178

A page out of Harper’s playbook

Harper’s most important gestures are often things he doesn’t do, places he doesn’t go


 

When 2009 began, Stephen Harper was rattled and exhausted. His attempt to cut off public funding for political parties had led every opposition MP to unite against him. He survived only by shutting down a parliamentary session that was weeks old. He spent most of January licking his wounds while Michael Ignatieff settled in as the popular leader of a newly united Liberal party.

Very little that has happened since could have been predicted. By autumn, Harper was, briefly, a sort of media darling, popping up on the stage of the National Arts Centre to serenade the audience while his Conservatives flirted with levels of public support that would, if sustained, ensure them a majority in the next election. Ignatieff’s Liberals sank as low as 22 per cent in internal tracking polls—comfortably lower than Stockwell Day’s Canadian Alliance scored in the 2000 general election. Ignatieff replaced just about all of his senior advisers. The Conservative lead has since shrunk, but only a little. The election that reared its head a couple of times during the year seems distant today.

Yet the Prime Minister’s grasp on power remains shaky. In January, he held his office only after getting the Governor General to shut Parliament down. In December, he devotes much of his time to ignoring Parliament. Your MPs voted, in a clear majority, to require the government to produce documents relating to the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan. The government is ignoring the demand. On Tuesday, a parliamentary committee on the Afghanistan mission met. Conservative MPs didn’t attend.

In 2002, when he was running in a by-election in Calgary Centre to get back into Parliament after five years in charge of the National Citizens Coalition, Harper refused to show up for debates with his opponents. That, we understand now, was foreshadowing.

Harper’s most important gestures are often the things he doesn’t do and the places he doesn’t go. It makes him elusive at best, wildly undemocratic at worst. But in this Parliament, his government can never win a party-line vote in which the opposition unites against him. So he only really has two possible responses. He can make them afraid of uniting by conjuring memories of the December 2008 “coalition” psychodrama. Or he can ignore them when they do unite. It’s inglorious, but it works, and the successful politicians have always been more attracted than the popular ones to what works.

So much dodging and weaving. And to what end? It’s a fair question. Today Stephen Harper presides over budget deficits as far as the eye can see. The fiercest opponent of the Meech and Charlottetown accords led the charge to recognize Quebec—sorry, the Québécois; there is apparently a difference, though he has never seen fit to explain it—as a nation. There are days when even his admirers wonder whether, if this is a Conservative government, it is worth working so hard to keep Liberals out.

I think Harper would reply that there are many ways to be a Conservative, and that if budget balance was the only one then Ronald Reagan would not be in anyone’s pantheon. On his website, the Prime Minister lists his government’s accomplishments during the fall legislative session. The list is padded, because in truth the government didn’t get much through a Parliament the boss lately prefers to avoid. Harper takes credit for introducing new measures in Parliament, for passing measures that were introduced months ago, and for trying to pass measures the opposition blocked. But still, the list remains a useful summary of the Conservatives’ work as the Conservatives see it.

After itemizing all the “fiscal stimulus” spending that any Canadian government would have implemented in 2009, and which Harper implemented at the opposition’s behest, the list identifies seven criminal-justice measures, such as “cracking down” on identity theft and child pornography and removing “loopholes” and “volume discounts” in sentencing for multiple offenders. The rest of the list includes consumer safety measures, “action for rural Canada” and various interventions on the world stage, notably in India.

The least that can be said about all of this is that it happened while Harper was Prime Minister and that if credit flows from it, it’s credit his opponents can’t claim. More to the point, no Liberal government would have done much of this. And a lot of things a Liberal government might have done—expanding safe-injection sites for intravenous drug users, or finally getting serious about reducing carbon emissions—didn’t happen.

The gap between what his government did and what a Liberal government would do is Harper’s game. It is a game of inches, and often it is so full of contradictions and retreats that it is impossible to take the right measure of its effect. It relies on time. Every year he is in power, he puts a little more distance between the real Canada and the one the Liberals wanted. Every year he can do that, and stay popular enough to keep going, is a year he shifts public opinion, just a few degrees, toward his way of thinking and away from his opponents. And 2010 will be the fifth year in a row Harper has managed to keep pursuing that game of inches.


 

A page out of Harper’s playbook

  1. Every year he can do that, and stay popular enough to keep going, is a year he shifts public opinion, just a few degrees, toward his way of thinking and away from his opponents.

    This is only an effective strategy if you can maintain power for decades at a time. Otherwise the changes are so minor they can simply be swept off the table.

    • hum….maintain power for decades at a time??? works for me!!

      • As for moving the opinion yardsticks, I haven't seen much evidence they have moved an inch in 4 years (five if you count the latter part of Martin's rule). Voting intentions have remained pretty much the same since 2005. Harper's only real talent is to play on the insecurities and prejudices of about 1 in 3 Canadians. He has made those people his rock solid base and given our retarded electoral system, 1 in 3 is good enough to rule like a king.

  2. 5 more years!

    • Is that a "fixed election dates" joke?

      • with emphasis on the "fixed", I'm sure.

  3. huh? The one the liberals wanted.Pray tell what was that.I never had an inkling of what the libs wanted, expect to keep Quebec happy and funded, as well as their friends. Martin didn't pay taxes, he kept his ships away. I dont think Harper is as right as he has been, he has moved into the center, where most people seem to think that is okay.The liberal party of Toronto, is just that.
    Layton says the same things, but can never come up with any money.I The bloc never stop asking for more, so I am please we have Harper as our PM

  4. "The least that can be said about all of this is that it happened while Harper was Prime Minister and that if credit flows from it, it's credit his opponents can't claim"

    What a sad, pitiful legacy. Even Bush had more umph!
    Defined by what you aren't.
    Ok PW says least so presumeably he's hoping for more[ mostly from a prof or human interest pov i'd bet?] along with a lot of hopeful consevatives in this country.
    This does raise the ugly possibility should this continue for much longer that a future liberal govt [united left??] will be equally as disappointing – constrained by a Harper legacy that's trained the public to have low expectations and eschew risking the present for a better future. "At least we're not those guys" might well become a mantra for any federal govt for the foreseeable future…meanwhile Harper will be smiling his crooked little smile down on the farm somewhere.

    • This does raise the ugly possibility should this continue for much longer that a future liberal govt [united left??]

      When did it become fashionable to think of the LPC as "left?"

      The only time the Libs are "left" is during an election campaign.

      • It's because Harper has grabbed so much of the centre.

      • Sorry bout that…it should have read a lib govt or a united left or perhaps a coalition. The libs have been a party of the centre forever…i hope it stays that way.

      • Well from what I can tell, anyone who disagrees with Harper is a part of the Left (and apparently hates the troops, the Baby Jesus, freedom, democracy, and kittens.) So basically, the Liberals became "the Left" about 5 years ago.

  5. I still wonder if he's having much fun. (That's not meant to be smart-*ss, I'd hope being PM is a hard but satisfying position, and that our representatives feel a certain zest and joy from the important task we've given them.)

  6. Harper is a brilliant strategist. Much more skilled than his opponents across the floor.

    Your Liberal leaning is showing when you say that a Liberal would have finally gotten serious about carbon emmissions. I highly doubt that. They had many years to take action before Harper came to power and did nothing, just like their promise of universal child care.

    The Liberals realized long ago that once you deliver on a promise, you have nothing left to promise next election. Better to promise a lot and deliver a little.

  7. "He spent most of January licking his wounds.."

    Is there any evidence for this observation? He might just as well have been smugly watching from Sussex Drive as the liberals floundered around, and been plotting his next move. I'd be surprised if he would even concede that he was wounded.

    • He was forced to rewrite his budget. I think that fairly counts as a political wound.

  8. "Maybe one day the Conservative Party will remember that it should be a conservative party."

