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Mark McCaw ~ twitter's @bigpicguy

Author of "Insights Inside a Mind" ~ blogging the big picture

Friday, 8 April 2011

Everything I don't want in a Prime Minister (long)

     I have never hidden my disdain for Stephen Harper and what I believe he stands for. As a serious political junkie I pay a great deal of attention to politics, policies and the people involved. I am unashamedly opinionated which is my right in a democratic nation. You have the right to disagree and I respect that, but only if you can argue your point logically. When people resort to rhetorical statements and name calling I tune them out but I am always willing to engage anyone in meaningful debate.

What best demonstrates why I am convinced Stephen Harper is completely the wrong man to lead Canada (or any other nation for that matter) is revealed in a speech he gave to a US audience, prior to his hijack of Canada's conservative movement, while he was still president of the right-wing "National Citizens Coalition" (you will note he apparently had no problem leading a coalition at that time). While this may be a lengthy rant, I intend it as a critique of the musings of the man who wants majority rule in my country, therefore it is only fair that nothing be taken out of context so the full unadulterated text of his speech is posted in italics with my own assessment after each paragraph. The text of the part of the speech I discuss in this blog is taken from a reprint which you can read in its entirety by clicking here. (Please note, the part of the speech I feel worst about is not discussed in this blog as I would prefer you read the speech in its entirety and come to your own conclusions, I just want to raise awareness)

***the speech Harper gave to a June 1997 Montreal meeting of the right-wing U.S. Council for National Policy, in which he spoke frankly about the aspirations and criticisms he holds for Canada

Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by giving you a big welcome to Canada. Let's start up with a compliment. You're here from the second greatest nation on earth. But seriously, your country, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world.

Considering the ugliness of US style conservative politics I wouldn't be caught dead calling something like that a light or inspiration unless your ultimate goal is to be lower than a snakebelly. It does, I will note, illustrate where the underpinnings of today's conservative strategy come from.

Now, having given you a compliment, let me also give you an insult. I was asked to speak about Canadian politics. It may not be true, but it's legendary that if you're like all Americans, you know almost nothing except for your own country. Which makes you probably knowledgeable about one more country than most Canadians.

I could leave you to make up your own mind about this one, however, it seems glaringly clear to me that while he claims he is insulting Americans, he quickly turns it to utter contempt for the intelligence of Canadians. Contempt seems to be a central theme with this man, after all, we are still in the intro to his speech here.

But in any case, my speech will make that assumption. I'll talk fairly basic stuff. If it seems pedestrian to some of you who do know a lot about Canada, I apologize.
I'm going to look at three things. First of all, just some basic facts about Canada that are relevant to my talk, facts about the country and its political system, its civics. Second, I want to take a look at the party system that's developed in Canada from a conventional left/right, or liberal/conservative perspective. The third thing I'm going to do is look at the political system again, because it can't be looked at in this country simply from the conventional perspective.

Just setup for a clear view of how much this man, who wants a majority government, hates Canadian things and holds the people of this nation in contempt. A level of contempt I still find shocking every single time I realize this man actually portrayed this view to an audience of foreign nationals.

First, facts about Canada. Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it. Canadians make no connection between the fact that they are a Northern European welfare state and the fact that we have very low economic growth, a standard of living substantially lower than yours, a massive brain drain of young professionals to your country, and double the unemployment rate of the United States.

Apparently we are nothing more than the worst of socialists and puzzling to Mr. Harper, we are proud we have compassion for our fellow citizens. For a man who has been bragging about the fantastic performance of our economy against all others, and taking the credit for policies put in place by Paul Martin, he sure seems to indicate only the US knows what they are doing. The first paragraph is just the first of many insults and apologies, he seems genuinely embarrassed we could never measure up to the greatness of our neighbour to the south.

In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-and-a-half, don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance.
That is beginning to change. There have been some significant changes in our fiscal policies and our social welfare policies in the last three or four years. But nevertheless, they're still very generous compared to your country.

This is certainly a sign of the compassion this man has. In his eyes we are lazy bums who can't wait to get rich living off the extrordinarily generous unemployment and welfare benefits. Here I have been donating food and money to local food banks and I was never told they aren't needed. To think I believed there was actual poverty in this country.

