Friday, April 15, 2011

The Great Disconnect: Stephen Harper’s Platform and What Canadians Really Want

There is a yawning gap between the platform Stephen Harper is presenting to the Canadian people and what Canadians tell pollsters are their major concerns. The dangerous disconnect between what the people want and the plans of those who control the state is all too clear in our fraying democracy.

Canadians list health care and jobs as their top priorities. Harper’s leading issues are: corporate tax cuts, crime, jet fighters, deficit reduction, and income splitting. A Fortress North America security deal with the United States is very much on his to-do list. Further down the list is the privatization of CBC television and a much expanded role for religious organizations in the delivery of social policy.

It’s not that Harper will do nothing on the questions of health care and jobs, the top concerns of Canadians.

On health care, Harper will readily go along with provincial initiatives to increase the private delivery of services. He will not defend the Canada Health Act, which embodies principles he has always detested. Yes, he’ll act on health care, but in ways that are exactly contrary to what Canadians want.

On jobs, Harper will freeze the size of the federal public service, along with freezing the salaries of those who work for the federal government. Harper and his ministers will contribute to the culture of loathing for public sector employees which is now sharply on the rise in Britain, where employees who have been laid off as a consequence of government cutbacks can’t get jobs in the private sector because their work in the public sector shows up on their CVs.

Harper’s advice to young people looking for jobs will be to act eager, be polite, wish your customers a nice day, smile and don’t worry too much about the pay. (The Harper government actually has no job creation strategy, apart from lower corporate taxes. Their stimulus program----forced on them by the opposition----has expired. Now their strategy is to sell oil sands oil to the Americans and pray for economic recovery south of the border. Prayer is undoubtedly good for the soul, but only in business schools is it regarded as an economic policy.)

The above scenario depends, of course, on Harper’s Conservatives winning a majority of seats in the House of Commons on May 2. That is not bound to happen. Canadians hold the power to prevent it.

On the other hand, Harper only needs about forty per cent of the votes, distributed effectively, to achieve his goal. To stop Harper, about sixty-two per cent of voters will have to cast their ballots for parties other than the Conservatives.

A substantial majority of voters will definitely reject Harper---nobody disputes that. Will that majority be substantial enough? We’ll only know on the evening of May 2.

Meanwhile if Harper gets his forty per cent of the vote and a majority of seats, he will insist that Canadians have given him a mandate to govern and to implement his policies.

And on Thursday evenings on soon-to-be-privatized CBC television, the panelists will tell Peter Mansbridge that during his watch Stephen Harper has transformed Canada into a more “conservative” country. In reality, the basic values and priorities of Canadians have changed very little over the Harper years. Neo-cons, including Harper, have always regarded Canadians as a stubbornly intractable lot.

A few pearls from the compiled wisdom of Stephen Harper before he became Prime Minister convey the contempt: “Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it…..Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country…..The rest of the country has responded in no uncertain terms that we [Albertans] do not share their Canadian values….Let us build a society on Alberta values.”

Dealing with a beast---the Canadian people---for whom one has such little respect requires a sharp stick to keep the dullard moving in the right direction.

If the Conservatives get their majority, the first two years of untrammeled Harper power, will be very sharp indeed. The Conservatives will act on the theory that you front-load the nastiness so that a semblance of calm can be restored during the run-up to the subsequent election.

“You voted for this,” Canadians will be told, by those in the pay of our right-wing Main Stream Media, by the cynical members of the punditry (pretty much the same group), and by those who profit from a society with an ever-wider gap between the rich and the rest.

The fact that most Canadians will actually have voted against this will receive short shrift. In 1988, 53 per cent of Canadians voted for parties that opposed the free trade deal with the U.S., but the deal was implemented because the Conservatives won a majority of seats with 43 per cent of the votes.

A Harper majority need not befall us. We have the time and the means to stop the Sheriff of Nottingham from gaining control of the castle.


cocobolo said...

Interesting that Harper will no doubt freeze gov't wages, yet he sees fit to give fat raises and bonuses to those working(?) in the PM's office. Just exactly how does that work?

farwestie said...

They're considered friends. The rest are enemies.

Anonymous said...

None of the parties is interested in defending the Canada Health Act, not even the NDP, which wants to replace the Bloc in Quebec. To do that means giving way to privatization in la Belle Province in the name of provincial autonomy. No matter that a colonoscopy done at private clinic there costs $500 and the waiting lists for public testing are lengthy. Notice how Layton bristled when the PM called him a centralist. All Layton can do is babble about Tommy Douglas and medicare.
Alas, Harper is part of a right wing tide that is sweeping the globe. Call it the zeitgeist.

Filostrato said...

I've seen a lot of comments by people who feel that they should vote for Harper's Conservatives simply because they feel Canada needs a majority government. Somehow giving a majority to a party whose views are antithetical to how most Canadians think and which has expressed its distaste or even hatred of the choices made by two-thirds of the country doesn't seem like a very sound strategy.

There is a good article on the perils of strategic voting on the Pundit's Guide this morning entitled Why the Conservatives Love the “Strategic” Voting Sites.

She finishes the piece by saying, "In this election, read the platforms, watch the debates, take a measure of the leaders and the candidates, and vote your heart. If everyone did that, who knows what we might come up with together."

I find the Harper Conservatives views and methods repugnant. And I can't stand the feeling of failure that voting the less worse of two leading parties gives me.

So I will vote my heart.

Northern PoV said...

OK James,
I agree. We can stop Harper.
Strategic voting.
Unfortunately it means more NDPers voting Liberal than the other way around.

Anonymous said...

The Liberals and NDP need to do what the PC's and Reform did... amalgamate... the Reform Party realized that they would never get a to "rule Canada" unless they combined with the PC's and got rid of the split vote... If the Libs and NDP did the same thing they would get a majority.