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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Patriot Games and Bilingualism: A God That Failed?

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
"It is simply difficult – extremely difficult – for someone to become bilingual in a country that is not. And make no mistake. Canada is not a bilingual country. In fact it is less bilingual today than it has ever been... So there you have it. As a religion, bilingualism is the god that failed. It has led to no fairness, produced no unity and cost Canadian taxpayers untold millions." - Stephen Harper on bilingualism, Calgary Sun, May 6th 2001.
Peter Brimelow's 1986 The Patriot Game, had a profound impact on Stephen Harper's political thought process, and indeed most of the arguments made in Brimelow's book have been presented by Harper at some point during his career.

The title was inspired by the notion of a fraudulent patriotism espoused by the Liberal Party, and in fact throughout the book the author blames the Liberals, especially Pierre Trudeau, for just about everything he deemed to be wrong with our country.

And he puts a special focus on bilingualism.

As a result, the Reform Party made this a focus of their policy, believing that they could further fan the flames of anger over the issue, that many of their supporters felt deliberately targeted the West.

Maybe that's why in 2001, Harper felt comfortable speaking of this in Calgary, while perhaps not being so eager to do so in Ontario, Quebec or the Maritimes.

And bilingualism has remained an important issue for some members of his party, despite the fact that many parents are choosing to send their children to French immersion schools, appreciating a need and even a desire, that their children become fluent in both of our official languages.
Just when we thought we were well beyond the age of angst over French on cereal boxes and the like, in steps Vic Toews with the heavy linguistic lumber. In a fit of pique - uggh, that's a French word - the President of the Treasury Board charged that the Liberals view unilingual Canadians as second-class citizens. "It's clear," he harrumphed, "that the Liberal Party considers those of us who speak one official language to be less Canadian."

The truculent Mr. Toews is responsible for language policy in the federal public service. He blew his anglophone gasket - Quebeckers will not be overjoyed - in a committee hearing on the Official Languages Act when Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez had the audacity to ask whether, given his duties, the minister should be bilingual. (1)
Peter Brimelow would have smiled.

Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism

The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism was established by the government of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in response to a growing separatist sentiment in Quebec. He wanted to try to bridge the gap between Anglophones and Francophones, to create an equal partnership between what were considered to be the two founding races.

When Pierre Trudeau came to power he adopted many of the recommendations of the commission, creating The Official Languages Act, which meant that:
... francophones could have service in their own language from any federal agency in Canada in jurisdictions where they exceeded 10 percent of the population. The same guarantee applied to English Canadians in Quebec. Opposition leaders supported the legislation, although Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield faced a rebellion from some members who charged that the legislation "stuffed French down the throats" of anglophones.

The Official Languages Act transformed the federal government, where the senior public service now works bilingually and the percentage of francophones in the service roughly equals their percentage in the population. In the 1950s, by contrast, francophones constituted less than 10 percent of the Canadian public service, and the language of work was, with few exceptions, English. ... In Jack Granatstein's apt assessment, its "contributions in detail were not great; what it did do was to help prepare English Canadians for the necessity of change. That was a major achievement, immeasurable as it might be." (2)
But Trudeau did not accept 'biculturalism' as written, but instead; inspired by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he decided to broaden the initiative and create a liberal society that accepted all peoples as equals. This resulted in Canada adopting an official policy of multiculturalism.

In studying many of the groups opposed to bilingualism, more often than not, it was the 'multiculturalism' that bothered them the most. It was just not as easy to articulate in a tolerant society. And throughout Brimelow's book, there is an unmistakable edge to the issue of bilingualism, not lost on the Reform Party.
Read for example Peter Brimelow's words bemoaning the eclipse of Anglo-Saxon hegemony.'At the end of the nineteenth century, belief in the superiority of the Anglo Saxon values ... [was] the most social norm in every English-speaking country ... For WASP supremacists everywhere, however, the twentieth century has been a most distressing experience. (3)
The Alliance for the Preservation of English

According to Wikipedia:
The Alliance for the Preservation of English* in Canada (APEC) was an anti-French and anti-Quebec hate group in Canada, which campaigned against the Canadian government's policy of official bilingualism.The group was formed in 1977 by Irene Hilchie, a government employee who felt that she was being discriminated against in her job because she did not speak French. The group's most famous member, however, was Jock V. Andrew, whose book Bilingual Today, French Tomorrow alleged that bilingualism was part of a government plot to make Canada a unilingually French country ... APEC also worked closely with the Confederation of Regions Party and the Reform Party, two political parties which held similar views about bilingualism and the role of Quebec in Confederation.
In 1989, a small group of APEC members in Brockville trampled the Quebec flag* at a protest, which became one of the catalysts for the 1995 referendum.

Peter Brimelow quotes J.V. (Jock) Andrew in his book The Patriot Game. All were instrumental in drafting the Reform Party's policies toward bilingualism (and of course multiculturalism, which they also opposed).


*Bob Runciman, former cabinet minister of Mike Harrris, was also a member of APEC. He is one of the most recent patronage senate appointments made by Stephen Harper.
“The Brockville chapter of APEC successfully opposed a petition to introduce French immersion classes in the Leeds and Grenville school district; not that the school board really needed prodding from APEC to turn down French immersion. Bob Runciman, the local MPP, supports APEC and has addressed a meeting of its Brockville chapter ... Runciman has apparently helped whip up the anti-bilingualism sentiment in the area, and [APEC] members claimed 1,400 people have joined the cause in Brockville and 10,000 across the province.” (Kingston Whig-Standard, July 11 1987)
Runciman called bilingualism “a supreme exercise in social engineering" and later in Brockville:
“On a platform behind the train station, a Quebec flag was spread out. About half a dozen demonstrators took turns stomping and spitting on the Fleur-de-lis before it was set ablaze.” (Ottawa Citizen, October 19, 1992)

1. Truculent Toews has too much to say about the bilingualism issue, By Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail, May 7, 2009

2. Just Watch me: The Life of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, By John English, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-676-97523-9, Pg. 130

3. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada, By Trevor Harrison, University of Toronto Press, 1995, ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6 3 7.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Patriot Games, Wasps, and Ideology: Where it all Began

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

In his book: Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, William Johnson describes Harper's early life growing up in the Toronto suburb of Leaside.
Leaside boasted that it was Ontario's only municipality built entirely according to a pre-designed plan. Many of its streets were curved, some crescents. Stop signs were frequent, discouraging through traffic. The ubiquitous trees and lawns gave a pleasant green look, and the narrow lots each contained a single-family dwelling flanked by a driveway leading up to a small garage. The Harper home, a red-brick two-storey house with a bay window and a small fireplace in the living room, on a lot that was 33 feet wide, and 138 feet deep. It had a tree growing on the front lawn and another tree in the fenced backyard. (1)
It all sounds so Truman Show. A "pre-designed" normal life, with little through traffic to upset the status quo. It could have just as well been a movie set. And with 85% of the residents being of British ancestry, Johnson called it the quintessential WASP middle-class suburb.

85% White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, with no other ethnic group in notable numbers.

And everyone conformed or else.
The Leaside Council was .. preoccupied with forbidding bowling on Sunday, the day the Lord rested. On February 23, 1963, when Stephen was not yet four, the Leaside Council rebuked two local enterprises that had engaged in commercial activity on Sunday. According to the minutes, "The Theatre of Bayview has been opened on Sundays and now Bowlerama in Thorncliffe Park. A letter will be sent informing them of the violation of the Lord's Day Act." But, already, the community was going to the devil. The minutes of Leaside Council for March 1, 1965, reported: "Tennis was added to the list of games permitted on Sundays." (1)
So when Stephen Harper graduated from high school and headed to the University of Toronto, it must have been quite a culture shock. Is this why he dropped out after only 3 months?