    "I still wonder if he's having much fun."

    myl and SeanS comments hit on what I wonder about when I think of Harper/Cons. When MPs look back on their admin, what are their accomplishments they will point to and say 'I did that'? Every PM has two or three policies they are most proud of and I wonder what will be Harper's.

    When Harper was young, and sat up late into the evening talking about what he would do if PM, did he answer that he wanted to run massive deficits and expand the State because that's his legacy so far. Harper has done some tinkering but he has done little of significance that conservatives will be excited about or remember.

    • "I know one massive achievement that will be remembered is Harper's efforts to unit the right but that happened before he took power."
      ————-

      And which would not have been split in the first place if Manning, Harper and the other Reformers hadn't thrown a hissy fit against Mulroney in the first place.

      • I think Reformers did the right thing in trying to make Con party more conservative. I find it rather vexing that Cons were divided for more than a decade only to come together again and started behaving exactly like they were before the split.

        What was the point if Harper/Cons are behaving exactly like Mulroney admin?

        • That sounds like a fine idea for an article that someone *hint*hint* could explore.

        • "What was the point if Harper/Cons are behaving exactly like Mulroney admin?"

          I tink alot of people would be quite happy if he did behave like the M administration. [minus the sleaze of course]
          Though it pains me to admit it M was a positive force for this country on the whole…Harper = negative change…for me any way.

    • " Of course I told the nice lady that Cons could get stuffed as far as my support goes because I am conservative and don't appreciate Cons behaving like Libs"

      So they lkely put you down in the plus column as " Not Liberal." I can almost see Mr H rubbing his hands with glee and cackling to cheddar: " Another one denied my precious".!!

    • I just received a glossy flyer from the Conservative candidate in my riding (London North Centre, currently held by Liberal MP Glen Pearson) describing herself and offering contact information if I wanted to help out or get a lawn sign. First one of those that I can remember getting outside of a campaign period and it struck me as a little odd.

      • Interesting. Might be something, could be nothing. Who knows.

        The pollster who rang me said she was calling on behalf of the Prime Minister, or something like that, so I am assuming it was internal Con poll.

  9. Point taken. I guess I can't see it being an emotional wound of any kind. He made a gambit, it failed. Time to plot the next one.

    • He's a genius at rendering lemons into lemonade, it goes without saying.

      • And he will do it again, his lemonade is the only option, there is no one else that most canadians would trust even with the Afghan cloud over his head….

  10. That photo is great. I think it will be the defining one of his term in office.

    • It's a brilliant photograph, one of my favorites. You might be right about it being the defining one, we'll see.

      • Yes it is a very good photo.

        • It is a good one, but it makes me think of Jon Stewart, calls Harper some kind of magical creature whose hair doesn't move in a hail storm, lol, so true!!!

          Couldn't post the video only available to the US…

  11. At the beginning of this column you write that Harper's grasp on power is shaky, but by the end of this column I feel that you indicate Harper has a firm grip at the til? Am I not understanding something?

    If the goal of the game is to be PM and in power, Harper wins… if the goal of the game is to shift public sentiment more Conservatively, he wins. If the game is to demolish, divide and diminish the opposition, he wins. I'm not getting why his grasp on power is shaky.

    • His end goal is to achieve a majority, thus the frequent surprise elections. How close is Harper to achieving a majority today?

      • How close is he to achieving a majority? Well he's got 147 seats and he needs 155… so he's darned close. Every poll this fall until the past week has shown him in the high 30's with some polls showing the 40 mark, and his opposition can't seem to poll past the mid 20's… the CPC has improved its seat in each election since its been created. His party machinery is the strongest among the four main parties at the moment, and he recently improved his seat count in Quebec.

        So overall, Harper's poll room is mid 30's to low 40's…. the Liberals poll room is mid 20's to high 20's… this is consistent over almost a year now. Which to me says Harper has a firm grasp on power, is in no jeopardy of losing his gov't, and is within reach of majority if he can continue this trajectory.

        • I also would point out that Harper always polls below what he recieves on election day. I can recall many pundits who said Harper would be reduced to a smaller minitory in 2008 with a week to go in the campaign. I also recall hearing if that was the case, the knives would be out and he may be forced to step down. How'd that turn out? For Harper, his grasp on power has been consistently firm.. no challengers, weak opposition, etc. But what trips him up is HOW he uses that power, and what he does with it. He is his own worst enemy and has virtually no real challenges to his power but his own clumsy mistakes (electoral finance reform, lampooning the public service, handling of this detainee file, etc).

          • It's almost as if he doesn't feel he deserves it. [ just kidding…you'll be majority PM one day Mr H. He's assaulted pretty well all of our institutions one way or another…except the right to vote of course…that one he needs]

    • Riley points to what is legitimately a sort of contradiction in the column. Harper's grasp remains shaky — any day the opposition parties actually vote against him on an important matter, that Parliament ends — and yet he remains durable. I think it's because (a) Harper understands the numbers in the Commons aren't the whole strategic story (b) he's had some luck. But the contradiction is at the heart of the way this guy's career is turning out. It really hasn't been a cakewalk for him. But it's turning into a pretty long not-a-cakewalk.

      • I think the fiscal update last November shows how shaky his power can be. Here he was having just won the election, gets his throne speech past and with one dumb mistake, but for cancelling a promised confidence vote and then shutting down Parliament altogether, he would have been booted from 24 Sussex.

        You could also point to the volatility of the polling he has been getting over the year.

        His hold on power in Parliament is anything but solid.

        • That and the fact that as reported in Maclean's online a few months ago, Harper won the 2008 election with the lowest level of support among Canadians in our entire history, about 22% of total eligible Canadian voters. In 2006, he won with the third lowest level of support.

          • tedbetts,

            You prove my underlying rationale for why Liberals can not unseat Harper or get any traction. Until you realize Harper won the elections of 2006 and 2008 fair and square, and that he is legitimately the Prime Minister, you'll never figure out how to remove him from that position. If you always discount the effectiveness of your opponent, you will never beat him.

            His hold on parliament is not solid by nature of the fact that it is a minority. His hold on "power" however… (that legitimate populous force that elected him with the most votes during two elections) continues to be quite strong. Liberals continue to find reasons to ignore the latter and focus on the former.

          • Hey Riley, can you show me where I suggest Harper didn't win those elections fair and square and that he isn't legitimately the PM????

            The weakness of his support in the Canadian public was offered as another example of how his "power" is shaky. It doesn't take much of a shift in public opinion for him to be out. That is all that is being asserted here. Nothing about legitimacy, please don't put words in my mouth. And in the last 10 years we've seen huge shifts in public opinion.

            The weakness of his public support and the volatility of public opinion is directly on point to the shakiness of his power. Most especially because his "power" has relied more on the weakness of the opposition than his own strengths.

          • You're proving it again… you continue to say he has a weakness in public support yada yada. That very argument attacks the legitimacy of his election and his continued seat at 24 Sussex. I take your argument as – His public support is so weak, events could change and he'll be out on his arse. He's only in power because he has a weak opposition… so the minute the LPC changes leaders, they'll be back in a flash.

            Maybe that is not your real point, but I hear this argument all the time from Liberals. It's essentially that Harper is easy pickings the second the next scandal comes up, or the second a new leader emerges. The reason he is easy pickings is because his public support is so weak.

            Yet there Harper is…. 4 years later.. still occupying 24 Sussex. A lot of "events" have happened, several different oppositions have formed, and yet…. he is "durable" as wells says. Maybe it is because his public support isn't so weak after all?

          • I don't really care if that is the argument you hear or think you hear from Liberals "all" of the time. It's not the one I'm making.

