Thursday, 14 April 2011


Following on from yesterday's post about Conservative policies and priorities, what's going on with all these stories about the Conservatives showing contempt for Parliament, the media, and voters, by breaking whatever rules they can get away with?

With the Bloc dominating Quebec, it's difficult for either the Liberals or Conservatives to get a majority. (Harper may manage it this time, but just barely. He's hoping to get 155-160 seats out of 308; in contrast, Mulroney got 211 seats in 1984.) This means that most of the time, we can expect to have minority governments. With a minority government, the governing party will need to cooperate with at least one other party.

The problem is that Harper's hostility to the other parties makes it extremely difficult for him to cooperate with any of them. Ideologically, he'd be closest to the Liberals, but according to Lawrence Martin and other journalists, his long-term aim is to destroy the Liberal party. He could try reviving the Mulroney alliance between the West and Quebec, but he appears to have burned his bridges there as well.

Since Harper can't form a stable minority government, he's focused on winning a majority by any means necessary. The end justifies any means, in particular any attack on his enemies. In Harperland, nominated for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize, Lawrence Martin (a vocal critic of Jean Chretien) quotes Shakespeare's Richard III: "Conscience is but a word that cowards use." Martin provides a footnote with a very long list of examples, half of which I haven't even heard of:
The march of audacities: It included the following: The in-and-out money shuffle. The David Emerson appointment. The unprecedented vetting system. Naming an unelected senator to cabinet. The Tushingham censorship. The elimination of the Access to Information database. The scrapping of the appointments commission. The Cadman affair. The nixing of the Court Challenges Program. NAFTA-gate. The misinformation campaign on Afghan detainees. Reversals on half of the promised accountability measures. The secret handbook on how to obstruct committees. The launching of personal attack ads between elections. The smearing of opponents for being anti-Israeli and not supporting the troops. The attempt to censor publication of a book by Tom Flanagan.

In addition: Attacking Elections Canada. Attacking Dalton McGuinty as the small man of Confederation. Declaring Ontario the last place to invest. Ordering police to remove journalists from a hotel lobby to prevent coverage of a Tory caucus meeting. Labelling Louise Arbour a national disgrace. Attempting to discipline an academic for criticizing the government. Making a bid to vet even the press releases of the auditor general. Scripting supporters' calls to radio talk jocks. Blocking information on cabinet ministers' use of government jets. Hiding justice department studies on crime.

In addition: Belittling gala-goers. Releasing an online attack ad featuring a bird defecating on the opposition leader's head. Plagiarizing the Australian prime minister's speech. Hiding a firearms report to prevent embarrassment on the gun registry. Downgrading Diane Ablonczy for her support of gay pride week. Smearing the bank executive Ed Clark as a Liberal hack for his statement on the deficit. The Rights and Democracy fiasco. Attempting to strip political parties of public funding. Alleging that the opposition leader has no right to form a government. Declaring Brian Mulroney persona non grata. Slashing the budget of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

In addition: Putting Tory logos on government cheques for stimulus funding. Withholding details of stimulus funding. Granting stimulus funding disproportionately to Tory ridings. Firing the nuclear agency head Linda Keen. Halting Peter Tinsley's probe on Afghan detainees. Ousting Paul Kennedy from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. Smearing Richard Colvin. Defying Parliament's right to documents. Padlocking Parliament. Snuffing out democratic challenge to MP Rob Anders. Barring cabinet staffers from testifying before committees. The record-breaking omnibus budget bill. The move on Statistics Canada.

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