It's very difficult to understand just who he really is. I've read every book I could find on the early history of the Reform Party, but since Harper has given very strict instructions that no one is allowed to discuss his early life, it's hard to determine what has made him who he is today. He is a man with many secrets.

So I've started reading some of the authors and books that were said to have inspired his political thought, and it would appear the most important one was The Patriot Game, written in 1986 by Peter Brimelow. According to Johnson, Harper was so enthused after reading it that he went out and bought ten copies to give to friends. He called it a "journey of discovery". (2)

I'm now reading The Patriot Game and already in the author's notes, something has struck me.

"I am a wandering WASP", says Brimelow, but that is not it. He goes on to say:
My qualifications for writing a book about [Canada] [leaves me] vulnerable to attack from hostile natives. The obvious defense is to point out that there is a long tradition of insight by outsiders into a nation's character. ... There are important human reasons why outsiders can see, and even more to the point say, things that insiders cannot. In the course of this book, I am disrespectful of much that Canadians are nowadays encouraged to identify with their nationhood. Indeed, I argue that contemporary Canadian Nationalism is a fraud, designed primarily to benefit particular interest groups in Canada.(3)
He argues that English Canada does not take pride in it's roots.
This raises the question of my attitude to French Canada. One of the symptoms of pathology in Canadian politics is that any expression of affection for English Canada is automatically taken to imply anti-French "bigotry." (3)
Brimelow is indeed an outsider, who may have thought he was visiting an English colony when he arrived here. Because what he doesn't understand is that as a multicultural country, Canadians take pride in their varied roots. We celebrate our Irish heritage, our Scottish heritage, our Indian, Welsh, Bulgarian, Arab, Aboriginal .. and the list goes on.

It is all part of the Canadian mosaic.

But to a young man growing up in a "pre-designed" WASP neighbourhood, where mothers stayed home and raised their children, and everyone attended the same Church, and no one worked on Sundays; Brimelow's words must have resonated. They validated his thoughts. During the time of a rights revolution, when everyone was demanding equality, he could now justify his objections.

And when he spoke to an American audience, disdainfully calling Canada a 'Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term', he was speaking as an outsider. And when we were 'a second tier socialist country boasting ever more loudly of our second rate status', it wasn't his country he was speaking of.

Too many through streets. Too much access.

Peter Brimelow would continue his campaign of 'English' pride, and now refers to himself as a paleo-conservative, what most of us once referred to as a white nationalist. He argues that white people should be proud of their race, as if skin colour denotes a common heritage.

And this sentiment would be fundamental to the Reform Party, when Stephen Harper drafted their policy and worked behind the scenes to launch the movement.
... the notion that some Reform members may have strong Anglo-Saxon nativist inclinations is supported by more than merely the background profiles of its leaders, members and supporters. It is supported also by the words of many of its ideological mentors who depict Canada as not only historically an Anglo-Saxon country but also part of a wider Anglo-Saxon culture that is in need of recognizing and re-establishing its heritage.

Read for example Peter Brimelow's words bemoaning the eclipse of Anglo-Saxon hegemony.'At the end of the nineteenth century, belief in the superiority of the Anglo Saxon values ... [was] the most social norm in every English-speaking country ... For WASP supremacists everywhere, however, the twentieth century has been a most distressing experience. (4)
It was also through Brimelow and The Patriot Game, that Harper refined his visceral hatred for the Liberal Party. In fact the book was based on that contempt. Brimelow blamed the Liberals for fixating on federalism and prolonging "Trudeau's fantasy" of blending Anglophones and Francophones into one bilingual whole.

He refers to it as "Liberal ideology" and the name Patriot Game came from this "radical mutation".

And throughout his book he capitalizes Liberal in his diatribes, obviously meaning the party and not simply liberalism as a whole.

So maybe by reading this book I can get a better idea of what this prime minister has in store for us. So far, it's almost frightening, how clearly Harper's thoughts came from this Brit. The wandering WASP, viewing Canada as an outsider. An outsider who thinks we should be acting more like a British Colony than the mixed up multicultural mess of a wonderful nation that we are.


Patriot Game and Bilingualism: A God That Failed?

Patriot Game and the Federation of Founding Peoples

Patriot Game: Flags, Anthems and History

Patriot Game and the Committee for an Independent Canada

The Patriot Game: Western Separation

The Patriot Game: The Charter of Rights


1. Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, by William Johnson, McClelland & Stewart, 2005, ISBN 0-7710 4350-3, Pg. 5-6

2. Johnson, 2005, Pg. 52

3. The Patriot Game: National Dreams and Political Realities, By Peter Brimelow, Key Porter Books, 1986, ISBN: 1-55013-001-3, Pg. 1

4. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada, By Trevor Harrison, University of Toronto Press, 1995, ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6 3 7.

Why do Minorities Work so Hard to Destroy Themselves?

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

"With [Ronald] Reagan's outspoken opposition to the Civil Rights Act in 1964, Republican strategists knew that they would have to write off the black
vote. But although 90 per cent of black voters cast their ballots for the democrats, only 30 percent of eligible black Americans voted. Republican ... strategist Paul Weyrich* stated "I don't want everyone to vote ... our leverage in the election quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down. We have no moral responsibility to turn out our opposition." (1)

And of course we know that Ronald Reagan won not only that, but the following election, in part because black voters decided to stay home. I'm sure we could get into a lot of reasons for that, including the Democrats failure to inspire, but the story here is that bigotry was used as an election strategy.

And so was religion. Paul Weyrich* was one of the founders of the American Moral Majority which eventually became a mass movement now called the Religious Right. And the Moral Majority had little to do with their definition of 'morality'. They were not founded to oppose the abortion case of Roe vs Wade, as many believe, but to oppose moves to end segregation.

Evangelicals withdrew from politics for most of the last century until the rise of the religious right in the late 70’s. This rise was not in response to Roe v Wade, as their organizers would have us believe but in response to a civil rights issue, namely the Supreme Court decision that ruled that institutions that practiced segregation would forfeit their tax exempt status. This decision led to the withdrawal of tax-exempt status for Bob Jones University, who among other things, did not admit Blacks, and when they did, had a policy against interracial dating. (2)

Weyrich and co-founder Jerry Falwell, found an ally in Reagan, so they mobilized their forces to help get him elected.

With the rise of the Tea Party and "wacky" Republicans becoming the norm, it's interesting reading commentary from across the United States. But one thing I've learned as many of the more extreme candidates trash the United Nations, is that their main concern is that they are just so darned "colourful". They wrap this up in ambiguity, but you don't have to be a scholar to know what they're saying.

I used to think that Harper's base opposed the UN because they impeded their agenda toward Israel and Armageddon. But I think only a few of the really hard core believe that. They just don't appreciate this "colourful" group trying to dictate to them, on issues like spanking, women's rights, aboriginal rights, etc.

And while they continue to blame Michael Ignatieff for our losing the security seat, they are actually pleased, because it now means we can legitimately oppose a UN, human rights agenda.

Stephen Harper and His Anti-Immigration Policies

Did you ever wonder why the Reform Party hierarchy, like Preston Manning and Stephen Harper did so little to silence what former Reform Party MP Jan Brown called the "rampant racism of the God Squad"?

And why they aligned themselves with anti-immigration groups like Paul Fromm's C-Far and Peter Brimelow's V-Dare? Both of these men spoke at Reform Party conferences and those of the ultra right-wing Northern Foundation, of which Stephen Harper was a member? (3)

It was because they knew it would inspire this rock solid "base" to vote and contribute funds. They were the party of the white man. And they did nothing to discourage this belief.

