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Harper thinks we won’t vote. Let’s show him he’s wrong

Canadian Politics

Beyond the fear, hope and angst that have been the trademarks of Election 2015, the bottom line is unchanged: it is time to show the dictator the door.

After nearly ten years in office, Stephen Harper remains as secretive, dishonest and ruthless as ever. He shows no remorse for the wagonload of scandals, international embarrassments, meltdowns of judgement, and attacks on civil liberties and Canadian democracy — the sum of his depressing decade in power. He did rent Chinese panda bears, I give you that.

In an interview with the National Post this week, Harper rolled over interviewer Mark Kennedy. It was, at best, a game of journalistic slow-pitch. Harper was allowed to get away with the narrative that his “personality” would not be the deciding factor in voters’ minds.

The Globe and Mail put that same absurdity on its front-page. Apparently Harper has finally realized he’s doing for the CPC what the Boston Strangler did for door-to-door salesmen back in the day. Accordingly, Mr. Everything now has his trained seals repeating, “Its not about me.”

It is the death march of deception for Harper to try to remove himself from the political equation in this election. This is the man who insisted that the public service refer to the crowd in charge not as the “Government of Canada” but the “Harper government”. This is the guy who allowed everyone to remove their muzzles just long enough to read scripted lines that came down from the high-command in the PMO. This is the guy whose office breached the confidentiality of a forensic audit being done for another arm of government, and then rewrote two Senate reports to suit his agenda.

Oh yes, Steve. Election 2015 is very much all about you.

Which is why it’s pathetic that so many media outlets have fallen into the oldest trap of them of all: Harper’s whopper that his critics really don’t have any reasoned arguments against his policies. Which is to say, these critics merely hate him. Get someone on that frequency and the conversation is no longer either rational or substantive. It’s all just toxic partisanship — Harper’s answer to everything.

A lot of Harper enablers push that load of manure every chance they get. Journalist Paul Wells once described me as the leader of the media faction that believes Harper hates Canada. Utter bunk. It’s just that two-thirds of Canadians (me included) utterly reject Harper’s policies, message and tone. And they also reject Wells’ empty thesis that Harper is an incrementalist. Not even John Ibbitson of the Globe buys that one anymore.

Harper is a rogue radical without parallel in Canadian politics. He is turning Canada into a branch office of the Republican Party.

As for Harper himself, he told the Post he thought he was going to win on October 19. He said Canadians would vote for him because they knew what was “good” for them. After all, he was the only one who could run Canada, put jingle in their jeans (their own money), subdue Vladimir Putin with stealth Skidoos, and manage to mock other peoples’ religions to keep us all safe from women in veils.

That last thing — an unprecedented attack on religious freedoms in Canada — he did without ever explaining why he, a born-again Christian himself, belonged to congregations — first the Christian Alliance Church in Calgary and now the East Gate Alliance Church in Ottawa — that believe the Earth has been around for 6,500 years, the Bible is “inerrant” and Christ’s Second Coming is “imminent.”

What lies behind the veil of Steve’s evangelical beliefs? Is it the sole basis of our one-sided Middle East policy perchance? After all, there is no diplomatic basis for utterly abandoning the Palestinians to prop up Likud and defy international law.

Harper’s worn out tax-cut mantra and claim of fiscal competence are both laughable. Remember, seven deficit budgets out of eight, a phoney surplus just in time for election day, and the tax windfall he handed over to corporations hoarded by the companies that were supposed to invest it — at least if former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney had it right.

As for tax cuts, it’s just Steve’s way of reducing federal revenues and federal services to all Canadians. Sooner or later, that will sink in.

Harper’s proposition that somehow all the criticism is personal goes beyond absurd and the merely dishonest. Nobody gives a flying fornication about his personality. Canadians have had dour, awkward leaders before. What the majority of Canadians object to — somewhere north of 70 per cent, it appears — are his serial abuses of power and megalomaniacal impulses.

Former parliamentary budgetary officer Kevin Page says the federal financial system has been completely broken by Harper. Canada’s longest serving former Speaker of the House, Peter Milliken, says that Harper’s practices will have to be reversed if we are to restore democracy in this country. Former Clerk of the House of Commons and Harper information commish Robert Marleau says we have reached the point in federal government budgeting where we have public expenditures without verification.

That is nothing less than the evisceration of Parliament.

