: they do NOT see this government as "our" government, but "their" government. And really, does what "they" do ever have a lasting effect (much less a beneficial one) on "us"?

Anonymous said...

I am "NOT" alone.

WJM said...

Myles, what do you think of the home-grown anti-democratic streak in Danny Williams and his coterie of sycophants and yes-persons?

That would make a good posting topic, wouldn't it?

Patriot said...

An interesting question Wallace. Personally I don't like it.

Unlike yourself I like some of the things that this government have done but I don't like the fact that the House is rarely open and I don't like the apparent silencing of an already small opposition.

Democracy needs debate.

Anonymous said...

Myles I thought your readers would like to hear this.


Those involved with the NLFirst Party knew this would happen.Why did the province fail itself yet again for a voice in Ottawa.We have so much to learn as a nation.Maybe next time we will learn to see things in a differant light.Our own.


Anonymous said...

A great little vidieo Myles.


Showing just how mad those in the west are becoming.The Alberta Separatist Party is going full tilt.While those of us in Newfoundland and Labrador keep giving our Oil and our jobs to Ottawa.

I hope there is enough left over from our welfare check to feed the kids when this country does fall apart.Who will speak for Newfoundland and Labrador.

God save the Premier, to hell with the Queen.

Glenn said...

Hey Miles, the economy is forecasted to grow by 0.4% in this quarter, meaning "technically" we are not in a recession and will have to wait another 6 months before we are "technically" in another recession. Just to be technical and all.

Are you guys planning a stand up for Canada rally?



What do you think of Danny supporting the coalition government? Musing that the lower Churchill project has the probability of moving forward now that the Bloc will hold Veto power!

Also Myles, I noticed NL fighting for federalism champion Ed Hollett supports this dalliance with the separatists party. Talk about having zero cred on the unity front now eh? I guess it wasn't really about what was good for the country to begin with but what was good for me and my party.

Like a light shining on cockroaches.

May you live in interesting times my friend.

babe in boyland said...

with the governor general's acquiescence, mr harper has done a deeply unparliamentary thing by proroguing the house. they have denied the people`s elected representatives their right (and responsibility) to a confidence vote in the face of the pm`s outrageous (non)economic update.

some might say that the economic crisis we face should influence the gg`s decision. it should not. it is not her business to safeguard the canadian economy. it is her business to safeguard its democratic and parliamentary traditions. she has failed and this country is the worse for it.

Patriot said...

Very accruate assessment "Babe".

It's clear she has proven the useless waste of taxpayer money the GG's position actually is.

She has now set the precedent for all future governments. Now whenever a PM is facing a non-confidence vote all he/she has to do is suspend parliament and they can continue to rule without having the support of the Commons.

Just goes to show how totally dysfunctional the Canadian parliament is. It proves the point that this site has been making for years, Canada's government system does not work and should be changed.