But then they realized that if they wanted to advance and become more appealing to the rest of the country, they could no longer bash the immigrant population, but would need to exploit them instead. And exploit them they did, finding the perfect wedge issue: same-sex marriage.

Party officials concluded that the six-percentage-point drop for the Liberals was probably made up of small-c ethnic supporters, and decided at that point to begin running controversial newspaper ads opposing gay marriage. "We're the only ones who win under that calculation" ... Aside from the advertisements, which ask readers "Where do you draw the line?" the party leader began actively making his case at multicultural events, like at a Sikh meeting in Toronto a week ago. According to a senior party organizer, Conservatives believe they have potentially tapped into a well-spring of insecurity among ethnic groups, some of whose members feel the Liberal bill will force their clergy to perform same-sex marriage. (not true)

.... Mr. Harper drew criticism not only from within his own party, but from some of the very people he had hoped to attract. "Mr. Harper is ignorant about immigration issues, and his statement reflects that ignorance," said Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a grassroots group with a membership in the hundreds. "What he's saying is that people can only be gay if they're white Anglo-Saxons." (4)

And even if that angered the gay community, they didn't care. They knew they could never count on the gay vote. This is why they did little to silence homophobic remarks from their caucus, refuse to let John Baird "come out" and allow Jason Kenney to remove the notion of gay rights from our citizenship guide.

It's all political strategy.

Gay rights activists continue to advocate, but they should be encouraging their members to vote. Every single one of them. Because there's no hope of reversing this trend until we get rid of this government. The Conservatives are the only party with an aggressive anti-gay agenda. But the good news is that the other four parties are not intolerant. Pick one.

Hold rallies not as gay Canadians where the Conservatives can use their "base" to ridicule, but as Canadians concerned with intolerance of any kind. Other minority groups must do the same, preferably together as a more powerful voice.

Latinos For Reform

Between April 2 and 3 of 2009, Canada Border Services carried out the largest workplace raids in Canadian history. One of those rounded up was a woman who had launched a complaint of sexual harassment against her boss. (5)

Last June, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney publicly questioned the legitimacy of refugee claims made by Roma coming from the Czech Republic, saying they faced no real risk of state persecution. And yet according to foreign correspondent Peter O'Neil:

[Roma] face a constant threat of neo-Nazi attacks and hateful demonstrations, where marchers head into Roma communities and call them "parasites," organized by increasingly sophisticated organizations such as the far-right Workers' Party."We are afraid for our lives" ... Growing neo-Nazi violence, as well as discrimination and even segregation in areas such as health, housing, education, criminal justice and employment, have been reported in numerous publications issued by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the U.S. State Department and Amnesty International. (6)

And while promoting migrant workers to help the corporate sector, they are also further destroying our international reputation by siding with the "elite" oppressors:

Hundreds of Guatemalan migrant workers and their community allies marched through Guatemala City to the steps of the Canadian embassy on Wednesday, to protest the abusive treatment of migrants under Canada's Temporary Foreign Workers program. The workers at the protest had been fired and repatriated for defending their labour and human rights while working in Canada. (7)

Many of us wonder why the immigrant community is turning to a party that has always been anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalism. Are they unaware or is it self-preservation? Don't make waves or they could be the next target.

Several people believe that again strategy is being used, where the Harperites go after those Canadians who belong to groups who are natural enemies of their Canadian counterparts. Many Czechs dislike Roma, so they won't lose Czech support because of this. (I'm actually working on a story that I believe will help to prove this theory)

Which brings us to the U.S. mid-terms and Latinos for Reform.

This group has been running ads encouraging the Latino communities not to vote. (You can watch the video below).

And to help accelerate this campaign, many Republican candidates are beefing up their anti-immigration rhetoric, obviously hoping to recapture the Paul Weyrich strategy of turning minority voters away from the polls to help their cause.

Univision, the Spanish-language network refuses to run the ads.

"Univision will not be running any spots from Latinos for Reform related to voting," Univision spokeswoman Monica Talan told Politico. "Univision prides itself on promoting civic engagement and our extensive national campaigns encourage Hispanics to vote."

So what is this really about? If this group cared about Hispanics they would encourage them to make sure that a party openly anti-immigration, and anti-Hispanic, never came to power.

It's political strategy.

The founder of this group, Robert de Posada, was the Republican National Committee's director of Hispanic affairs and worked for the Bush administration and a group founded by Tea Party leader Dick Armey. (8)

The TV ad is suggesting that after two years Obama has not kept his promises. And yet this same group was behind an attack in 2008 against the current president, before he was even president.

It's Weyrich all over again, creating a campaign where only 30 percent of eligible black Americans voted. "I don't want everyone to vote ... our leverage in the election quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."

This is democracy?

Paul Weyrich, also co-founder of the horrible Heritage Foundation, is now deceased, but his words linger:

“Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome — good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now."

Again. This is democracy?


Paul Weyrich is also a member of the Council for National Policy, a branch of the U.S. Religious Right. It was at one of their annual meetings, where Stephen Harper delivered his infamous "I hate Canada" speech in 1997. The CNP had already approved of Harper as one of them, so in 2006 when he asked Weyrich to do what he could to ensure that his people didn't speak to Canadian journalists trying to find out just how connected Harper was to this movement, Weyrich was more than happy to oblige.

A top U.S. conservative commentator now says he authorized an e-mail warning right-wing American groups not to talk to Canadian journalists before the election for fear of scaring voters and damaging Stephen Harper's chances. Paul Weyrich, head of the Free Congress Foundation, told The Canadian Press last week that the widely distributed message was the product of an overzealous staff member of the research group ... But in a commentary on the foundation's website this week, in which he calls Canadians too "hedonistic" to change course quickly, Weyrich admits he asked an associate to write the e-mail. (9)


1. Hard Right Turn: The New Face of Neo-Conservatism in Canada, Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2, Pg. 22

2. Yom Kippur Sermon 5769: A critical analysis of the Jewish alliance with the Christian Right regarding Israel, By Rabbi Caryn Broitman, Yom Kippur 2008

3. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada, By Trevor Harrison, University of Toronto Press, 1995, ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6 3 7, Pg. 120-122

4. Harper uses same-sex to tap into ethnic vote, By Brian Laghi, Anthony Reinhart and Roy MacGregor, Globe and Mail, February 12, 2005

5. Jason Kenney's Doublespeak Exposed: Tories Unleash Canada Border Services on Migrants, By S.K. Hussan and Mac Scott, The Bullet, April 22, 2009

6. SAVING ROMA: Roma, once known as Gypsies, face discrimination, attacks in Czech Republic, By Peter O'Neil, Europe Correspondent, Canwest News Service, May 11, 2009

7. Migrant Workers Protest at Canada's Embassy in Guatemala: Migrant Workers in Guatemala Raise Their Voices to Denounce Abuse and Exploitation Under Canada's Temporary Foreign Workers Program, UFCW, September 1, 2010

8. Latinos for Reform Head Robert de Posada Defends Controversial 'Don't Vote' Ad, ABC News, October 21, 2010

9. Harper's U.S. neocon booster changes his story, By Beth Gorham, Canadian Press, January 27, 2006

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Politics of Sucking Up: Handling the Quebec Question

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
"Look. I've got to suck up to Quebec, so just shut up and let me get on with it." Stephen Harper (1)
When Stephen Harper announced that he would be giving Quebec a "distinct society" status, many of his supporters were shocked, including his minister of Inter-governmental affairs, Michael Chong, who was not consulted on the plan. He resigned his position as a result.