            My point is very simple. Wells made a statement that his grip on power is shaky. I provide another reason supporting that statement. The statement has nothing to do with his legitimacy or whether a change in Liberal leader would change anything and we'll be back in a flash. Again, with respect, stop claiming I'm saying something I'm not.

            The public support is weak. I don't know how you can say it isn't. 34% to 36% is not a lot of support. And in the country as a whole that is only about 22%. Meaning, and only meaning, a small shift in public opinion can have a big impact on public support. As we saw from the multiple big swings in 2009.

          • Riley, that is not anywhere near my point and I don't really care if you've heard that argument from Liberals "all" the time. If you need me to say here: he won the election fair and square (in 2008 there was no in-and-out scam) and his PMship is legit.

            The point is pretty simple: Wells says his grip on power is shaky, you question him, he responds, I provide another couple of reasons why it is shaky, his public support is weak. Nothing to do with legitimacy.

            And his public support is weak. I don't know how you can claim otherwise. 34-36% is weak and, when you factor in the whole country, 22% is the weakest level of support of any PM in our history. His other electoral victory was the third weakest.

            The public support is weak and, in a minority government especially, weak public support means his power is always going to be shaky. Chretien's public support was often pretty weak too, but his power was strong because there was never any risk of losing it in a majority government.

    • It's hard to see a minority government as anything but shaky, don't you think?

      • Sean, congrats on joining the triple digit club! Complimentary daiquiris will be arriving shortly.

        Some minority governments are shaky, and some aren't. A month ago, when the Tories hit their apex in the polls, the number of Canadians who supported the governing party was 70% higher than the number of Canadians who supported the official opposition.

        More recently, the Conservative lead has diminished somewhat, but according to last Thursday's Ekos poll the Conservatives still have 35% more support than the Liberals. Seems solid enough to me.

        • Thanks! Though I'm not sure it makes much more than cyber versions of homeless guys yelling about the apocalypse to passersby on the street corner. :)

          I sure don't think the Conservatives need to worry about losing their jobs too soon. I suppose I tend to see all minorites as ultimately fragile, and the "power" of a PM in such a position as necessarily limited.

          That said, I'm reading everyone's thoughts carefully and reconsidering. It's surely worth noting that Harper's power within his own ranks seems secure and unchallenged, and anything buy shaky.

          • Not sure? You mean you're not cyber versions of homeless guys yelling about the apocalypse? Updating mental image accordingly… ;)

            Congratulations for this achievement that will provoke confused stares if placed on your CV.

          • I've already added a bullet point to the list that includes my D&D rank and tenure in the Star Trek fan club.

          • Ha! I like your "homeless guys yelling" analogy. We're sort of like opinionated bloggers who don't actually have a blog/home of our own, so instead we come to Maclean's (where all the good stuff is).

            I opposed ID's "reputation scores" at first, because it's a meaningless metric (a measure of quantity rather than quality), but since then I've come to view these numbers as a harmless source of amusement.

  12. Which is to say nothing about the 4 years of forcing out civil servants for doing their jobs (eg. Linda Keen, the Information Commissioner, Kevin Page though he's fighting) or attacking them (Colvin, the series of environmental scientists who have been censored as reported in Maclean's). Anti-democratic.

    Which is to say nothing of the 4 years of ignoring the Access to Information Act and continually breaking the law by refusing to comply with legal information requests and the Information Commissioner's reports. Anti-democratic.

    Democracy is not just something that happens on election night.

    • Opposition Days, the coalition if free to move a non-confidence motion. Supply Bills again the coaltion is free to defeat the government.

      Stop blaming the government for an ineffective divided coalition who REFUSE to hold the government to account and PASS their AGENDA since 2006.

      • So an election is the only accountability the Harper government should be subjected to?????

        I am a lowly citizen with limited access to information. I expect my MPs to do their job – to govern for some and to keep the government accountable and to provide me with information so I can assess for myself.

        Democracy is not just something that happens on election night.

        Harper and conservatives generally used to believe that, once upon a not so long ago time.

        • Apparently "redaction" done by the current Government has become questionable after 2006 and for only Afghan detainee notes/emails. Last time I checked the government ministers are not doing the redacting. Your issue is with the trained Civil Service as well. The CPC, DFAIT, embedded reporters, unembedded, are all part of a massive conspiracy of cover up!

          We have one Field Note in eight years confirming some NDS abused someone who we rescued. Trying to get the government over cheap shots alleging "war crimes" has put our troops in harms way.

          • Yes, that's why the earlier chill on civil servants that Ted has already identified was anti-democratic. Because people are far too worried about their jobs to do them properly, or, to speak up when someone else isn't doing theirs. As TwoYen has stated on some other thread, this has been going on for years, but I believe it is much worse now, now that the government has such an intrenched deny, disparage, dismiss system for civil servants.

          • Sorry, I don't buy the excuse the current gov't is working with everyone else is complicit in a cover up.

            Jen we have had one person in eight years step forward and testify to 2nd, 3rd hand hearsay. We only have 1 "Fieldnote" in all eight years? How does this make any sense?

            No one has disputed problems exist and things are far from perfect.

            You may want to believe everyone is afraid of the current gov't to speak the truth, even though this current gov't has introduced accountability by extending the AG into Crown Corporations and whistleblower protection. (The NDP supported it and the Liberals voted against the improvements) Go figure.

            Did the Liberal Government terminate EVERY Inquiry and set the limited scope? APEC, Tainted Blood, Somalia?

            Jen I don't believe the MP's would extend confidence in a government if they believed Colvin. They are simply using him to score cheapshots. They did the same with China's rebuke. The same with backstabbing self-serving politicians who decided it was worthwhile to attack the West at COP15.

          • Actually, you are the first person, other than Style, to admit that problems do exist and that things are far from perfect. So good on you.

            "Jen we have had one person in eight years step forward and testify to 2nd, 3rd hand hearsay. We only have 1 "Fieldnote" in all eight years? How does this make any sense?"

            Apparently because you aren't listening to the other persons, like Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Putt, who testified to the same thing, and it makes sense because only one redacted document was released in its unredacted version. This is not to say that all redacted documents point to torture, but we don't know how many mention it.

            And it is hard to vote non-confidence (in fact I think its impossible) when the House isn't sitting.

            As I have said numerous times, we don't *know* the government is participating in a cover-up, it just *looks* like they are. And instead of working hard to clear their good name, they refuse to show up to a committee meeting where that could happen. That *sounds* like a cover-up now, too.

  13. The Liberals did so much of nothing that one of Harper's first moves was to cut $5 billion worth of that nothing.

    Why do we let commenters like this get away with such patently false statements?

    • Are we talking about the same program that was promised in the 93 Election Redbook Ted, then trotted out every election following until PMPM finally in desperation of losing the next election finally put it in a budget in late 05. Refute that fact my friend. Fred is right, the LPC trotted out these promises every year, and a whole lot of naive voters believed them.

  14. What a great epitaph, "What I didn't do!" Sadly that's not conservatism, thats nhilism. The other possibilities for an epitaph will be "Just like the US and owned by them", or "there is no global warming".

    • "Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business." Calvin Coolidge

      Depending on what you mean, doing nothing can be a profoundly conservative concept. If only more PMs and Presidents took the attitude that Coolidge did, North America at least would be a much better place.

  15. "And 2010 will be the fifth year in a row Harper has managed to keep pursuing that game of inches."

    Is that a prediction, or just badly phrased?

  16. Settle down Kingston. I'm not challenging his legitimacy. As long as he maintains the support and confidence of the House, he is the legitimate holder of the office.

    I point out the weakness of his numbers as a challenge to the groundless and fatuous assertion by Wilson that "Harper is giving Canadians the Canada they want".

    The numbers belie that statement.