Let me just make a comment on language, which is so important in this country. I want to disabuse you of mis-impressions you may have. If you've read any of the official propagandas, you've come over the border and entered a bilingual country. In this particular city, Montreal, you may well get that impression. But this city is extremely atypical of this country.
While it is a French-speaking city -- largely -- it has an enormous English-speaking minority and a large number of what are called ethnics: they who are largely immigrant communities, but who politically and culturally tend to identify with the English community.
This is unusual, because the rest of the province of Quebec is, by and large, almost entirely French-speaking. The English minority present here in Montreal is quite exceptional.
Furthermore, the fact that this province is largely French-speaking, except for Montreal, is quite exceptional with regard to the rest of the country. Outside of Quebec, the total population of francophones, depending on how you measure it, is only three to five per cent of the population. The rest of Canada is English speaking.
Even more important, the French-speaking people outside of Quebec live almost exclusively in the adjacent areas, in northern New Brunswick and in Eastern Ontario.
The rest of Canada is almost entirely English speaking. Where I come from, Western Canada, the population of francophones ranges around one to two per cent in some cases. So it's basically an English-speaking country, just as English-speaking as, I would guess, the northern part of the United States.
But the important point is that Canada is not a bilingual country. It is a country with two languages. And there is a big difference.

It makes me wonder what impression the audience left with. That French is unimportant to anyone outside the province of Quebec? I would like Mr. Harper to defend the comments to Franco-Canadians outside the borders of Quebec but that wouldn't happen as apparently they are so unimportant they don't count. I'm close to positive he couldn't defend it inside Quebec. I guess he thinks his beloved Americans are stupid as well since he felt it imperative to explain to the denizens of the "great melting pot" what "ethnics" are. I wonder how that differs from those "very ethnics" his government has been wooing. In any event he continues on his theme of proving Canada and Canadians are more than worthy of any scorn that could be heaped upon us. ~ Then he continues...

As you may know, historically and especially presently, there's been a lot of political tension between these two major language groups, and between Quebec and the rest of Canada.
Let me take a moment for a humorous story. Now, I tell this with some trepidation, knowing that this is a largely Christian organization.
The National Citizens Coalition, by the way, is not. We're on the sort of libertarian side of the conservative spectrum. So I tell this joke with a little bit of trepidation. But nevertheless, this joke works with Canadian audiences of any kind, anywhere in Canada, both official languages, any kind of audience.
It's about a constitutional lawyer who dies and goes to heaven. There, he meets God and gets his questions answered about life. One of his questions is, "God, will this problem between Quebec and the rest of Canada ever be resolved?'' And God thinks very deeply about this, as God is wont to do. God replies, "Yes, but not in my lifetime.''
I'm glad to see you weren't offended by that. I've had the odd religious person who's been offended. I always tell them, "Don't be offended. The joke can't be taken seriously theologically. It is, after all, about a lawyer who goes to heaven.''
In any case. My apologies to Eugene Meyer of the Federalist Society.

Now a man who aspires to lead a majority governement in Canada should also aspire to bring Quebec closer rather than just write the whole thing off. He feigns disgust at everything Gilles Duceppe stands for, yet in these words he shows he could care less about a massive part of our population, those who call French their mother tongue. I'm not French, although I do live in Canada's only "official"  bilingual province, and I would think if francophones in this province were to read this they would go through the roof. He apologizes for the possibility of offending a "largely Christian audience" but has no problem offending a massive segment of the Canadian population and many non-francos like myself.

Second, the civics, Canada's civics.
On the surface, you can make a comparison between our political system and yours. We have an executive, we have two legislative houses, and we have a Supreme Court.
However, our executive is the Queen, who doesn't live here. Her representative is the Governor General, who is an appointed buddy of the Prime Minister.
Of our two legislative houses, the Senate, our upper house, is appointed, also by the Prime Minister, where he puts buddies, fundraisers and the like. So the Senate also is not very important in our political system.
And we have a Supreme Court, like yours, which, since we put a charter of rights in our constitution in 1982, is becoming increasingly arbitrary and important. It is also appointed by the Prime Minister. Unlike your Supreme Court, we have no ratification process.
So if you sort of remove three of the four elements, what you see is a system of checks and balances which quickly becomes a system that's described as unpaid checks and political imbalances.
What we have is the House of Commons. The House of Commons, the bastion of the Prime Minister's power, the body that selects the Prime Minister, is an elected body. I really emphasize this to you as an American group: It's not like your House of Representatives. Don't make that comparison.
What the House of Commons is really like is the United States electoral college. Imagine if the electoral college which selects your president once every four years were to continue sitting in Washington for the next four years. And imagine its having the same vote on every issue. That is how our political system operates.