This was a complete 180 for a party that had always taken a strong stand against Quebec nationalism.
The Reform party is very much a modern manifestation of the Republican movement in Western Canada; the U.S. Republicans started in the western United States. The Reform Party is very resistant to the agenda and the demands of the secessionists, and on a very deep philosophical level. (1997 speech to the
Council for National Policy) Stephen Harper (2)
When Stephen Harper suggested that the Reform party was against giving into Quebec on a "very deep philosophical level", he meant it. It was very deeply ingrained.

Preston Manning was a fan of Abrahm Lincoln and in many ways saw himself as the man who would unite the country by getting tough with Quebec. He even hinted that violence may be necessary and often worked parts of Lincoln's 'A House Divided' speech into his own.

The Reform Party would represent English Canada with an Anglo hierarchy. French would be "allowed" in Parliament and the courts, but not mandatory anywhere. (3)

So it's interesting from Lawrence Martin's Harperland, that Stephen Harper was only interested in Quebec for his own political gain. A superficial gesture just for show.

But then he blew it when he went ballistic during the 2008 coalition "crisis", painting the entire province with a separatist brush. And his rhetoric further inflamed the West against La Belle Province. His remarks about the unsuitability of the Bloc Québécois involvement in the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition were characterized by professor C.E.S. Franks of Queen's University, Kingston, as "inflammatory and tendentious rhetoric' . (Globe & Mail, March 2009).

I remember comments at the end of online articles, often becoming so visceral, the editors would have to close down the comments section. One man suggested that "the boys from Alberta" need to come down and teach those you know what a lesson. It was horrible.

Dennis Pilon, a political scientist at the University of Victoria, stated that : "I do not mean to be an alarmist in suggesting that we may be heading for violence. But the actions of this prime minister are coming dangerously close to inciting mob rule." (4)

I don't think Stephen Harper or the Reform Party really understood Quebec grievances or their French-Canadian culture. He was often dismissive. When on Fox News in 2003 telling Canadians that Chretien was wrong not to go to Iraq, he suggested that "Only in Quebec, with its "pacifist tradition," are most people opposed to the war. Outside of Quebec, I believe very strongly the silent majority of Canadians is strongly supportive."

Quebec may have a "pacifist" tradition but they are not unlike most Canadians in that regard.

And then when speaking to the American Council for National Policy he brought up the Meech Lake Accord and the demands made by the province.
The establishment came down with a constitutional package which they put to a national referendum. The package included distinct society status for Quebec and some other changes, including some that would just horrify you, putting universal Medicare in our constitution, and feminist rights, and a whole bunch of other things.
I guess it also means he doesn't understand the rest of us either, because most Canadians would not be "horrified" by universal Medicare, feminist rights and "a whole bunch of other things" (aka: gay rights).

But now that we know he was only "sucking up" to Quebec, and "had to get on with it", then it's all OK. Wink. Wink.


1. Harperland:The Politics of Control, By Lawrence Martin, Viking Press, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-670-06517-2, Pg. 82

2. Full text of Stephen Harper's 1997 speech, Canadian Press, December 14, 2005

3. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7

4. Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and Crisis in Canadians Democracy, By Elizabeth May, McClelland & Stewart, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7710-5760-1, Pg. 226

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Biggest Threat to Liberalism May be From the Left

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

"Healthy radicalism must fulfil, not reject, liberal values." - Irving Howe

It would appear that the Western world is at a crossroads. The Tea Partiers, the Religious Right, the corporate world ... they are all winning. Liberalism is experiencing a death knell, weakened to the point of annihilation. And with liberalism goes democracy. And with democracy goes the just society that once defined our country. The radical Right-Wing is poised to eat us alive.

And yet I find that I am often more frightened by statements made by those on the left than I am by those on the right.

A little more than a decade ago, Alan Borovoy wrote a book; The New Anti-Liberals, in the broader context of liberalism, not the official party. Like many Canadians he was becoming alarmed with the neoconservative movement and what it could mean for us.
.. as the twentieth century and the second millennium come to a close, ... conservative forces may well be dominating the political agenda throughout much of North America—they are found among the Mike Harris Conservatives in Ontario, the Ralph Klein Conservatives in Alberta, the Reform Party in Western Canada, the right-wing Republicans and religious right in the United States. Even where some of these elements have somewhat declined in strength, much of their program has been appropriated by their adversaries. (1)
They have definitely changed the political landscape. By making 'fighting deficits', 'tax cuts' and 'smaller government' their battle cries, they have forced liberal governments to change their focus. And when they do meet the demands of what is often no more than a clever publicity campaign, they are ridiculed by many on the left for caving.

During the 2005-2006 election campaign I had called the local NDP office and asked for a lawn sign. Then I watched an attack ad on TV, from the NDP against the Liberals. At the time I felt that the biggest threat this country had was neoconservatism, as represented by Stephen Harper. I immediately called the NDP office and told them to forget it. They had just been complicit in Canada electing it's first Republican government.

I still voted NDP but it was grudgingly.

I understood the political motivation for this, but really thought that some things should transcend partisan politics. Naive I guess.

Elizabeth May actually suggests that Harper and Layton had an informal pact: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" (2), as both ran similar campaigns against Paul Martin, resulting in Stephen Harper becoming prime minister "by accident".

It killed the Kyoto Accord, to address climate change. The Kelowna Accord to help address aboriginal injustice. And a national child care plan that would have helped working families. Sadly, all things the NDP supported. They threw out the baby with the bath water.

One of my favourite authors and journalists, Chris Hedges, wrote a scathing piece recently; The World Liberal Opportunists Made. He is highly critical of modern liberals, and lays the blame squarely on their shoulders. I'm not ready to be that pessimistic yet.

Make no Mistake. The Situation is Critical

Canada is now, after almost five years of Stephen Harper, in a proto-Fascist state. The only semblance of democracy is that we still have the right to vote, but with Canadians continually relinquishing that right, by staying home on election night, that last thread is breaking. In our latest municipal election in Kingston, voter turnout was at less than 37%. Quite shocking.

The Alternative Voice lists 14 key elements of Fascism, though I've seen similar lists in several places. We have reached all 14 benchmarks.

1. powerful expressions of nationalism

2. disdain for the importance of human rights

3. identification of external or internal enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause (i.e. Jews, Arabs, Islam, communism, terrorism, Blacks, Hispanics, whatever....)

4. militarism

5. control of mass media

6. obsession with national security

7. religion and ruling elite closely identified

8. power & interests of corporations & the ruling elite protected

9. power of labour controlled, suppressed or eliminated

10. disdain for, control & suppression of intellectuals and the arts

11. obsession with crime & punishment

12. rampant cronyism & corruption

13. fraudulent elections & gerrymandering

14. control & rigging of the judiciary

And yet despite these alarming conditions, our threat does not come just from the advancement of the right, but the fracture of the left. I read so many progressive journalists and columnists, who will continue to suggest that there is no opposition. That the leaders on the left are weak. By doing that they create an atmosphere of despair.

Why bother? It's too late.

Well snap out of it. It's not too late. We just have to be smarter.

Bill Freeman had a letter published in the Toronto Star that comes with a warning and a solution. Unite the left or risk a complete takeover by the hard right.
The night that Rob Ford was elected mayor of the City of Toronto, a City TV camera recorded a brief interview with Mike Harris at the Ford victory party. The former premier of Ontario smiled as he congratulated Rob Ford on his election. Then he went on to talk about the good political work he and others are doing in the back rooms of the Fraser Institute that has resulted in this triumph of the right. Those who believe that left/right politics don’t matter in Canada any more should have caught that moment. Leaders of the hard right have transformed politics in this country. The once proud party of Progressive Conservatives of Joe Clark, Bill Davis and David Crombie has been taken over by the politicians of the hard right of Mike Harris, Stephen Harper and now Rob Ford.