  17. Hi Paul,

    While I get the dig about Harper not loudly proclaiming the difference between Quebecois and Quebec – I am confused: are you saying you don't see the difference? Is Mordechai Richler the most read and influential Quebecois writer of all time?

    • No, but Mordecai Richler might be.

        • The slightly less annoying response might be: there's no clear and consistent answer to who's a Quebecer and who's a Québécois. Bernard Landry used to insist that, for purposes of universal brotherhood and/or avoiding partition, he was as Québécois as Mordecai Richler and that both were simply different from Canadians. This struck me as odd, as Landry was essentially arguing that he had more in common with Mordecai than, say, Noah Richler living in Toronto did. So the "civic definition" of Quebec nationalism was odd. But so's any ethnic definition, which is wildly at odds with the civic definition of Canadian nationalism that, for instance, Jason Kenney is working with some effectiveness to promote.

          So I'm not saying the Conservatives have offered the wrong explanation of who a "Québécois" is, or that any explanation they or I could offer would be "right." I'm saying these are inherently thorny questions and I'm not sure it helps anyone over the long term if we simply pretend disagreements won't arise.

          • …the civic definition of Canadian nationalism that, for instance, Jason Kenney is working with some effectiveness to promote.

            After waking up from the momentary trance induced by reading the words "Canadian nationalism" in an indicative sentence concerning a CPC minister, I tried awfully hard to recall any evidence of the "promotion" and "effectiveness" referred to. Have I missed something?

          • Oh, that's easy. You take every platitude and received idea you can think of and then claim that Canada represents them one and all.

          • Is this how you view the historical section of Discover Canada – The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.?

          • Well, actually, I was being very sour & uninformed. It's actually pretty good. Very good, even; in its genre, first-rate. I apologise. In fairness, one might not have guessed it was as good as it is from the way Kenney has talked about it.

          • I couldn't agree more! It was a pleasant surprise for me, too. Kenney deserves credit for spearheading this project, and the guide's many contributors deserve credit for their role in its success.

          • CR, please. Kenney ordered his staff to update a booklet that has been in use for donkey's years–under both PC and Liberal governments. The historical section is just fine, and I hope it comes in handy to new Canadians–as I'm sure the previous version did. There just happens to be nothing whatever "nationalist" about it (unless the presentation of factual data about citizenship has become an act of heroic patriotism), nor is there any way to quantify its "effectiveness". Frankly, I doubt if Mr. Wells had that booklet in mind when writing what he did, as it's but a wafer-thin "nationalist" accomplishment indeed.

            In case you're wondering what a real nationalist looks like, David Orchard is one (and is thus ridiculous, as patronising pundits never cease to remind us). Kenney is continentalist to the bone, like his boss. Were he not, he would have been broken upon the wheel of our smart-arse punditocracy long ago. Instead, he's promoted as a prime minister in waiting (God help us all)—in persuasive attestation of his inveterate mediocrity.

          • and I hope it comes in handy to new Canadians–as I'm sure the previous version did.

            Most reviewers agree that the new guide is a vast improvement.

            There just happens to be nothing whatever "nationalist" about it (unless the presentation of factual data about citizenship has become an act of heroic patriotism)

            That's a cute rhetorical shift from "nationalist" to "act of heroic patriotism". :-)

            Since we're talking about Jason Kenney's efforts to promote a civic definition of Canadian nationalism, what better way to do so than to embody it in the very guide that all prospective Canadian citizens must study?

            In case you're wondering what a real nationalist looks like, David Orchard is one

            Do real nationalists oppose free trade? Do you feel that one's level of nationalism is directly proportional to one's degree of antipathy towards the United States?

          • That's a cute rhetorical shift from "nationalist" to "act of heroic patriotism".

            No shift took place. I merely defined a term. "Nationalism", if it's to mean anything at all, must mean more than an acknowledgment that Canada exists–which even Bin Laden would be prepared to do. "Nationalism" is a passionate love for and commitment to one's nation. I fail to see how re-editing a government publication exemplifies that.

            Do real nationalists oppose free trade?

            Not necessarily, but they're not thrilled with the almost total foreign domination of our economy.

          • No shift took place. I merely defined a term…"Nationalism" is a passionate love for and commitment to one's nation.

            So now "nationalism" has the exact same definition as "patriotism"? Nope, no shift there.

            I fail to see how re-editing a government publication exemplifies that.

            We're talking about Jason Kenney's efforts to promote a civic definition of Canadian nationalism. One such effort is Kenney's significant amelioration of the citizenship guide.
            We're not really talking about Kenney's "passionate love for and commitment to" Canada, though I'm sure it's considerable.

          • One such effort is Kenney's significant amelioration of the citizenship guide.

            What other efforts are there? Like for non-immigrant citizens? It seems bizarre that new Canadians should have a far greater grasp on the nature and history of the Canadian polity than born-in-Canada Canadians have; it would be nice if Kenney addressed that too.

          • I'm not sure if educating Canadian-born citizens about Canada is part of Kenney's mandate (though I don't see why it shouldn't be, at least with regards to the need to educate Canadians about their rights and responsibilities as citizens.)

            Here's a relevant excerpt from a Maclean's interview earlier this year:

            Kenney: Legally speaking it gives people status in Canada and certain rights like voting, but I think we need to reclaim a deeper sense of citizenship, a sense of shared obligations to one another, to our past, as well as to the future. In that I mean a kind of civic nationalism where people understand the institutions, values and symbols that are rooted in our history.

            Q: They don't understand those things now?

            Kenney: Well, heck, if you look at polling data—there's a massive historical amnesia about the Canadian past, and massive gaps of knowledge about our parliamentary institutions, our democratic procedures. There's a massive civic illiteracy.

            Q: For old Canadians as well as new Canadians.

            Kenney: Yeah, for younger Canadians in particular, whether they're new or well-established.

            Q: But if the problem is general, why are we doing it as an immigration program?

            Kenney: Because I'm not in charge of the schools, I am in charge of the citizenship process.

            http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/04/29/macleans-inter

          • So now "nationalism" has the exact same definition as "patriotism"? Nope, no shift there.

            Yes, what absurd casuistry indeed. Perhaps we need to establish what "civic nationalism" actually means, beyond being a hollow halo for you to place over the heads of politicians you happen to like. To wit:

            "Civic nationalism": the belief in the nation as "an association of people with equal and shared political rights, and allegiance to similar political procedures";

            "Patriotism": a feeling of "love of and/or devotion to one's country…[implying] a value preference for a specific civic or political community.

          • By the way, Sir Francis, I forgot to congratulate you on your MacKay smackdown from last week, which was the most devastating funny thing I've read in a while:

            Who could have guessed that an amenable, kow-towing continentalist GWOT groupie from an acquiescent northern hinterland who became the first Minister of Foreign Affairs to declare a crush on a U.S. Secretary of State would get the NATO nod from the Americans and one of their most loyal ex-Warsaw Pact protégés…

            The fact that the thread was almost certainly read by the minister's advisors (perhaps even the minister himself) only adds to the comedic punch.

          • Why thank you, CR. That's so kind.

            And you're still wrong… ;)

          • You're welcome, my friend! I'm glad we can engage in vigorous debate in a civil manner, without lowering ourselves to personal attacks and unnecessary sniping.

          • In your world, I take it, one can feel "allegiance" to one's political community without being particularly devoted to it and without preferring it over other political communities. In the real world, that's dreadfully hard to do; it would be rather disorienting in any case, I should think.

            I could easily formulate a booklet enumerating India's history, traditions, and national symbols; doing so would not make me an Indian nationalist; it would make me someone who has compiled a list of India's history, traditions and national symbols. To say that Kenney's little pamphlet exemplifies his deep "allegiance" to and "preference for" Canada turns nationalism into a scholarly parlour game and quaint literary affectation. There is the casuistry. Do you really think that the body of public utterance that has issued from CPC élites indicates a "devotion to" and "preference for" Canada? To what extent is one “devoted” to and “prefers” the nation one calls a second-tier socialist welfare state?