To summarize, at least in my mind, Stephen Harper seems to be trying to point out the political system that had served us well for over a century is nothing but a dismal failure that is also a huge sham because the main point of governing in this country is to give all of your buddies and fundraisers jobs. He certainly stayed true to his word on that one anyway. Amazing how you can be so critical of something until the moment you have the power to change it, whereupon you use all of the tactics you derided to your utmost advantage. By this point if the word "hypocrite" hasn't creeped into your mind you will probably vote for this man.

*More setup from Harper*
In our election last Monday, the Liberal party won a majority of seats. The four opposition parties divided up the rest, with some very, very rough parity.
But the important thing to know is that this is how it will be until the Prime Minister calls the next election. The same majority vote on every issue. So if you ask me, "What's the vote going to be on gun control?'' or on the budget, we know already.
If any member of these political parties votes differently from his party on a particular issue, well, that will be national headline news. It's really hard to believe. If any one member votes differently, it will be national headline news. I voted differently at least once from my party, and it was national headline news. It's a very different system.
Our party system consists today of five parties. There was a remark made yesterday at your youth conference about the fact that parties come and go in Canada every year. This is rather deceptive. I've written considerably on this subject.
We had a two-party system from the founding of our country, in 1867. That two-party system began to break up in the period from 1911 to 1935. Ever since then, five political elements have come and gone. We've always had at least three parties. But even when parties come back, they're not really new. They're just an older party re-appearing under a different name and different circumstances.
Let me take a conventional look at these five parties. I'll describe them in terms that fit your own party system, the left/right kind of terms.

More or less setup for some more good ol' fashion down-home vitriol, I'm sure the audience at this point was feeling quite at home, their perverse view of all the wrongs of socialist Canada being confirmed by a man who wants you to give him absolute power. The next section will be of particular interest to NDP supporters.

Let's take the New Democratic Party, the NDP, which won 21 seats. The NDP could be described as basically a party of liberal Democrats, but it's actually worse than that, I have to say. And forgive me jesting again, but the NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men.
This party believes not just in large government and in massive redistributive programs, it's explicitly socialist. On social value issues, it believes the opposite on just about everything that anybody in this room believes. I think that's a pretty safe bet on all social-value kinds of questions.
Some people point out that there is a small element of clergy in the NDP. Yes, this is true. But these are clergy who, while very committed to the church, believe that it made a historic error in adopting Christian theology.
The NDP is also explicitly a branch of the Canadian Labour Congress, which is by far our largest labour group, and explicitly radical.
There are some moderate and conservative labour organizations. They don't belong to that particular organization.

One doesn't need to make much comment on this. He thinks you are evil communists however he would welcome your vote today. He actually seems to hate the NDP worse than liberals, however I'm sure both liberals and Catholics will be greatly interested to read his view of the liberal party and its supporters as follows.

The second party, the Liberal party, is by far the largest party. It won the election. It's also the only party that's competitive in all parts of the country. The Liberal party is our dominant party today, and has been for 100 years. It's governed almost all of the last hundred years, probably about 75 per cent of the time.
It's not what you would call conservative Democrat; I think that's a disappearing kind of breed. But it's certainly moderate Democrat, a type of Clinton-pragmatic Democrat. It's moved in the last few years very much to the right on fiscal and economic concerns, but still believes in government intrusion in the economy where possible, and does, in its majority, believe in fairly liberal social values.
In the last Parliament, it enacted comprehensive gun control, well beyond, I think, anything you have. Now we'll have a national firearms registration system, including all shotguns and rifles. Many other kinds of weapons have been banned. It believes in gay rights, although it's fairly cautious. It's put sexual orientation in the Human Rights Act and will let the courts do the rest.
There is an important caveat to its liberal social values. For historic reasons that I won't get into, the Liberal party gets the votes of most Catholics in the country, including many practising Catholics. It does have a significant Catholic, social-conservative element which occasionally disagrees with these kinds of policy directions. Although I caution you that even this Catholic social conservative element in the Liberal party is often quite liberal on economic issues.

