Harper v. Canada: 2011 election scandal brings scrutiny to PM's controversial past
Harper won Round One of his legal battle in 2001, when he sued Canada through the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta. The judge ruled in his favour, striking down sections of the Canada Election Act which limited third-party expenses to $150,000 nationally – and $3,000 per riding – as well as provisions forcing groups like the NCC to reveal their identity in advertizements and report their large donors.
Harper's case wound its way up the legal system, all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004 – just two years before he became Prime Minister.
In its “Harper v. Canada” decision, the country's highest court overturned the Alberta judgement in a 6-3 ruling:
“The respondent (Harper) effectively equates the right to meaningful participation with the exercise of freedom of expression,” the Supreme Court found. “Respectfully, this cannot be.
“In the absence of spending limits, it is possible for the affluent or a number of persons pooling their resources and acting in concert to dominate the political discourse, depriving their opponents of a reasonable opportunity to speak and be heard, and undermining the voter’s ability to be adequately informed of all views. . . political advertising may manipulate or oppress the voter.”
But Harper's time at NCC was also marked by his strongly declared support for conservatives in the US. While he was head of the group, he gave a speech before a group of prominent American conservatives, meeting in Montreal in June 1997.
"Seriously," he declared, "your country, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world."
That speech came a year after Republicans launched a historic 28-day government shut-down against President Bill Clinton, and at a time when then-Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich was under investigation for an unprecedented 84 ethics and tax law violation charges and forced to pay a $300,000 fine.
"Either Mr. Gingrich's conduct . . . was intentional or it was reckless," the Senate Committee on Ethics declared in a Jan. 1997 report. "The violation does not represent only a single instance of reckless conduct.
"Rather, over a number of years and in a number of situations, Mr. Gingrich showed a disregard and lack of respect for the standards of conduct that applied to his activities."
In 1997, when the leaders of American conservatism were Gingrich and a host of Christian right televangelists, which conservative movement, exactly, was Harper praising?
The NDP is "proof that the Devil lives"
That audience for Harper's 1997 address was the Council for National Policy (CNP), a group which declares "the Founding Fathers created this nation based upon Judeo-Christian values and that our culture flourishes when we uphold them."
Although CNP is highly secretive, its alleged members include some of America's most controversial right-wing figures, who include: