Harper v. Canada: 2011 election scandal brings scrutiny to PM's controversial past

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper has, in recent years, branded himself as something of a super-patriot. He calls Canada "the best country in the world", describes the Conservative Party as a "party of patriotism" and has pushed for a new vision of Canadian pride tied to overseas battlefields, Arctic sovereignty and unparalleled resource extraction.

It seems ironic, then, that Harper spent years mired in a court case titled "Harper v. Canada" to challenge the country's election regulations -- or that he described the US right as "a light and an inspiration to people in this country" when its leader was facing unprecedented ethics and tax charges.

Harper is currently facing renewed scrutiny over his resistance to the country's election finance laws amidst unprecedented irregularities alleged in last year's election as well as his Conservative party pleading guilty to illegal campaign spending last November.

Now, as Elections Canada investigates who is behind tens of thousands of illegal phone calls in the "robocall scandal" – calls reported to have targeted non-Conservative voters in two-thirds of the country's ridings – Harper's repeated court challenges to the country's election spending and campaign laws when he was head of the National Citizens Coalition (NCC) have come into focus. 

“There is a pattern,” argued political commentator Murray Dobbin in an interview with the Vancouver Observer. “(Harper) has contempt for Parliament, for democratic rules, for electoral rules. He will do whatever he can get away with.

“When Harper was at the NCC, his main issue was opposing any efforts to stop corporate funding of political parties or any rules around funding of elections. In fact, he has opposed them for most of his political life. . . . It's extremely ironic that you have a Prime Minister of a country who does not believe in democratic government. When you have a visceral contempt for democracy and for governance, or an activist state, then anything goes.”

 “Harper v. Canada

One of Harper's achievements during his tenure at the NCC was his court case that meandered over four years through Canada's court system.

The series of lawsuits and appeals – officially titled “Harper v. Canada” – argued that all rules restricting election spending and banning anonymous donors and advertizing “breached his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and association and his right to vote,” according to court records.

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