So some of the bad things about liberals appear to be they think the right to own an arsenal of AK-47's is an idea best left south of the border, it seems clear to me the idea of gay rights is also a sore spot, even more so because it is an issue protected by the courts. This is important because, should you need to re-read one of the paragraphs above, Mr. Harper does not respect the makeup of the supreme court which could lead one to think he does not truly believe the highest arbitors of justice in the land are impartial in their rulings. I wonder if he got his views on Catholics from the results of the long form census he abolished. I fail to understand how religious affiliation should come into play, although history would suggest Mr. Harper seriously courts the vote of the religious right, much as republicans do in the US. A left leaning Christian would be of no value to him so under the bus go the Catholics of the country. The man loves to hate, if you aren't 100% in line with his view, you are wrong. The journey from this speech to a Prime Minister who for 5 years has proven he just cannot cooperate with anyone is complete. Opposition parties, civil servants, staffers, the media, citizens, and yes, even the world community which, of late, has taken a dimmer view of Canada, they are all wrong, only Stephen Harper knows what we want, what we need, and most of all, what we should be allowed to know.

It brings me no joy to show Progressive Conservatives he hates you also. You give the man the limited power he has and he thinks you're a bunch of pinko weaklings. If you are responsible for giving him a majority government you are going to find out you're just garbage like the rest of us. None of us understand what a horrible society we have when all we have to do is look south, to the kind of utopian society Stephen Harper wants for you. Stephen Harper is very much a Bush Republican. Maybe his own words will open your eyes. Maybe not. You should know his thoughts on progressive conservatives, so here, in his own words, is his assessment of the ideals you've held dear your entire life.

Then there is the Progressive Conservative party, the PC party, which won only 20 seats. Now, the term Progressive Conservative will immediately raise suspicions in all of your minds. It should. It's obviously kind of an oxymoron. But actually, its origin is not progressive in the modern sense. The origin of the term "progressive'' in the name stems from the Progressive Movement in the 1920s, which was similar to that in your own country.
But the Progressive Conservative is very definitely liberal Republican. These are people who are moderately conservative on economic matters, and in the past have been moderately liberal, even sometimes quite liberal on social policy matters.
In fact, before the Reform Party really became a force in the late '80s, early '90s, the leadership of the Conservative party was running the largest deficits in Canadian history. They were in favour of gay rights officially, officially for abortion on demand. Officially -- what else can I say about them? Officially for the entrenchment of our universal, collectivized, health-care system and multicultural policies in the constitution of the country.
At the leadership level anyway, this was a pretty liberal group. This explains one of the reasons why the Reform party has become such a power.
The Reform party is much closer to what you would call conservative Republican, which I'll get to in a minute.

You can clearly see all of the horrible traits you progressive conservatives have. Spending more money than anyone but Stephen Harper, you also think gays are people, you are mostly against the idea of botched illegal abortions putting the lives of the women you know in danger, and worst of all you believe in medicare. Yes, medicare, greatest of all evils, responsible for insurance companies only making billions in profits when they could be raking in trillions and denying your claim if you get more than a routine illness. His admiration for a system that turns away a significant portion of the population for the crime of being poor, in my opinion, does not seem to align itself with the ideas of the people of a country that considers medicare its most sacred trust.

Next, he goes easy on the bloc, mainly by dismissing them. The people of Quebec should be interested to know if they can't learn to vote properly, they just don't count.

The Bloc Quebecois, which I won't spend much time on, is a strictly Quebec party, strictly among the French-speaking people of Quebec. It is an ethnic separatist party that seeks to make Quebec an independent, sovereign nation.
By and large, the Bloc Quebecois is centre-left in its approach. However, it is primarily an ethnic coalition. It's always had diverse elements. It does have an element that is more on the right of the political spectrum, but that's definitely a minority element.