They cover up their ideology by packaging their message with slogans like “the common sense revolution” and “stopping the gravy train at city hall,” but make no mistake. They advocate hard-right ideological policies of reducing the role of government, rolling back taxes, bleeding the resources of public services and attacking social services for the needy ... It is time for a sober reassessment. Our only course is to build a coalition of the Liberals and New Democrats that can challenge the hard right and fight to save our political traditions of a caring, more equal society, good social services and strong, competent government. The ideologues of the Fraser Institute must be challenged before any more damage is done to our country.
Murray Dobbin has suggested the same thing recently.
When will the Liberals and the NDP get it? Without some kind of accord between these two parties, the country is locked into a kind of political version of the movie Groundhog Day — doomed to repeat the same depressing, cynical and destructive politics day-in, day-out until our democracy is so damaged that no one will bother voting.
If not a formal coalition than at least a pact, with a common goal. We can't fight the right-wing progression if we are constantly fighting each other.

Michael Ignatieff is not a weak leader and Jack Layton is not a communist. And both have amazing people in their caucus. It wouldn't matter who the opposition leaders were, the Conservatives would attack them.

In Ontario when then NDP Bob Rae and Liberal David Peterson formed a coalition in 1985, Rae was able to get a lot of things put on the agenda. Coalitions can work. Formal or informal.

Borovoy believed that the biggest threat to liberalism are liberals. One faction fighting 'the establishment', while the other is trying to exact change through 'the establishment'.

We've now had a glimpse of what fascism looks like. Is this really what you want?


1. The New Anti-Liberals, By Alan Borovoy, Canadian Scholars Press, 1999, ISBN: 1-55130-137-7, Pg. xv

2. Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and Crisis in Canadians Democracy, By Elizabeth May, McClelland & Stewart, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7710-5760-1, Pg. 6

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Politics of Insecurity: Diplomacy and Clinking Glasses

During WWII, when Vincent Massey was high Commissioner in London, his personal assistant* wondered what was the sense of all the protocol. Bombs were going off around them and he was expected to pay attention to the smallest details.

But what he learned from Massey was:
"... that protocol is really a language, a set of rules and conventions which enable people of different nationalities, social backgrounds, and political persuasions to feel comfortable with each other, to avoid embarrassing
situations, even to enjoy each other's company." (1)

So while we can scoff at the formal and ceremonial aspects of diplomacy, what we need to understand is that an important component of diplomacy is respect, and that includes respecting another nation's customs and their leaders.

I'm still reading Lawrence Martin's Harperland, and I don't quite know what to think of it. It's filled with contradictions.

Being billed as explosive before it's release, I'm finding much of it is excusatory. Martin brings out a lot of the more irrational components of Harper's character, but then will seemingly go out of his way to excuse them.

I never expected the book to be anti-Harper, and would have been disappointed if there was no balance. But while Martin flippantly highlights Harper's extensive use of profanity, that will only shock the Religious Right, who once believed he was an Evangelist; he glosses over the areas that should be shocking to all Canadians, since they have a profound effect on our future.

And the most important one is foreign policy.

When Stephen Harper dismisses our diplomats as "glass clinkers", Martin agrees. I found that quite alarming.

The book does take note of our prime minister's inexperience in foreign affairs, but then claims that because he talked about the Cold War with a friend, that made up for it. I talk about a lot of things with friends. It doesn't make me an expert on any of them.

And to top it off, no one in his caucus was any better prepared.

Given that, you would think that they would then turn to the diplomats. The ones who not only learned foreign languages but also the language of protocol. The things that break down barriers and pave the way to negotiations.

But the exact opposite happened. Stephen Harper has continually undermined our foreign service, because their knowledge of the world, contradicts his own; which is really a lack thereof.

Harper may have discussed the Cold War with his friend John Weissenberger (2), but unfortunately his understanding of world issues ends there. His foreign policy is based on ideology and the appeasement of religious extremists.

The danger of that is glaring. It is something that cannot be excused or brushed off with silly notions that discussions with a friend can replace the advice of those in the field.

And unfortunately that applies to every other decision this government makes. Experts are "university types" and advocates are "special interest groups". I find it all inexcusable.

I'll finish reading the book before I pass a final judgement, because I am very much a fan of Lawrence Martin. But so far ... ahhhh!


* That personal assistant went on to become one of Canada's longest serving diplomats, dubbed a 'peacemonger' by the press. A title he wore with pride. He would go on to marry Vincent Massey's niece, and in fact proposed to his future bride at Massey's home. The family was pleased. Her name was Alison Grant who would become Alison Ignatieff and the mother of Michael Ignatieff.


The Politics of Contempt: The Nixon-Harper Ticket

The Politics of Hate: Where Will it Lead?

The Politics of Conceit: "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better"

The Politics of Opportunity: Election Tampering

The Politics of Jabberwocky: As Canada Plummets Down the Rabbit Hole

The Politics of Ballyhoo: David Emerson and the Soft on Sovereignty Trade Deal

The Politics of Religious Nationalism: Taking us Down a Dangerous Path


1. The Making of a Peacemonger: The Memoirs of George Ignatieff, By Sonja Sinclair, University of Toronto Press, ISBN: 0-8020-2556-0, Pg. 62

2. Harperland:The Politics of Control, By Lawrence Martin, Viking Press, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-670-06517-2, Pg. 79

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Media Manipulation: Journalists or Playwrights?

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

When media mogul Rupert Murdoch, first met Ronald Regan, he was surprised at how old and frail he was. Murdoch had been invited to the White House for a luncheon and Reagan actually fell asleep during the meal. 'The other guests went on eating and the waiters continued to take the plates away'. (1)

Murdoch later described the experience as "awful".

He had backed the Reagan campaign but the man he saw was nothing like the man he had portrayed. How could this be?

In their book Newsmongers, Mary Anne Comber and Robert Mayne, present an interesting theory on election campaigns, comparing them to plays. The stage is set and the actors assigned their roles. It is then up to the media to write their lines, and they rarely allow them to go off script.

Ronald Reagan was billed as the "Great Communicator", and though revisionist history paints him as a much loved man, in fact he was never really that popular, and had a horrible track record. But he could communicate. He knew how to deliver his lines. The media applauded.
A favourite journalistic device is to compare politics to a stage play. Politicians are referred to as actors on the political stage. In any story some politicians have lead roles and others are cast in supporting roles. They give performances and the spotlight tracks them across the political stage. One implication of this device is that it allows journalists to play the role of theatre critic. (2)
Neocons have recognized this and found a way to capitalize on the phenomenon, by creating the characters themselves. They even publish the playbills, also known as "ten percenters".

Stéphane Dion Starring in 'Not a Leader'

When I attended a townhall meeting in Kingston during the 2008 coalition attempt, one of the speakers was a retired professor from Queens University. He had been the head of the political science department and told of how Mr. Dion was one of the most respected men in his field. He was quoted often.

In his book, the Rights Revolution, written in 2000, Michael Ignatieff placed Dion as a leader in the understanding of group rights and multiculturalism. (3) He was also the author of the Clarity Act.

In Losing Confidence, Elizabeth May describes Dion's uphill battle to have the Kyoto Protocol adopted. She reveals how Stephen Harper and Jack Layton colluded to call an election on the exact date of the "opening day of the most important global climate negotiations in history." (4) And simply because they didn't want the Liberals to look good on the International stage.

Forget that it meant that Canada would look good on the International stage. I lost a lot of respect for Jack Layton after reading that.

But despite the ploy, Stéphane Dion would be victorious as a result of the most selfless act of any politician in a very long time.
Dion told the world immediately after the government fell that he now worked for the United Nations. He said he would resume his life as a Canadian politician on December 10, when the meeting was over.