          • In your world, I take it, one can feel "allegiance" to one's political community without being particularly devoted to it and without preferring it over other political communities. In the real world, that's dreadfully hard to do

            You sure demolished that straw man position.

            Do you really think that the body of public utterance that has issued from CPC élites indicates a "devotion to" and "preference for" Canada?

            Yes. Definitely.

            To what extent is one “devoted” to and “prefers” the nation one calls a second-tier socialist welfare state?

            Yeesh. Give it a rest, already. It was after-dinner joke told by a private citizen almost thirteen years ago.

          • You sure demolished that straw man position.

            The "straw man" in question was your explicit assertion that "nationalism" and "patriotism" are incommensurable.

            It was an after-dinner joke told by a private citizen almost thirteen years ago.

            No. You want to believe it was a joke. Neither of us was there, but we've both read the text (at least I have, and I assume you have). Feel free to point out the contextual and rhetorical markers that demonstrate the "jokiness" of his words.

            Harper was clearly serious. He was also being atypically honest in a speech he assumed Canadians would never read. Harper delivered it as an influential middle-aged Canadian neo-con lobbyist speaking to influential middle-aged American neo-con lobbyists. Harper was playing the self-loathing colonial he knew those Americans wanted to see.

          • The "straw man" in question was your explicit assertion that "nationalism" and "patriotism" are incommensurable.

            I made no such explicit assertion, hence the "straw man". You really need to tone down your use of flimsy rhetorical tricks, which was the only reason I brought up the distinction in the first place.

            Harper was playing the self-loathing colonial he knew those Americans wanted to see.

            Frankly, jaundiced interpretations like this one reveal more about the interpreter than they reveal about Harper.

          • I made no such explicit assertion…

            Of course you did–using the "flimsy trick" of a passive-aggressive rhetorical question. This is you, CR: "So now "nationalism" has the exact same definition as "patriotism"?". See above.

            By the way, you really meant to condemn me for a semantic shift–since it is the question of what words mean that is at issue. In any case, you've had a number of opportunities to explain why nationalism and patriotism should be seen as significantly different dispositions, and all you've done so far is deny the glaringly obvious fact that you insisted on the untenable distinction in the first place.

          • I thought you did a good job with your definitions of "civic nationalism" and "patriotism" in one of your posts above.

            We were originally talking about Kenney's promotion of civic nationalism, which you rebutted by arguing that "I fail to see how re-editing a government publication exemplifies [a passionate love for and commitment to one's nation]." Hence the semantic shift.

          • Perhaps you, CR, would care to proffer an “un-jaundiced” interpretation of the act of trashing one's own nation, at some length, before an audience of U.S. Republicans and neo-con activists–folks not known for being kindly disposed to what they consider a tribe of socialist, terrorist-ridden underlings.

            Read the whole speech, CR. Do you feel a love of country emanating from Harper's words? Could you imagine Obama, Bush, or Clinton reading an equivalent "America Sucks" speech to a foreign audience? And if not, why not?

          • To get us back to the fundamental point at issue–my contention is that neither Kenney not his party is nationalist (or patriotic), that they do not see the Canadian nation state as an entity worth protecting against the pressures of continental exigencies, and that they see American social and political norms as preferable to ours in every way and without exception.

            …jaundiced interpretations like this one reveal more about the interpreter than they reveal about Harper.

            Heh–from "rhetorical tricks", we proceed to "jaundiced interpretations". CR's really firing his howitzers of genteel vituperation over open sights today!

            I guess I never really bought the credulous interpretation–smilingly peddled by Harper himself–that he was "just joshin'", as it's totally at odds with the tone of the passage in the actual text.

          • That is indeed the fundamental point at issue.

            neither Kenney not his party is nationalist (or patriotic)

            In my experience, both Kenney and his party are both nationalist amd patriotic. They just don't equate "nationalism" with economic protectionism and America-bashing.

            they do not see the Canadian nation state as an entity worth protecting against the pressures of continental exigencies

            …which must be why Harper blocked the private sale of Canadian space company MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates to a U.S. firm.

            they see American social and political norms as preferable to ours in every way and without exception.

            Obviously, there are some elements of US approaches that they like, including elected senates and market capitalism. This doesn't mean that they're a bunch of slavish America groupies, as per your bizzarely unequivocal assertion above. (It's almost as though I'm the one with the balanced, nuanced perspective here). ;-)

          • The notion that his words are somehow unrepresentative is nothing more than desperate ex post facto special pleading designed to make Harper look less a Canada-bashing Quisling. I'm sorry if it pains you, but that dismal performance is on the record and will stay on the record. Thank your hero for that.

            Of course, I'm sure if a thirteen-year-old Ignatieff speech were discovered that found him waxing elegiac over Mao's Cultural Revolution and Stalin's collectivisation program, you would dismiss it as innocuous bantering–the harmless japesing of an inexperienced young whipper-snapper–and in no way relevant to his public career.

          • Of course, I'm sure if a thirteen-year-old Ignatieff speech were discovered that found him waxing elegiac over Mao's Cultural Revolution and Stalin's collectivisation program

            That's a bad example, because it's preposterous that Iggy would say something like that. He's no Marxist, and he's not even remotely left-wing. Some would say he's the most right-leaning Liberal leader ever.

            However, if I discovered a sixteen-year old article in which Iggy trashed the monarchy and called for "a republican tradition to find its voice again", I would view that as fair game — a representation of Ignatieff's actual views on the monarchy. Therefore, I would be sure to circulate it at an appropriate moment when Canadians were paying attention to such things.

          • I used an example as outrageous as Harper's–and as mean spirited and hysterically absurd.

            Your reportage of Iggy's words represents boiler-plate republican Liberalism. Alexander Mackenzie, our first Liberal prime minister, is reputed to have refused to bow before the Governor General saying, "I would not bow before the Queen's valet, and I shall not bow before her ass".

            At all events, we agree again. Harper's shameful Canada-hating minstrelsy before his American "betters" is a relevant feature of his public career. I'm glad we managed to establish that. ;)

          • Harper's shameful Canada-hating minstrelsy before his American "betters" is a relevant feature of his public career.

            As you well know, our only point of agreement is that it is a "relevant feature" (as all past speeches and articles penned by politicians are relevant, whether or not they were politicians at the time).

            We disagree on the interpretation. ("shameful minstrelsy" vs. "tongue-in-cheek after-dinner jesting")

          • Do you feel that one's level of nationalism is directly proportional to one's degree of antipathy towards the United States?

            No, but one's nationalism might be proportional to one's level of happiness about the fact that we are not Americans–much like Americans are thrilled to not be European.

            A question for you, CR: do you think it is "nationalist" to apologise (chronically) on behalf of your compatriots for not being Americans and not loving America enough, which appears to be a key CPC pathology?

          • do you think it is "nationalist" to apologise (chronically) on behalf of your compatriots for not being Americans and not loving America enough, which appears to be a key CPC pathology?

            Sorry, I'm not sure that I concur with your diagnosis of that "key CPC pathology". Since the supposed apologies are so chronic, perhaps you could show me some recent examples. Heck, they don't even have to be recent… feel free to reach back all the way to Harper's "assumption of power" in 2006.

          • …perhaps you could show me some recent examples.

            Gee. That would be confoundedly hard, as the CPC's thirst for Canadian participation in Iraq and an indefinite Canadian commitment to Afghanistan had nothing whatever to do with their basic belief in the inherent righteousness of American goals and priorities–nor is their refusal to intercede on behalf of Omar Khadr (after having assumed the guilt of Maher Arar when in Opposition) and their total disdain for the Kyoto Protocol indicative of a deep pro-American bias. Not at all.