I hadn't realized until now the liberal use of the word coalition by Stephen Harper over the years. He's like a kid who learned a word people are somewhat mystified at and he likes to use it as often as possible so as to appear impressively intelligent.

Next he espouses his opinion on the Reform Party. I wonder how many of their followers still vote for the conservative party thinking it represents what they stand for. Sorry reformers, you may get some lovin' here, moreso than the others, but you lily-livered wimps didn't have the guts to go far enough. You may call yourselves Christians but you failed to spread the message it is your values and yours only everyone should adhere to. For the record I defer to Stephen Harper for his own words.

Let me say a little bit about the Reform party because I want you to be very clear on what the Reform party is and is not.
The Reform party, although described by many of its members, and most of the media, as conservative, and conservative in the American sense, actually describes itself as populist. And that's the term its leader, Preston Manning, uses.
This term is not without significance. The Reform party does stand for direct democracy, which of course many American conservatives do, but also it sees itself as coming from a long tradition of populist parties of Western Canada, not all of which have been conservative.
It also is populist in the very real sense, if I can make American analogies to it -- populist in the sense that the term is sometimes used with Ross Perot.
The Reform party is very much a leader-driven party. It's much more a real party than Mr. Perot's party -- by the way, it existed before Mr. Perot's party. But it's very much leader-driven, very much organized as a personal political vehicle. Although it has much more of a real organization than Mr. Perot does.
But the Reform party only exists federally. It doesn't exist at the provincial level here in Canada. It really exists only because Mr. Manning is pursuing the position of prime minister. It doesn't have a broader political mandate than that yet. Most of its members feel it should, and, in their minds, actually it does.
It also has some Buchananist tendencies. I know there are probably many admirers of Mr. Buchanan here, but I mean that in the sense that there are some anti-market elements in the Reform Party. So far, they haven't been that important, because Mr. Manning is, himself, a fairly orthodox economic conservative.
The predecessor of the Reform party, the Social Credit party, was very much like this. Believing in funny money and control of banking, and a whole bunch of fairly non-conservative economic things.
So there are some non-conservative tendencies in the Reform party, but, that said, the party is clearly the most economically conservative party in the country. It's the closest thing we have to a neo-conservative party in that sense.
It's also the most conservative socially, but it's not a theo-con party, to use the term. The Reform party does favour the use of referendums and free votes in Parliament on moral issues and social issues.
The party is led by Preston Manning, who is a committed, evangelical Christian. And the party in recent years has made some reference to family values and to family priorities. It has some policies that are definitely social-conservative, but it's not explicitly so.
Many members are not, the party officially is not, and, frankly, the party has had a great deal of trouble when it's tried to tackle those issues.
Last year, when we had the Liberal government putting the protection of sexual orientation in our Human Rights Act, the Reform Party was opposed to that, but made a terrible mess of the debate. In fact, discredited itself on that issue, not just with the conventional liberal media, but even with many social conservatives by the manner in which it mishandled that.
So the social conservative element exists. Mr. Manning is a Christian, as are most of the party's senior people. But it's not officially part of the party. The party hasn't quite come to terms with how that fits into it.
That's the conventional analysis of the party system.

I'm unsure what others may read into Mr. Harper's "conventional analysis", I can only tell you what I got out of it and leave you to make your own conclusions. What I got from all of the above is the impression the real Stephen Harper, if given the all consuming power a majority government would proffer, would institute policies somewhere to the far right of the tea party. He doesn't care what your previous version of Canada was, he doesn't like it and has every intention of moulding this country in the image of the deterioriating society we see to the south of us.

Since it wasn't my intention to write a book, I won't continue with more of what he said, although I will say in my opinion it gets worse, much worse and I will provide the link once again so you can read the text of the entire speech for yourself. Then ask yourself if you believe this is the man who should run our country.

Your vote is up to you. Please use it.

For the complete speech, including the last half which completely turned me against this man and his narrow ideals, please visit this link.

Many thanks to for reprinting this eye opening speech. A must read for any Canadians who haven't been insulted yet.
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