Incredibly, he steered the meetings to the high-water mark of possible objectives, across every issue. I may never have had a happier moment than when the meetings concluded on December 11 at 6:17 in the morning after round-the-clock negotiations. Dion brought down the gavel on the most aggressive possible actions to advance limits in the next commitment period, set to begin in 2013. (4)

Can you imagine Stephen Harper ever sacrificing his own political career for an opportunity to allow Canada to shine?
I may never have been as devastated as when Stephen Harper was elected, knowing he would do whatever he could to stop progress in reducing greenhouse gases. What we didn't see as a further disaster in bringing down the government on November 28 was that it effectively rendered the Montreal negotiations invisible to the Canadian public. The media was off on the typical brainless pursuit of Canadian election as horserace. Policy and science, particularly UN discussions of the climate crisis, were not going to be covered in an election campaign. (4)
And when Dion became the party boss in 2008, Harper immediately went to work, laying out the play's story, and narrowing the dialogue. And despite proving enormous leadership on the world stage, Dion's "character" was that of a bumbling idiot with weak leadership skills.

And Harper, who lacks any real leadership qualities, played the role of the strong commander, who would slay the recession dragon and pull Canadians out of the abyss. One he threw us into.

Benjamin Disraeli once said: “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?" Harper lacks the skills to motivate and bring out the best in people. He also refuses to share the limelight. He is a one-man show, and those around him, only there for his amusement.

When he was running the National Citizens Coalition his VP, Gerry Nicholls once suggested that there was a problem with a billboard that Harper had designed, but when he shared his thoughts, Harper responded icily "I don't give a f--- what you think." (5)

He feels the same way about us, believe me.

Michael Ignatieff Starring in 'Just Visiting'

After the successful run of 'Not a Leader', our budding playwright was ready for a sequel with the new Liberal leader. And while he needed to downplay Dion's enormous diplomatic success, he now had to destroy Michael Ignatieff's history, as a member of one of Canada's most important families.

So how best to do this? Cast him in the role of a man who only returned to Canada as a matter of convenience. He was 'just visiting'. If he didn't become prime minister he would return to teaching at Harvard, where he headed the Human Rights department.

But in a clever plot twist, despite the fact that most of Ignatieff's career was spent in the UK, where he made documentaries for the BBC, including one that won him a Gemini; worked as a war correspondent, taught at Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics, and wrote 17 books, they had to make Canadians believe that he was somehow an American. So they capitalized on a two letter word 'we', that he used to connect with his audience when working in the U.S. (for only 5 years)

And the audience lapped it up. The media held their flashlights, directing the patrons to their seats, and called the play a triumph. Of course they would. They wrote the lines.

And if any among them gave the play a thumbs down, they were dismissed as Liberal hacks and a promise made that they would "never work in this town again."

Time For a New Play

With an election on the horizon, rumour has it that Harper is working on a new play, the working title: 'The Coalition is a Coup'. It's got pirates and everything.

But personally, I'm not too impressed with his skills as a playwright, so I think it's time that Canadians collaborated and wrote their own play.

'Goodbye Stephen Harper'. Catchy, don't you think?

Order your tickets now. It's guaranteed to be 'Sold Out'.


Media Manipulation: Setting Agendas and Shielding Your Bum


1. Murdoch, By William Shawcross, Simon & Schuster, 1992, ISBN: 0-671-67327, Pg. 197

2. The Newsmongers: How the Media Distort the Political News, By Mary Anne Comber and Robert S. Mayne, John Deyell Printing, 1986, ISBN: 0-7710-2239-5, Pg. 17

3. The Rights Revolution: CBC Massey Lectures, By Michael Ignatieff, Anansi Books, 2000, ISBN: 978-0-88784-762-2, Pg. 11

4. Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and Crisis in Canadians Democracy, By Elizabeth May, McClelland & Stewart, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7710-5760-1, Pg. 3-5

5. Harperland: The Politics of Control, By Lawrence Martin, Viking Press, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-670-06517-2, Pg. 12

Monday, October 25, 2010

Media Manipulation: Setting Agendas and Shielding Your Bum

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

"[The media] seem to be nothing in themselves, and often say that they merely report what goes on. In truth, they do nothing on their own; they act in the manner of a compassionate passerby who sees an accident in the street and rushes to see if someone else can be of any assistance. But the media greatly affect how we regard government." Harvey Mansfield Jr.
There is a lot of discussion today about the absence of independent media, and the way that the majority of journalists treat the news.

It has become a game where they set the rules.

And while the right claims that the media is against them, the exact opposite is true, as corporate media now controls the message, and corporations stand to gain the most from neoconservative/right-wing policies.

I prefer to read columnists who are neither right nor left, but honest. And I avoid those who have lowered themselves to the standard of partisan hacks.

Barry Cooper, a member of the Calgary School that helped bring Stephen Harper to power, co-wrote a book; Hidden Agendas: How Journalists Influence the News. In it, he correctly reveals how the media now manipulate the story, but his suggestion that it is always with a left-wing tilt, is wrong.

Case in point, though there are many examples, is the John Turner "bum pat".

In their book The Newsmongers: How the Media Distort the Political News, Mary Anne Comber and Robert S. Mayne discuss an incident during the 1984 federal election campaign.

After greeting Liberal president Iona Campagnolo: John Turner threw one arm around her shoulder, then slapped her backside and exclaimed, "Come on, Iona, let's circulate!" Iona's welcoming smile froze. She stepped behind Turner and whacked his backside. The pursuing reporters had their cameras rolling. The rest is history. The infamous "bum patting issue" was born.

It was offensive, dead wrong and definitely a political faux paus, but how important was the issue?

The way in which this story "broke" is interesting in itself. According to the Globe and Mail account, the film footage of John Turner patting Iona Campagnolo's bottom was first shown on the CTV news, July 20th, after a few days hesitation on the part of the network. The Globe and Mail claimed that, during the period between the event and the showing of the footage, pressure by reporters was mounting on CTV editorial staff to air the film clips. Finally, they gave in and aired the film. Could it be that CTV editors were asking themselves: "Is this fair coverage? Is this the kind of event we should draw to the public's attention?" We will never know. The footage was shown, and the extensive coverage that followed turned this one-minute event into the most-discussed issue of the 1984 federal election campaign.

The day after CTV aired the footage, the Globe and Mail printed two front-page articles on Turner and bum patting. In the days that followed, most Canadian newspapers carried editorials, cartoons and photos on Turner's gaffe. Bum patting was a bonanza! Everyone had an opinion on the matter, and the media establishment appeared to delight in just saying the phrase over and over again. (1)

John Turner didn't help matters, by refusing to apologize, and instead continuing the practice of not only patting the bums of women but men alike. Something he claimed he always did.

So it wasn't really a sexist issue, so much as an inappropriate one.

This might have been a perfect time to bring women's issues to the forefront, and as important as being seen as sexual objects was, there were other things that could have been discussed. Things like equal pay, a child care plan, discrimination. Maybe the fact that the president of the party was a woman, might have meant something.
The point of most interest about bum patting (besides all the wonderful opportunities it gave Canadians to make a wide variety of dreadful puns) is that it was an issue placed on the political agenda by the media. It wasn't that the party leaders had different policies on bum patting that needed to be publicly discussed or debated (although the imagination takes flight with the possibilities for slogans, placards, and Rhinoceros Party pamphlets.) No, the point is that the media placed bum patting on the agenda and then, by dint of constant attention, kept it there ... Turner's campaign aircraft was renamed "Derri Air" by reporters. (1)
We want our politicians to discuss issues of importance, but when we allow the trivial to dominate the agenda, we cannot expect intelligent political debate. Policy gets put on the back burner, when every one's looking for the "zinger" or the embarrassing image that can crush a hopeful. Like a prime minister mining old tapes of a political opponent during a time when the country wanted answers on the state of our economy.

