I’m finally feeling a little more settled about this week’s election results. But make no mistake – I hate the results.
We were discussing the results of the election the next day in my two classes and my classmates and I all had the same feelings – we’d never felt so depressed after an election.
Chantel Hebert (the smartest political commentator in Canada, according to me) had a good column in the Toronto Star this week about how much people hate Stephen Harper. She claims that no Prime Minister has been loathed this much since Brian Mulroney. Funny that they’re both Conservatives…
Stephen Harper is not my best friend. I don’t detest him as a person, though. It’s his politics and his demeanour that cause me to cringe when I hear his name. Let me explain.
Harper is a bully. The way he forces bills through the house, refusing to cooperate with the opposition and threaten to make some votes issues of confidence when they have no business being classified as such, is like a bully. When elected in January 2006 he was given an opportunity to try and create an environment of bipartisanship. In fact, you could say Canadians were demanding Harper to act in a bipartisan manner since they elected a minority government. But he refused to act that way. Instead, he governed like he had a majority, and the House of Commons has become even more of a gong show than it was before. Thanks, Steve.
Harper is also a bully when it comes to federalism. He treats the provinces as petulant children (which they are sometimes). I agree that it isn’t easy to deal with ten provinces and three territories with different interests and values, but Harper’s way of dealing with them is asking for trouble. He’s completely reversed the cooperative federalism which Paul Martin tried to integrate into federal-provincial relations. Harper’s ridiculous criticism of Ontario’s business taxes is only one example of Harper’s antagonistic form of federalism. And then there’s his dealings with Quebec, giving them ‘nation’ status and all kinds of other goodies. He’s just ASKING for the provinces to kick him in the teeth. And why bother with the special treatment, since the issue of sovereignty isn’t on the radar in Quebec right now (unless you’re trying to buy Quebec votes so you can get your majority). Why stir the pot?
Harper also thinks he’s allowed to play by a different set of rules than the rest of us. He writes an election law, complaining that governments have too much power becauseof their ability to call elections at will. He sets the date for an election in October 2009. Then comes August 2008. Harper decides it’s a good time to have an election because the economy is beginning to slow and the government in charge usually gets punished in an election when money is tight. But what about his election law? Oh, that only applies to MAJORITY governments. So, yes, he didn’t actually break his own law, but he broke the ‘spirit’ of the law. In my opinion, that might be worse than just breaking it.
He also has a different idea of what it means to break a promise. Two examples:
- Income trusts. He never admitted that he broke his promise. Cowardly.
- Taking natural resource revenues out when calculating Saskatchewan’s share of equalization. I still can’t believe people aren’t up in arms about this one. The Prime Minister promises he’ll exclude Saskatchewan’s natural resource revenues in the 2006 election. He gets elected and pretends to ‘fix’ the fiscal imbalance in his first budget. Then he pretends it’s ‘all better’ while refusing to acknowledge that he screwed Saskatchewan in the process. I know we’re flush with money in this province right now and don’t really need more money from Ottawa, but people – it’s the PRINCIPLE of the matter. How can you vote in a government that took $800 million out of our pockets? Think of what we could have done with that money. We could have fixed more roads, built more schools, updated equipment in our hospitals, replaced some of our infrastructure. If the Liberals would have done that to Saskatchewan, there would have been hell to pay – guaranteed. Why Conservatives are so loved in this province when they take us for granted all the time, I’ll never understand.
I could continue to list the things I hate about Harper for hours, but I’ll mention just one more. I can’t take credit for this criticism, though. In Roy Romanow’s class on Wednesday, we had Professor Kotter, Dean of the College of Law, give us a presentation on Quebec and its place in federalism. He commented that what worried him about Harper was his focus on individualism as opposed to communtarianism. Canada used to be a much more collectivist society, more focused on building communities. Now, we are much more individualistic, foused on ourselves rather than others. It’s something I’d never thought of before, but after thinking about it, I understand the fear Professor Kotter has. He also mentioned that this shift in values from collectivist to individualist may threaten Quebec’s place in Canada, as Quebec is a more collectivist society; it may turn inward and sovereignty may blossom again.
Harper is not good for Canada, and I think Canadians know this. In my mind, that’s why Harper has not yet won a majority. Plus, people just don’t like him. I also think his party will only give him one more chance to win a majority; if he doesn’t, he’ll be forced to step down from the leadership of the Conservative party.
I can’t wait.