            … feel free to reach back all the way to Harper's "assumption of power" in 2006.

            You mean his accession to power, of course… ;)

          • the CPC's thirst for Canadian participation in Iraq

            My dear Sir_Francis, it was rather predictable that you would try to flog horses that died eight or more years ago. That's why I asked for recent examples.

            an indefinite Canadian commitment to Afghanistan

            "Until 2011" is such an indefinite commitment, isn't it? Quick, someone tell Obama that Canada's commitment is really "indefinite". He'll be thrilled!

            their basic belief in the inherent righteousness of American goals and priorities

            I suspect this statement is faith-based rather than evidence-based, based on the paltry evidence provided thus far.

            their refusal to intercede on behalf of Omar Khadr

            Finally, an example that is (at least partly) more recent than 2006! Too bad this doesn't really qualify as an "apology for not being Americans and not loving America enough".

            "their total disdain for the Kyoto Protocol indicative of a deep pro-American bias"

            That's funny. I always assumed it had something to do with Canada's economic self-interest.

          • … it was rather predictable that you would try to flog horses that died eight or more years ago.

            I wish I could pull off disingenuousness as coolly as you do, CR. My poker game would be so much more deadly.

            The Iraqi insurgency is actually very much alive (as a media-reading chap like you will be aware), and the fact that Canadian troops would be in the middle of that fiasco if Harper had had his way is not an insignificant point of fact.

            Rather than proffer cute evasions, please tell us why Harper's letter to the Wall Street Journal apologising for Canada's disinclination to follow the U.S. into the meat grinder like obedient sepoys does not constitute an example of Harper's habit of apologising on Canada's behalf for not being sufficiently pro-American.

          • I wish I could pull off disingenuousness as coolly as you do, CR. My poker game would be so much more deadly.

            And for my part, I wish I could pull off erudite, hyperbolic foppery half as well as you do. ;-)

            apologising for Canada's disinclination to follow the U.S. into the meat grinder like obedient sepoys

            Had Canada participated in the Iraq war, our participation would have likely been even more minimal that that other "obedient sepoy", Australia, which to date has suffered all of two casualties in Iraq (both accidental deaths). Some meat grinder!

          • "Until 2011" is such an indefinite commitment, isn't it?

            CR, you are woefully bad at pretending to be obtuse. ;)

            The 2011 deadline was imposed by Parliament, upon a minority government. It was not Harper's initiative, nor did it reflect his preference. It really is tedious, and embarrassing to us both, to have to remind you of this.

            The CPC wanted a virtually indefinite mission ("until the job is done" went the chest-beating cant, as I recall). Parliament, and the Canadian people, wanted something very different, but, what the Americans want, Harper is always happy to attempt.

            I suspect this statement is faith-based rather than evidence-based…

            Gosh, I could mention Harper's loving encomium about America as the "world's greatest beacon of freedom", but he said that when he was only in his forties–after almost two decades of neo-liberal activism and lobbying–and can thus be dismissed as a bit of unrepresentative off-the-cuff juvenilia.

          • The 2011 deadline was imposed by Parliament, upon a minority government.

            It was a bipartisan resolution, supported by the Conservatives, who by that point were perfectly happy to go with what most Canadians wanted by establishing a firm timeline for Afghanistan. Sort of like how Parliament is supposed to work.

            Since then, Harper has steadfastly resisted the many entreaties from the US President to extend that deadline. Sorry if this doesn't fit in to your "kowtowing lackey" narrative.

          • Sort of like how Parliament is supposed to work.

            Indeed. The CPC has been superb at making Parliament work. I especially admire the way they shut it down on occasion. ;)

            So we're agreed: Harper acquiesced to the Opposition's demand for a deadline and to the people's wish to pull out in 2011 out of political necessity rather than personal desire. Furthermore, I'm sure we both agree that Harper's reflexive hopping onto the U.S. bandwagon was catastrophically stupid. Fine. That's all I wanted to say.

          • Yes, we agree on both those statements. Hooray! :)

          • Too bad this doesn't really qualify…

            Care to explain why not, or is the reason as patently obvious as the radical distinction between nationalism and patriotism?

            I always assumed it had something to do with Canada's economic self-interest…

            …a self-interest in no way conditioned by an assumed need to follow the American lead on virtually everything.

            Austrian acquiescence before the Anschluss had much to do with economic self-interest, CR. Spare me the exculpatory rationalisations.

          • Care to explain why not

            Why don't you start by explaining why. You're the one who brought it up.

            Austrian acquiescence before the Anschluss had much to do with economic self-interest, CR. Spare me the exculpatory rationalisations.

            Spare me the hackneyed clichés and historically laughable false analogies to pre-WW2 Nazism. The Conservatives' rejection of Kyoto is in no way comparable to "Austrian acquiescence before the Anschluss", despite your flimsy attempt to rhetorically connect the two using "economic self interest" as your tenuous link.

          • Spare me the hackneyed clichés and historically laughable false analogies to pre-WW2 Nazism.

            You think the analogy is laughable, do you? Were you laughing when Condi Rice threatened to slow cross-border trade to a crawl unless she saw meaningful Canadian support for the Iraq invasion? I do hope you were not, as was your favourite minister, too transfixed by Condi's doe eyes to mind having your nation threatened with economic collapse through the arrogant blandishments of a loud-mouthed superpower.

            At all events, some Canadians did mind–the nationalist ones, presumably. As I recall, the CPC thought the U.S. had a perfect right to punish us–hence Harper's cringe-worthy WSJ letter (which, I might add, you have not yet tried to rationalise, strangely).

          • Were you laughing when Condi Rice threatened to slow cross-border trade to a crawl unless she saw meaningful Canadian support for the Iraq invasion?

            Please provide a link (preferably a direct quote) to support this assertion.

            As I recall, the CPC thought the U.S. had a perfect right to punish us–hence Harper's cringe-worthy WSJ letter (which, I might add, you have not yet tried to rationalise, strangely).

            I agree that Harper and Day should have never sent that letter, but as usual it's one of those things which has been torqued beyond recognition by his political and ideological opponents. The actual text of that letter is surprisingly bland and inoffensive.

            However, I strongly disagree with the letter's fundamental premise ("Yet Prime Minister Jean Chretien has left Canada outside this multilateral coalition of nations. This is a serious mistake.") So I'm not going to defend it.

          • You guys run out of steam yet?:)

            I'll lob one at you CR. If the Bush administration had endorsed Kyoto [i know that's too bizarre, but suspend your disbelief] what would Harper's position have been? Care to bet that he wouldn't have fudged his position to somehow align with the Americans? I'm not saying he would have been a greenie, but i am saying he doesn't have any idea what an independent Canadian foreign policy would look like. In that unlikely scenario i doubt he would have outright opposed the US but rather would have had a faux Kyoto postion rather like his current faux Obama position, one that he only intended to honour in its most diluted form.

          • kc, you're right… I've run out of steam :-)

            I think the guiding principle behind all of Harper's action (or, more accurately, inaction) on the GHG file has been Canada's economic self-interest.

            Had the Bush administration announced a unilateral plan to curb emissions I'm sure Harper would have fudged his position to align with the Americans, as you say. He probably would have felt compelled by diplomatic pressure to introduce a similar plan on the Canadian side of the border, in order to level the "playing field" for our critical cross-border trading relationship.

          • I can see how "inaction"is inline with the Wells theory of Harper's playbook. Advance your polcy as defined not by preventing your opponent from advancing theirs…i find it impossible to respect this technique…no quite nihilism…not quite leading or governing either. Merry Christmas bud!

          • Merry Christmas!