And these incidences cross party lines. From Robert Stanfield fumbling the football, to Stephane Dion's difficulty with an intentionally convoluted question, to garner the expected response.

These images are "fair game", but how much is too much, especially when they overwhelm the important issues that our politicians should be addressing? And all too often those are the things that decide elections.

If we want to save our democracy, this is a good place to start. We won't get better from our media, unless we start demanding better. We are the ones who must set the agenda.

In 1863, Sir John A. Macdonald threw up during a campaign speech and his opponent tried to paint him as a drunk, suggesting that he was suffering from a hangover.

If that had been today, there would have been days of commentary, and the image of the puking Tory leader, played over and over. It would have been analyzed by experts, including a medical team who would reveal the contents of his stomach , and "Joe the boozer", who would provide an "expert" opinion on the stages of the "morning after".

Instead, MacDonald retorted: "I get sick ... not because of drink [but because] I am forced to listen to the ranting of my honourable opponent." – case closed.


1. The Newsmongers: How the Media Distort the Political News, By Mary Anne Comber and Robert S. Mayne, John Deyell Printing, 1986, ISBN: 0-7710-2239-5, Pg. 44-45

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Politics of Obscurantism: Embracing Fanaticism

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

Jan Brown was a Reform MP when Preston Manning was the party leader. She was smart, urban and moderate, best remembered for putting a rose on the empty chair of Lucien Bouchard when he was recovering from "flesh-eating disease", that resulted in his losing a leg.

She was a refreshing contradiction to a party well known for it's racist and sexist views.

So when Reform MP Rob Ringma suggested that business owners should be allowed to demand that gays and ethnics move to the back of the store, if it meant that they could lose business otherwise; she spoke up. And when at about the same time, Reform MP Dave Chatters suggested that schools should be allowed to fire gay teachers, she again protested. But when Reform MP Art Hanger planned a trip to Singapore to investigate 'caning' as a form of youth punishment, she'd had enough, and went public, speaking out against the rampant racism of the party's 'God squad'. (1)

At the next caucus meeting, while Ringma got a standing ovation, Brown was ostracized and suspended. She quit. And Manning allowed her to quit, because he would gain far more political leverage from the 'God Squad', than he would from what Stephen Harper would call a "pink Liberal" or Margaret Thatcher a "wet". Moderates were welcome but radicals were courted.

Scott Brison

When Stephen Harper's Alliance Party swallowed up the few remaining Progressive Conservatives, he had a meeting with PCer Scott Brison. He told him that he was impressed with his economic skills and wanted him to play a prominent role in the new party. But Brison, who had already been ridiculed by the Alliance gang because of his sexual orientation, asked Harper where he would fit. He was told that a large part of their base was social conservative, and he would not change that. Brison got the message and crossed the floor to the Liberals. (2)

Instead we got stuck with Jim Flaherty as finance minister, a man who was deemed too right-wing to head up the Ontario PC party.

Dr. Hjalmar Schacht

On August 24, 1935; the Canadian Press ran a story of internal conflict that was threatening the Nazi Party.
The smoldering conflict between Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, minister of national economy, and Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda, appeared today to have attained a crisis in the Nazi hierarchy. Dr. Schacht's Koenigsberg speech, which was censored drastically by the propaganda minister, suddenly
appeared today throughout the Reich in important places in its full version, sent out personally by its author.

The minister of economy and president of the Reichsbank Bank seemed to be in open conflict with the extremists of the Nazi party, whose anti-Jewish anti-Catholic violence, the Reichsbank director said last Sunday, is gradually forcing trade away from Germany to the point where the Reich is insolvent, if not bankrupt. (3)
And despite the fact that he was a brilliant economist, Schacht was eventually forced out of the party, because they needed the radicals more. Although, I think it's telling that seeing as how Schacht was Jewish, he wasn't exterminated. But then according to Social Creditor Réal Caouette*, 'Hitler exterminated only "useless Jews."' (4)

Why is it then when any of us liberals or progressives remind people that neoconservatism is fascism, we're dismissed as alarmists? And yet the right-wing paints all of us with a communist/socialist brush. I'm not a communist or a socialist, nor are most Canadians.

If we support social programs, we're dismissed as left-wing fringe groups, and yet the success of the Reform movement was due in a large part by their embracing right-wing fringe groups. The Alliance for the Preservation of English, the Northern Foundation, C-Far, the National Firearms Associations, the pro-white South Africa crowd, and of course the Religious Right. (6 and 7)

All brought something necessary for the success of this movement: passion based on dogma. And while Leo Strauss, the father of neoconservatism, promotes the exploitation of religious fervour, not all dogma is religious.

Dogmatism's Bark

Judy Johnson, professor of psychology at Mount Royal University in Calgary, wrote a piece for the Edmonton Journal recently: Much to gain from tempering dogmatism's bark. She says 'There's a lot wrong with being absolutely right,' especially in politics.

Quoting Winston Churchill describing people who believe in absolutes, absolutely: "They won't change their minds and they won't change the topic."
Zealous political ideologues, religious fundamentalists who would merge the secular with the sacred, and bigots who vent their views on talk shows and the Internet all undermine social stability. There is, however, a greater, unspoken peril. Altering the best intentions of politics, science, economics and religion, it endangers the course of history, yet seldom makes media headlines, not even during political elections, when we should be most vigilant of its presence. Perhaps that's because up until 2009, no social scientist had developed a comprehensive theory of its nature and manifestations. (8)
Dogma does not have to be based on ancient religious texts. It can also include the views of free marketeers, libertarians, pro-lifers, et al. All those who lack the ability to see the grey. There is no in between.

Former Harper insider, Tom Flanagan, in his book Waiting for the Wave, describes Stephen Harper as an ideologue. His ideology is based on a fear of socialism and communism, and the passion for top down commercialism (9), where the corporate sector calls the shots.

And of course the social conservatives, who Harper admits make up the largest part of his base, view the world through the belief in the infallibility of the Bible, especially the Old Testament. This is especially evident with people like Jason Kenney, Stockwell Day and Maurice Vellacott, though they are certainly not alone.

It's why they don't allow fact to cloud their issues, and as Johnson reminds us, this is dangerous.

But what's even more dangerous is the policy of Obscurantism, that not only rejects facts, but distorts them, using rhetoric and slick "words that work". What Lawrence Martin once called "a bumper sticker mentality".

In a lecture at the University of Toronto in 1998, Michael Ignatieff stated of neoconservatism: "Nothing has done the electoral and moral credibility of liberalism more harm than the failure to take this attack seriously" (10)

And as Judy Johnson reminds us, we must be more vigilant. We need to get our heads out the sand, and stop being so skiddish about discussing the destructive Religious Right. It does not make us anti-Christian, only pro-Canadian. And we have to recognize that neoconservatism is fascism, and if we want an understanding of how it works in a modern context, read anything you can find on pre-war, pre-Holocaust, Nazism. It's familiarity is uncanny.