Could that be how the Harper government was able to donate $8 million in Canadian taxpayers’ dollars to the International Republican Institute in the United States? That group calls itself a non-partisan charity. Really? Republican Senator John McCain, that well-known non-partisan, has chaired the organization since 1993. Why did CIDA pass over $8 million in public money to the guy who wanted to bomb Iran?

Kennedy and the Globe weren’t the only people digging into Harper’s special combo of fear and forgetfulness. Conrad Black got in on the act this week in the Post. Black is undoubtedly fearless, as his critiques of Harper have often shown. And the guy knows more big words than Pedantasaurus Rex at the same paper. But the estimable Mr. Black seems to have given in to a little forgetfulness when he writes that Harper has never embarrassed us on the international stage during his time in office.

I recall a few occasions. But let’s start with the most recent example — which was not an embarrassment, it was a disgrace. It turns out that while Harper was shedding crocodile tears over 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach, the PM’s apparatchiks had secretly halted the intake program for refugees like that dead child’s family. Worse, Harper’s PMO personally took the matter out of the hands of Immigration authorities so that they could cherry-pick the refugees who best fit into their political plans — Christians, not Muslims, according to reports from CTV.

There are many other examples of Harper executing belly-flops from the high-diving board of the international scene. Remember when Portugal beat us out for a seat on the Security Council? Who can forget imposing visa restrictions on our NAFTA partner Mexico? Does anyone recall the cacophony of international denunciation when Harper led Canada out of Kyoto, breaking a treaty we had signed and turning us into what Green Party leader Elizabeth May described as the “North Korea of the Environment”?

Thanks to repeated cheating in each of his last three trips to the polls, Harper has even made Canada a country that international watchdog agencies believe should be monitored during election 2015. It will be interesting to see what the Organization for Security and Economic Cooperation ends up reporting now that the agency is worried about Harper’s dubious Fair Elections Act, which makes voting harder and cheating easier.

And will election 2015 be fair? I rather doubt it. I think most Canadians do, too.

Here are some dispatches from the front that have me worried. This weekend I spoke at Acadia University about the upcoming election. During the Q&A that followed my talk, a man who voted in the advance poll said it took three hours to vote. Long line-ups, delay and confusion also led to voter walkouts in advance polls in Hallifax.

How could that be? With every party having two challengers at every polling station and confusion about proper ID, you get the picture of what might happen on election day. Interminable delays, and frustrated people walking away without voting.

Welcome to the new face of voter suppression. Given another four years, it’s a safe bet the Conservatives would try to cancel elections altogether, saying that because so few Canadians even bother to vote it’s clear they support the incumbents.

And it gets worse. Angelique Wood, a candidate running for the NDP in British Columbia, is seeing signs that the voting system is failing in spectacular ways. In past elections, voters in rural areas close to municipalities voted at polling stations within those municipalities. No more.

“Voters now receiving their voter’s cards are finding that their newly assigned polling stations have been reassigned, and that for a single Electoral Area, they have been assigned to vote at polling stations as far as 75 kilometers away,” she told me.

And then there are the cases of Scott Onstott and Shawn Everett Swakum. Onstatt, who lives on Cortez Island in B.C., was told by Elections Canada that he has to go to Refuge Cove to vote — 300 kilometers from his home. Could be tough. He doesn’t have a boat and there is no ferry service. In Swakum’s case, the resident of Lower Nicola received a voter’s card telling he had to vote at Little Fort Community Centre — hundreds of kilometers from his home.

All of this prompted the NDP candidate, Angelique Wood, to contact Chief Electoral Officer Basil Skodyn to make a complaint.

“He told of a number of other situations throughout this riding where that occurrence is happening. Rural Princeton voters are discovering they must drive to Coalmount, half-an-hour away down a dangerous, winding, and rock-hazard laden road,” she said.

Bottom line for Angelique Wood? “I do not yet know the full import of this except to say that it is looking enormous … As we’ve said before, if Stephen Harper can’t win fair and square, he’ll resort to cheating.”

There is precedent.

Michael Harris is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws for his “unceasing pursuit of justice for the less fortunate among us.” His nine books include Justice Denied, Unholy Orders, Rare ambition, Lament for an Ocean, and Con Game. His work has sparked four commissions of inquiry, and three of his books have been made into movies. His new book on the Harper majority government, Party of One, is a number one best-seller.

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