          • My understanding was that, in English, "a Québécois" (pl. "the Québécois) is a French-Canadian living in Quebec, whereas in French "un(e) Québécois(s)" (pl. "les Québécois(es)" is someone living from Quebec regardless of ethnicity, i.e. it's ethnic in English and civic in French; unless you're a Quebec ethnic nationalist or attending a barbecue in Laval, in which case the terms are reversed. Thus everybody feels Affirmed and Ratified and Hugged, and we've deftly ignored the problem of Serbian-style ethnic nationalism.

  18. Ahh the joys of a split opposition and an indifferent population who worry more about their jobs, their kids and their pensions.

    Harper's game of inches is slowly moving Canada away from the democracy Canadians take for granted. Canadians don't seem to notice or care. Perhaps they don't think Canada can devolve into a semi-democracy run from the PMO. Canada's place as a responsible global citizen is taking a Bush-like drubbing and Canadians shrug. At some point this indifference will end as it has in other places and Canada will be a better place.

    I do have hope in that the number of Harper cheerleaders in the press have narrowed considerably in the past few years. Even Coyne is tentative. Jane Taber is still solidly in in the Harper Conservative corner, perhaps hoping for another Duffy inspired appointment. So perhaps regular Canadians as a whole will read, learn and wake-up.

    • How is Harper moving Canada away from democracy? Typical accusations from the lefty's without any substantiation or support. Harper is leading a minority govt–The democratically elected Opposition can defeat him at any time–this is not democracy?

      • The left doesn't have the capacity to see democracy for what it is. It's messy, not always nice and no…you don't always get what you want. Pleasing 35 million people is no easy task. Harper is the best PM we've had in decades. The whiners just keep stomping their feet and demanding they get eveything they want at the expense of everyone else. Canadians ARE SPEAKING LOUD AND CLEAR. Deal with it!

      • How is Harper moving Canada away from democracy?

        Satisfy my curiosity. Why exactly have you been living in a cave for the past four years? Was it an experiment of some kind.

      • The democratically elected Opposition can defeat him at any time–this is not democracy?

        OK, so then we agree that when he cancelled a promised confidence vote in December last year that that was anti-democratic, and that it was super anti-democratic when he shut down Parliament altogether in order to avoid a confidence vote and save his job. Anti-democratic.

        How about ignoring the will of Parliament and showing contempt for Parliament as he has done last week by ignoring the document disclosure motion. Anti-democratic.

        How about shutting down committees so they can't do their work? Kady O'Malley provides the detail about how they have systematically shut downfirst the Procedure and House Affairs committee, then the the Justice committee, then the Environment committee and the Ethics committee and now, of course, the security committee this week, whenever they do something that isn't supportive of the Conservative agenda. Anti-democratic.

      • The democratically elected Opposition can defeat him at any time–this is not democracy?

        OK, so then we agree that when he cancelled a promised confidence vote in December last year that that was anti-democratic, and that it was super anti-democratic when he shut down Parliament altogether in order to avoid a confidence vote and save his job. Anti-democratic.

        How about ignoring the will of Parliament and showing contempt for Parliament as he has done last week by ignoring the document disclosure motion. Anti-democratic.

        How about shutting down committees so they can't do their work? Kady O'Malley provides the detail about how they have systematically shut downfirst the Procedure and House Affairs committee, then the the Justice committee, then the Environment committee and the Ethics committee and now, of course, the security committee this week, whenever they do something that isn't supportive of the Conservative agenda. Anti-democratic.

    • I also lament the loss of the uber-democratic glory days of Chretien where……………….everything was decided out of the PMO. OOOPs. life must be sweet with a memory that short. Hey look black man is President of the USA! When did that happen? I live in Ontario where everything is decided out of the Office of the Premier, so that neo-con McGuinty must also be angling for a semi-democracy.

      • Yes we should do something about those undemocratic Liberals.

        I know, let's vote them out of office.

        What? Oh. Looks like someone already thought of that idea.

        • The voters will decide who if unfit at the riding level. Based on the trends since September another twenty Liberals will be finding working at the Dalton branch.

      • We're going to have to stop citing polls as evidence that Conservatives are being democratic for two reasons:

        1) Popular support for undemocratic measures doesn't automatically make them democratic. We have a system of democracy with specific requirements. Democracy is not simply "whatever the people want." That's the core, but not the yardstick to be whipped out at every turn;

        2) In 2008, I was pretty informed. I watched the National every night and checked the Globe website once a day. Nevertheless, I had no idea until a professor mentioned it to me that the Conservatives were stalling committees by filibustering them that year. I searched on the web for a story about it and found one mention in a Hill Times article. My point? The masses, even the moderately informed masses, have no idea what subtle tricks Harper is employing. Very few of them have the time of day I've somehow found to comb through blogs and articles and updates on a dozen different websites and news sources.

        In short, that's why there is a democratic process in place; so we don't have to lean on polls for every decision made. Harper is ignoring this process.

        • Watching the National (CBC) ? Checking the Globe websites? Both are lefties in bed with the Liberals and occasionally with the NDP. No surprise that you are brainwashed

    • "At some point this indifference will end as it has in other places and Canada will be a better place."

      I'm not sure that the problem is one of indifference. I think the issue is a lack of alternative.

      • I'm in complete agreement. This will continue until the opposition – [chiefly the libs one assumes] get's its act together. This is not Harper's fault of course…so far he's been fortunate. One wonders if he will continue to face fairly ineffectual opposition leaders?

  19. Paragraphs are your friend, Josephine.

  20. Mr. Wells:
    Your argument that there are only inches between the Liberals and Conservatives only holds true within the sphere of public relations. That you parrot it here only shows how effective the Con war room is.
    It is all part of the silly media meme that this period in time (the last four years and who knows for how long) is the "Conservatives turn". (Liberals being in the adscam penalty box and all.) Too bad for Canada that the reformers successfully acquired their new brand from the hapless McKay.
    Read L. Martin in yesterday's G&M for a real assessment of Canadian democracy.

  21. What, nobody accusing Wells of being a Harper shill?

    • Maybe it's just so obvious it doesn't need saying. I can never tell.

  22. ''Every year he is in power, he puts a little more distance between the real Canada and the one the Liberals wanted.''

    Agree, Harper is giving Canadians the Canada they want.
    Liberals are stuck in the 90's.

    • Harper is giving Canadians the Canada they want.

      So you wanted a 60 billion dollar deficit?

      • No, the oppositions sure did , and it would be higher if the coalition had been able to take over

        • Harper can either take credit for the stimulus or blame the deficit on someone else. He can’t do both.

          I think we know which he’s picked.

          • watch him, and learn!

          • Nothing to learn…my mama taught me not to lie.

          • we'll see.

      • Did the coalition offer an alternative budget with less spending?

    • And yet only 34% of Canadians support him and his vision for Canada, and half of Canadians disapprove of the direction we are going in and only 22% of Canadians actually voted for him (even fewer in 2008 than in 2006). What a ringing endorsement.

      • Know what Tedbetts,, that is still more then any other party got, Why is that so hard for some people to understand, I do not remember hearing anyone on the LPC side of the playing field whine when PMJC had a majority with 37% in an election that didn't need to be called.

      • First past the post worked for the LPOC with a divided 2 right of centre parties, NDP 8.5% and Greens at 0.5 in 2000. Since than the LPOC has failed to make any improvements and have steadily lost support in every part of the country and in every demographic.

        It's too bad they have not had an original idea for over twenty years.

  23. And a lot of things a Liberal government might have done—expanding safe-injection sites for intravenous drug users, or finally getting serious about reducing carbon emissions—didn't happen.

    I don't buy that last item (the getting serious about carbon one), so I guess I am arguing that the two are even more indistinguishable than you claim. Shame, that. They ought to be distinguishable. Maybe one day the Conservative Party will remember that it should be a conservative party.