*Social Credit formed the basis of the Reform Party ... Preston Manning being the son of Social Credit premier Ernest Manning. According to Janine Stingle they were the only party [SC] based on the notion of a Jewish conspiracy. (4)

In 1962, Social Credit entered into a coalition with the Quebec nationalist party, the Ralliement des créditistes, led by David Réal Caouette. "In the 1962 federal election, Caouette linked his Ralliement des Creditistes with the national Social Credit party and, by invoking Social Credit's traditional bogeys of an anti-Christian conspiracy and the plot of the "moneyed interests," helped twenty-six Quebec Social Credit MPs (out of a national total of thirty) get elected." [only four from outside Quebec](4)

In an interview with MacLeans magazine, Caouette was quoted as saying:
"Who are your political heroes in history?" he was asked. Caouette's brisk rejoinder: "Mussolini and Hitler." The storm broke, and it wasn't helped any by what Caouette had gone on to say in the magazine: "I admire Mussolini's qualities as a leader and I regret that he was a fascist. I admire in Hitler his economic reforms and I consider that he brought his people out of misery. I regret that he employed for war instead of for peace the ideas which he had." (5)
To his surprise, Dr. Hjalmar Schacht sent him a letter lauding his brave remarks.

"I am very pleased to read in our press about your courageous statements and laudable opinion about the ideas of Adolf Hitler. I was happy to have served under his leadership in one of the key positions in our economy before the war and owing to that I had an opportunity to become acquainted with his greatness." (4)

Schacht did not see Hitler as anti-semitic despite the Holocaust, only as a free market economist, who allowed Capitalism free rein.


The Politics of Obscurantism: First You Obstruct

The Politics of Obscurantism: Next You Control the Message

The Politics of Obscurantism: Then You Control the Press

The Politics of Obscurantism: Anti-Intellectualism


1. Hard Right Turn: The New Face of Neo-Conservatism in Canada, Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2, Pg. 318-320

2. Harperland: The Politics of Control, By Lawrence Martin, Viking Press, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-670-06517-2, Pg. 2

3. Nazi Hierarchy Splits Wide Open as Dr. Schacht Defies Order Banning His Speech, The Canadian Press, August 24, 1935

4. Beyond the Purge: Reviewing the social credit movement's legacy of intolerance, By Janine Stingel, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, Summer, 1999

5. Canada: Hitler, Mussolini & Caouette, Time Magazine, August 31, 1962

6. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada, By Trevor Harrison, University of Toronto Press, 1995, ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6 3

7. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7

8. Much to gain from tempering dogmatism's bark: 'There's a lot wrong with being absolutely right,' especially in politics, By Judy Johnson, Edmonton Journal, September 23, 2010

9. Slumming it at the Rodeo: The Cultural Roots of Canada's Right-Wing Revolution, Gordon Laird, 1998, Douglas & McIntyre, ISBN: 1-55054 627-9

10. Hard Right Turn: The New Face of neo-Conservatism in Canada, by: Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2, Pg. 443

Friday, October 22, 2010

RCMP: The Illegitimacy of Democracy and the Erosion of Public Trust

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
"Whenever justice is uncertain and police spying and terror are at work, human beings fall into isolation, which, of course, is the aim and purpose of the dictator state." Carl Jung
When William Elliot was named as new RCMP Commissioner in July of 2007, it raised more than a few eyebrows. (1)

And it was not simply for the fact that he was a career bureaucrat, with no police experience, but because he was a Conservative insider, an old crony from Brian Mulroney's days. In fact his brother Richard was married to Brian Mulroney's sister. It's hard to get anymore inside than that.

He was around during the days of the Giga Text scandal, that helped to bring down the Saskatchewan government, something I've written about before. Stevie Cameron, in her book On the Take: Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Years, identifies Elliot's position and also reports on a real estate deal that she included as part of that scandal.
It was at this point that Montpetit and GigaText entered into an interesting real estate deal. Bill Elliott, the Regina lawyer, was a senior partner at McPherson Elliott and Tyreman, a leading law firm in the city. The firm's offices occupied a two-storey building in a suburb. The wealthy Hill family wanted to build an office tower in downtown Regina and went to Elliott for a large loan because he was chairman of the provincially run Saskatchewan Pension Funds. Elliott helped them win approval for the loan, and as soon as the tower was up, Elliott's law firm leased two floors. Sixty per cent of the building was rented to the provincial government for offices. Then the law firm sold its old two-storey building to the Hill family for $1.75 million, an excellent price for the firm. The Hill family needed tenants for the old building, too, and fortunately GigaText appeared just in time to fill the space. The lease arrangement made everyone happy. (2)
Nothing illegal, but the optics were damaging none the less, and lent itself to an overall distrust.

Stephen Harper appointed him "to clean up the RCMP", after the damaging tenure of Giuliano Zaccardelli, who not only tampered with the 2006 election, but was also named in pension fraud allegations. The Harper government went well beyond the limits of their powers, to protect Zaccardelli, the man who had handed them their election victory.

But it soon became clear that Elliot was not appointed to "clean up" anything. He was there to go after those who blew the whistle, and what he created was chaos. As James Travers reports:
Controversial when announced in 2007, Harper’s choice of a bureaucrat with no policing experience and a Tory background is now an embarrassment with implications stretching beyond Canada. Elliott’s dictatorial management style and the resulting mutiny are focusing unwanted domestic and international attention on the shaky leadership of this country’s security services. (3)
And what was also clear, was that Stephen Harper was politicizing the RCMP and bringing them under his control. A dangerous act in a democracy, as a letter by David Hutton of Ottawa suggests:
Only tinpot Third World countries — and Canada — have their national police force reporting directly to the government of the day. ... Most developed countries ensure that the police have an arms-length relationship with politicians, in order to uphold the law impartially, without political interference or favour. Yet our Mounties report to a minister and brief him regularly on what they are doing — just as if the RCMP were a government department. No doubt the Mounties also receive regular guidance on their priorities — just like a government department does. (4)
And the RCMP has become a political nightmare, as Elliot played the role of a partisan politician, and not as an officer of what should have remained an arms length agency.
There is a shakeup at the top of the RCMP as senior officers who complained about Commissioner William Elliott's style last summer are quitting or being forced out, CBC News has learned. Deputy commissioner Raf Souccar has been asked to leave the force, with trust cited as the reason. And deputy commissioner Tim Killam has given notice that he will retire in December.

Assistant commissioner Mike McDonell, who left the RCMP in August, wrote to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews last week, saying those who came forward last summer "have simply become sacrificial lambs." Senior RCMP officers complained about Elliott to some of the highest levels of the federal government on two occasions in July. They accused Elliott, who became the first civilian to head the Mounties in July 2007, of being verbally abusive, closed-minded, arrogant and insulting. (5)
Which brings us to why Elliot showed up at the G-20. Was it he who instructed the troops to make security a secondary consideration? Were they told that their primary job was to stifle dissent? To attack peaceful protesters?

After all, he works for Stephen Harper, and learned how to play the game as a Mulroney crony.
A senior Mountie commander told the federal government that RCMP Commissioner William Elliott “disrupted” the federal government’s billion-dollar security operation for the G8 and G20 summits – simply by showing up for the events. “Despite being advised not to attend the summit command centres on June 25, 2010, the commissioner chose to attend, and in doing so, completely disrupted operations,” Mike McDonell, then an RCMP assistant commissioner, wrote in a letter to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. (6)

"There are only two choices: A police state in which all dissent is suppressed or rigidly controlled; or a society where law is responsive to human needs." William Orville Douglas


1. New RCMP boss vows to rise above lack of police experience, CBC News, July 6, 2007

2. On the Take: Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Years, By Stevie Cameron, Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1994, ISBN: 0-921912-73-0, Pg. 254

3. Failed experiment dooms RCMP boss, By James Travers, Toronto Star, October 21, 2010

4. Politicized RCMP represents danger, Letters to the Editor, By David Hutton, Toronto Star, October 20, 2010

5. Top RCMP officers forced out or quitting: They complained about Commissioner Elliott's leadership style, CBC News, October 18, 2010

6. RCMP boss hurt G20 security efforts: letter from senior Mountie, By Colin Freeze and Daniel LeBlanc, Globe and Mail, October 19, 2010