At the age of 83, noted author, publisher and passionate Canadian Mel Hurtig has once again suited up his literary armour to do battle with what he obviously sees as the greatest danger yet posed to his beloved country, a danger posed by none other than its current prime minister, Stephen Harper.
In a slim, 140-page treatise, “The Arrogant Autocrat, Stephen Harper’s Takeover of Canada,” Hurtig methodically recites the many depredations the Harperites have inflicted upon Canadian democracy.
In a short essay that serves as the book’s cover, Hurtig states: “I have spent much of my career warning of the increasing threat that foreign corporate takeovers of our companies and resource sectors pose to our sovereignty. I never imagined that the greatest threat would come from the takeover of our country by one politician determined to remake our nation according to his own values and priorities.”
He concludes: “That one politician, is, of course, Stephen Harper.”
The titles of the 10 succinct and powerful chapters set the tone: Stephen Harper’s Takeover of Canada; A Broken Democratic System, Harper’s War on the Environment; Harper’s War on Our Scientists;
Harper’s Tax Police; Datacide; Neglect of the Poor and Vulnerable – Income and Wealth in Stephen Harper’s Canada; Unfair, Unequal and Unjust – Mismanagement of the Economy Part 1- Losing Our Competitive Edge; Mismanagement of the Economy Part 2 – Federal Deficit Voodoo. And finally and most importantly, Chapter 10 – Protecting Our Future – Reforming the Electoral System.
What could emphasize more succinctly the Harper Conservatives’ willingness to use any and all authoritarian measures to rewrite portions of the Canada Elections Act to suit their purposes and give it the Orwellian title of “Fair Elections Act? ” And what now could possibly stop them from using every trick in the book to win the 2015 election as they did the 2011 election, up to and including mysterious robocalls sending voters to non-existent polling stations to harassments and fights over who has – or hasn’t – the proper documentation to cast a ballot.
As Canada approaches the October 20 election hot on the heels of the now well-documented numerous dirty tricks played from coast to coast to coast to skew the 2011 federal election to the Conservatives, who will be there to police the unfair, unjust and all-round Orwellian measures now ensconced in the so-called Fair Elections Act? Who will be there this year to ensure that new Canadians, the poor and the dispossessed are not purposefully disenfranchised again?
Perhaps the opposition parties should request Election Day oversight from the United Nations.
As Hurtig points out, this is a government obsessed with total control. Here’s just a taste:
“Communication is controlled through the use of Message Event Proposals (MEPs) which must be submitted by cabinet ministers, public servants and members of parliament prior to events or information releases…
“Canadian Press obtained almost 1,000 pages of MEPs through Access to Information and found they covered myriad matters, large and small, from an MP’s visit to a seniors’ home to a journalism student’s innocuous query about Africa.
And it doesn’t end there. Once the approval is granted from on high, “they are given direction on all aspects of the event or statement, including key messages to be emphasized, the desired sound bites, appropriate attire, background details, photo shoots and more.”
Writes Hurtig: “This is the behaviour of an autocratic dictatorial regime, practices that even then House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken felt compelled to challenge. After the Harper government refused to turn over requested information on the details of proposed bills and expenditures to Parliament, Speaker Milliken ruled the government in contempt of Parliament, a first in Canadian history.”
Harper doesn’t even try to hide his contempt for Parliament. Harper has prorogued parliament three times – in 2008, 2009 and again in 2013 – simply to convenience himself and get it out of his way . Green Party leader and lawyer Elizabeth May says the prorogations of 2008 and 2009 constitute an abuse of power not seen since Sir John A. Macdonld who did it in 1873.
Writes May: “Modern parliamentary democracy rests on a single great principle. The government must have the consent of the governed. This consent is delegated by the people to their MPs. The government must then be able to carry the confidence of the House of Commons. Majority governments rarely lose that confidence, minority governments often do. When the government cannot carry the House, it fails.
Continues May: “Suspending parliament to dodge a vote the government fears it will lose is so deeply undemocratic it should never have been accepted by politicians, the media, or the governor-general. Harper has done it twice in a row, in 2008 and 2009. And he got away with it.”
Nor do Harper’s predations on Canada’s British parliamentary system stop there. The Harper government has come up with a tin-pot style dictatorship of governance. Why bother having actual votes on each bill as it comes up for debate. Instead, cram all the government’s legislation in one session into a several-hundred page omnibus bill with no focus on any one issue, no matter how important, and get it over with in one sitting. So what if MPs have to stay up all night to please “The Centre” the suitably Orwellian phrase now in common parlance to define the Prime Minister’s Office.
The most egregious assault on Canada by its own government is unquestionably the decision to literally abandon science, muzzle government scientists and turn most of Canada’s magnificent landscape over to Big Oil to pollute and destroy at will.
Book burnings were the choice of the medievals. The Harper Government employs another stratagem: rip decades of scientific and environmental research out of the government’s libraries, burn it, and/or throw it in landfills. While most of the rest of the world is gearing up to counter global warming, the prime minister and his minions are still set on extracting the last drop of oil out of the tar sands, polluting the last pristine lake and mowing down whatever forests are still left after a steadily increasing temperature rise feeds more, bigger and hotter forest fires.
Frances Russell was born in Winnipeg and graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science. A journalist since 1962, she has covered and commented on politics in Manitoba, Ontario, B.C. and Ottawa, working for The Winnipeg Tribune, United Press International, The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun and The Winnipeg Free Press as well as freelanced for The Toronto Star, The Edmonton Journal, CBC Radio and TV and Time Magazine.
She is the author of two award-winning books on Manitoba history: Mistehay Sakahegan – The Great Lake: The Beauty and the Treachery of Lake Winnipeg and The Canadian Crucible – Manitoba’s Role in Canada’s Great Divide. Both won the Manitoba Historical Society Award for popular history.
She is married with one son and two grandsons and lives in Winnipeg.