    • That last item would have been a priority under the previous leader but certainly not this one.

    • The LPOC ran some pretty nifty CBC spot with Rick Mercer, that must count with Green Peace.

  24. Paul Martin's public support was high, at first, but public support can shift quickly. He was higher than Harper is now and Harper was lower than Iggy is now at the start of the 2005 election.

    So his power is shaky in party because his public support is weak and even shakier because of the volatility of public opinion that we have seen this year.

  25. "Yet the Prime Minister's grasp on power remains shaky"

    I disagree. The main reason being that it is almost impossible for the three Opps leaders to agree, at the same time, over the same issue, to vote non-confidence. Each of them will have to forsee electoral gains, which essentially means the CPC will have to be polling at around 30 %.

    The Libs and Dippers must also factor in their financial situation–the prospect of spending lots of money to gain only a few seats, and then having to hit up their supporters for more money, so as to build up their war chests. The Libs don't want to play into Flanagan's "war of attrition" strategy. The Dippers are still paying off loans from the $18 million they spent in 2008.

    Plus Donolo has stated publicly that the Libs are now playing the long game. Plus, are Jack and Gilles going to do Iggy–the guy who killed the coaliton–any favors any time soon ?

    It all adds up to Harper being able to do pretty well whatever he wants.

  26. And by the way, the historian in me can't help but correct you on your own groundless assertion. In 1993, Chretien won his first election. He called the next election in 1997, four years which is pretty much the standard and certainly the number of years Harper pretended he would hold himself to.

    If you were thinking about the 2000 election which was indeed an early election – in fact, the one that generated Harper's broken promise for fixed election dates – he won 41% of the vote in that election.

    • Also, when you add in the fact that many more people were actually voting in 2000 so Chretien's % of Canadians was higher.

      As reported in Maclean's online a few months ago, Harper won the 2008 election with the lowest level of support among Canadians in our entire history. In 2006, he won with the third lowest level of support.

  27. What are you talking about Kingston? Do you even know?

    If Harper was able to cut $5 billion from the existing environmental program, then by definition there must have been something there. You can argue whether the "$1 tonne challenge", EcoFund, etc. were good or effective (the AG said the EcoFund was effective and Canadians were getting their moneys worth out of it), but you can't deny the program existed.

    As they say, you are entitled to your own opinion. You are not entitled to your own facts.

    • Actually Ted,, I was talking about the reference to the UCB in Fred's comments.

      • I see. I think you exaggerate when you say "every year" as it was only brought out in elections. There was that thing about the deficit, but by 2000 that was gone, so the point is a good one.

        Like Harper's promise of accountability, fixed election dates, no unelected senators, a federal appointments commissioner, a budget officer reporting to Parliament, no deficits, no tax increases, no income trust taxes, spending restraint, governing by principle and not by polls, etc etc etc… some leaders just make promises to get elected and appease the base. I hear ya.

    • Al those programs did is feeding parasitic NGO's did not reduce a gram of Carbon. The only Canadian that got money out of it are the ones that were employed by these programs. No wonder that they are screaming murder.

  28. Incidentally, do we all recognize the new avatar?

    • I'm going to guess a young Herbie Hancock, but I'm probably wrong.

    • All my mom would ever buy me was blue North Star runners (suede, with yellow stripes).

      • I had totally forgotten about Mars Blackmon.

        I use to get Chuck Taylor's white canvas hi-tops. Nike produced nothing near as good.

        • Nike made better commercials. "This is something you can buy. This is something you cannot do. Can buy. Can't do. Can. Can't." Genius.

          • Hilarious! I've never seen it before.

  29. hollinm continued……

    The opposition if they don't like the answer or they feel the government is not acting in the best interest of the country then force an election and let the Canadian people decide. That won't happen because Iffy knows what would happen to him. Back to Harvard on election night for the good professor.

    • "Democracy works both ways. The government has a right to defend itself and the opposition can demand what they want. If they don't like the answer then take the government to court. Thats the way it works"

      That's not the way democracy works at all. It's just an assertion that might is always right…the assertion of someone who isn't a democrat.

      • While it is undoubtedly true that the opposition uses the various committee to attempt to embarass the govt [ when was this ever different?] that does not mean there is never a time when the intersts of the opposition and national interests do not coincide. Even if the opposition is trying to embarass the govt politically it does not follow that the way to deal with it is to run and hide, obstruct committee work or generally try and short circuit parliamentary democracy. It's the cowards way! The way of the autocrat!

  30. "A game of inches"

    Indeed. A game in which everybody runs on 3rd down, turns the ball over, stops the opposition, and nobody ever leaves the 55-yard line. I buy Mr. Wells's point about incremental Harperification to a certain degree, but at this rate the whole last decade and the one to come will together make 1890-1910 look like the most exciting period in Canadian history. Ask yourself — is life in any way different than it was four years ago?

  31. As Wells is quick to point out much of the legislation talked about by the Conservatives has been passed by the Commons but held up in the Senate.

    Well that will end in January and the Conservatives will have the majority in the Senate. Legislation will move forward and then Wells can write a column saying what the Conservatives have "really" accomplished.

    Of course the media will not acknowledge that the government is responsible for ensuring the law is followed i.e. privacy legislation and national security in respect to the detainee issue. To give those loudmouths on the opposition benches who are not Privy Counsellors an opportunity to spill our national secrets and malign anybody they can get their hands on would be irresponsible.

    Democracy works both ways. The government has a right to defend itself and the opposition can demand what they want. If they don't like the answer then take the government to court. Thats the way it works. We know that won't happen because the Libs are broke and could not pay the legal fees.

    So there will be lots of bitching and moaning but they will not get the documents unredacted no matter how loud they and the media scream.

  32. This is very good. Concrete points for discussion. It's also very long so I won't get to them all, but the coalition, as you call it, is actually the opposition in Parliament. It is their job, truly that is what they are there for, to oppose the government. To point out every time they opposed the government is silly, and is really just pointing out that they're doing their job.

    You also point out how there is more than one party that makes up the opposition, each supporting the government at different times, in spite of calling it a "coalition" at every turn. Can't have it both ways.

  33. Paragraphs are your friend. I stopped reading after the first few sentences. It makes your eyeballs bleed trying to read it formatted as it is. I am sure there is good stuff in these comments but I have other things to do today.

  34. Ah well, I thought we were having a respectful discussion. As your first sentence indicates we are not, I shall not bother responding further.

    • Jen,

      We can both agree to disagree what is respectful. I have my opinion what is fair comment and the inconsistent application logic applied to this or the previous government actions.

      I am consistent in my "due process" for the military, both government's NOT involved in some conspiracy to "cover up" War Crimes as alleged by one single person based on 2nd, 3rd hand information (backed up with 1 "Field Note" -in an 8 year War).

  35. The idea that we vote for any party and think we make any kind of difference is the sham. Wake up people big money is going to do whatever it wants. We are divided and conquered.

  36. Thankyou for the comments re the format. I actually never expected that they would Post my comments anyway, so I just kept writing, shows how wrong one can be…my last email in response to your comments was disallowed! I guess I won't be posting again on this site…

    • Hey, Josephine, don't take it personally. I'm amazed you managed to get all that in one post–I keep getting rejected after two puny paragraphs. So, much as we like paragraphs, good on you for fooling intensedebate. I think it learns quickly, which might be why you couldn't do it a second time.

    • Josephine – Maclean's is not likely censoring you. They are pretty good about letting people comment. Sometimes comments don't show up and it is something to do with Intense Debate software. Missing/disappeared comments happens often.

      • maclean's supports the Harper government. I don't support either. I read this rag because I don't have to pay to read it. Over time this magazine has become garbage.

Sign in to comment.