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In Harperland, hypocrisy, cynicism and deceit

Five years ago, a third of the country decided to give the newly branded Conservative Party a trial run. We wanted a change, but we didn’t know if we could trust Stephen Harper. So Canadians gave him the opportunity to form a minority government. That was after numerous attempts and several incarnations: the Reform-United Alternative-Canadian Alliance parties.

Canadians are a tolerant and forgiving people. We all make mistakes and missteps.  What Canada has been subjected to for Harper’s five years is not a series of honest mistakes, but systematic and deliberate pattern of obfuscation, subterfuge, disrespect, and outright incompetence.

As our parents used to tell us, actions speak louder than words. And the actions of the Harper Conservatives reflect the very governing philosophy and culture of this federal government. Like any organization and government, the culture, tone, style, and actions begins at the top.

In his first term, Mr. Harper then proceeded to do exactly what he said he wouldn’t. He appointed someone elected as a Liberal to his Conservative cabinet. He appointed a campaign chairman to the Senate and made him a cabinet minister. He promised he would not touch income trusts. He did and that cost investors billions. He promised fiscal responsibility. After inheriting a budget surplus, he blew it through massive spending increases before the recession.  He brought forward legislation for fixed election dates. He then called an election in contravention of his own law.

Mr. Harper was elected in part on a promise of “openness and accountability”. Despite his own so-called “Accountability Act”, his government has been the most controlling, secretive, inaccessible in Canadian history. He shut down parliament twice to shut down the democratic process. Why? Because it wasn’t convenient for him.

While in opposition Harper called for a greater and more meaningful role for MP’s. But since he’s been in power, Conservative Members of Parliament are puppets and cheerleaders. No independent thinking is tolerated. Harper also approved a handbook for his MP’s on how to disrupt and obstruct the important work of parliamentary committee’s. And accountability? Did you notice that Bev Oda did not take a single question on her alleged forgery of a document? Harper and John Baird did. And of course, being true to the spirit of ministerial responsibility and accountability, they didn’t answer, either.  

Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is dismissed as a nuisance and his budget is cut. Heads of crown agencies and senior public servants are bullied and intimidated into submission. Distinguished Canadians are attacks personally if they refuse to toe the untenable party line. Michael Ignatieff, one of the most internationally respected and accomplished Canadians of his generation is mercilessly attacked with taxpayer subsidized attack ads for being just that: Respected and accomplished.   

The Harper Conservatives like to think of themselves as “competent”. That myth has been debunked time and again. The facts clear show that this is one of the most incompetent governments – across the board – in recent memory.

The Oda episode is not about Ms. Oda at all. By all accounts, she was an accomplished person in her own right before she entered Harperland. But once there, like all Harper minister’s, she just follows orders. Now she is taking a bullet for Harper’s rank incompetence. Anyone who thinks that Ms. Oda made the decision on Kairos, and made the decision to lie about it, is kidding themselves. That’s just not how Harper’s Ottawa works. No decision is made by anyone but Stephen Harper.

Prominent conservative columnists are beginning to pay attention to the unmistakably consistent five-year pattern of hypocrisy, cynicism and deceit.

Dan Gardner of the Ottawa Citizen and National Post this week said Harper’s “government is badly run and incoherent. Promising fiscal conservatism, Stephen Harper spent money like crazy, expanded the federal government and turned a surplus into a structural deficit. His government doesn’t even pretend to have evidence that its mandatory minimum sentences reduce crime (heaps of evidence says they don’t).

His handling of foreign investment issues has been so arbitrary and political that UBS Investment Research recently warned foreign investors “may begin to perceive Canada as not ‘open for business.’”Perhaps worst of all, Harper has centralized governance to an extent that even the Soviet Central Committee might think unwise.”

Another conservative, Andrew Coyne of MacLean’s, writes that Harper and his government “is both ideological and deviousAnd since its stratagems and deceptions are invariably found out, we should perhaps add to the list: ideological, devious, and incompetent.”

The next election will determine the kind of Canada we are building for our children.

As we’ve seen, the Harper grand plan is riddled with ill-conceived ideas to support his dark and negative worldview. For example, part of his grand plan is to spend billions on new prisons.  Prisons as infrastructure! Prison building and managing to create jobs. How inspiring! It is also replete with inconceivable ineptness, not to mention a glaring absence of common sense. How about $19 billion for untendered fighter jets? Or more tax-cuts to the most profitable corporations in Canada when we already have one of the lowest tax rates in the developed world?  

Michael Ignatieff will provide a better plan for Canada. We must not fail the world by becoming a young country in an old man’s body.  Canadians crave a positive, outward looking, ambitious and optimistic vision for the future. We deserve no less than the kind of leadership that embraces the best ideas for a Canada that the world admires and uses as an example of peace and prosperity.

This Bev Oda debacle is not about Bev Oda. It is all about the very essence of Stephen Harper’s character.  His negative and fear-mongering philosophy and incompetence are squandering Canada’s great promise and potential. We must not hide from the world and lean on old ideas that will cripple our innovative spirit.

 

It all starts with a leader with a solid character who will lead a government that we can all trust.  

 

It also starts with us demanding better.

 

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