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Friday, November 26, 2010

The Art of Ambiguity and Preston Manning's Bait and Switch

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

Many politically engaged Canadians are now fully aware that the Conservative Party that Stephen Harper currently heads, did not descend from Canada's traditional Tory Party, but from the Reform movement, and even further back than that, Social Credit.

As early as 1967, the Mannings, Ernest and Preston, envisioned a new national party, and they laid out the platform for such a party in a book called Political Realignment.

Ernest Manning had been approached by a group of wealthy businessmen who told him that money would be no object, if he would be open to starting a party representing corporate interests, but he instead suggested that they simply work through the existing Progressive Conservative party, and swing it to the right.

But the PCs at the time wanted nothing to do with them, so they opted instead to wait for the next wave of anger.

It would take almost two decades.

And the anger would come over several moves by the Trudeau government. An attempt to close tax loopholes and make Canada's rich pay their share, the National Energy Program and official bilingualism.

This was sold to Westerners as an attempt to make them support the rest of the country by syphoning off their oil profits, and a pandering to Quebec. They never mentioned the "fair taxes" initiative, or they might not have received the same support.

Not that Western grievances weren't real, but they were definitely inflated and exploited.

The Reform Movement (including the new Republicans and Tea Party) has so many layers, that if you try presenting them to someone, their eyes glaze over. It is so overwhelming. "Neoconservatism", "Leo Strauss", "Religious Right".

But if you take it down to a few important points, it all makes sense, beginning with the fact that it is a movement based solely on lies. And to sell the lies, those on both sides of the border, have succeeded because they have been able to finely hone the art of ambiguity.

Utilizing intellect and emotion, they craft their messages so that they mean different things to different people. The basis of Leo Strauss's thought.

The wonderful Murray Dobbin had already figured this out after attending early Reform assemblies. When Preston Manning or Stephen Harper were speaking, it was clear that their messages were not clear at all.

Dobbin referred to it as "calculated ambiguity".

Manning took all the grievances he could find, put them in a big box and tied them up with a green bow. Then he began making "promises" based on what was in the box. They were empty but they were passionate.

He would end special favours for Quebec, bilingualism, multiculturalism, turban wearing in the RCMP, the Charter of Rights, abortion, gay rights, the gun registry, the "patronage" position of the Governor General. It was a long list.

But he was able to join together all of the right-wing fringe groups, who finally saw hope, no matter how outrageous their demands. It didn't matter. He never intended to meet their demands only dangle them like a carrot to keep them running.
... the fringe parties were a genuine, albeit extreme, reflection of a right-wing resurgence in the West during the early 1980s. To the extent that extremism is succinct and clear, these parties provide a useful analytical prelude to the later emergence of the Reform party. (1)
Manning had them all transfixed. But he had to move slowly.

The biggest issue was Quebec and as such, while the ultimate goal was a national party, he postured, and vowed to stand tough when prime minister. If Quebec didn't like it they could leave.

And while expanding Eastward into Ontario, this still had all the markings of a Western protest party. At least until the hierarchy pulled a fast one.

Though the party remained constitutionally and politically a western party after the 1989 Assembly, the policy book based on that assembly was completely purged of any mention of "the West." Manning's foreword in the 1988 edition talks of the likelihood of a divided Parliament after the next election in which "Western Reformers would be in a powerful position to pursue our agenda." The booklet is peppered with phrases like, "A fair shake for the West," "Reform MPs will look out for Western interests," and numerous derogatory remarks about "Central Canada" and "Central Canadian interests," "Central Canadian terms" as well as "Quebec-centred" biases of Mulroney.

Virtually all of this western, anti-central Canada terminology was purged from the 1989 edition of the booklet. In Manning's two-and-a-half page foreword, entitled "The New Canada," there is not a single reference to the West or westerners. Gone, as well, was the "Declaration of Adoption" in the 1988 book, which recognized "the supremacy of God."

The sanitizing of the policy book was done by the Party Policy Committee (PPC), without any mandate from the assembly. It was a body which would play a major role as Manning guided the party away from its western orientation towards national party readiness. Appointed by the party's Executive Committee, and chaired by Preston Manning, its key members were Stan Waters and Stephen Harper. Harper was the Chief Policy Officer of the Party and the only other person, besides [Deb] Grey and Waters, whom Manning trusted to speak for the party.

With a policy book completely cleansed of any reference to the West and most of its specifically western policies, plus the assembly's authority to take the Reform message to the East, the stage was set for the next phase in Preston Manning's plan to create a new conservative party. (2)

The old bait and switch.

Stephen Harper will still play the Western grievances/Quebec card when necessary, as he did with the "separatist" cries during the 2008 coalition crisis. Or more recently with the Edmonton Expo bid and the Quebec arena.

David Staples in the Edmonton journal, under a photo of Harper in Quebec, discusses Jean Charest's promise of funds for the new NHL arena: Premier Jean Charest announced he was willing to put $175 million from his budget (a.k.a. transfer payments from Alberta) towards a Quebec City arena.

"a.k.a. transfer payments from Alberta"?

In the end, they won't blame Harper, but will instead blame Quebec.

This is why Stephen Harper will not give in to too many demands from his "base", because if he does he loses the passion of discontent, that has gotten him to where he is now. What he instead implies is that he will only grant their wishes, if they can grant him his. A majority.


1. 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, Pg. 80

2. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7 4, Pg. 85-86

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Success of Neoconservatism is Based on Emotionally Fuelled Ambiguity

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

There are many arguments about Leo Strauss and his position as the father of Neoconservatism. He has been blamed for everything from the Iraq War to the economic collapse, but how justified is that?

I admit that I've had to rethink some of my earlier assessments, but I've come to the conclusion that many self proclaimed Straussians, inadvertently learned something else from the German Philosopher.

The art of ambiguity. And they have indeed taken it to an art form.

In his review of the book, Leo Strauss and the American Right by Shadia B. Drury, Michael Lind writes in the Washington Review:
Straussian thought is hard to wrap your mind around, in part because Strauss and his disciples write in a highly abstract style that keeps trespassers out ... Strauss believed that many if not most philosophers, for fear of persecution, wrote in ways that concealed their views as much as they revealed them. (1)
In 2003, Strauss's daughter Jenny (actually his niece. He adopted her after his sister and her husband were killed in an accident), wrote an Oped piece for the New York Times, hoping to correct many of the misconceptions of her father. She had a little different take on this.

She discussed his love of reading, believing that it was not a passive exercise. Many people read the works of a variety of thinkers and only take from them, what validates their own opinion. And Strauss felt that this was not accidental.
The fact is that Leo Strauss also recognized a multiplicity of readers, but he had enough faith in his authors to assume that they, too, recognized that they would have a diverse readership. Some of their readers, the ancients realized, would want only to find their own views and prejudices confirmed; others might be willing to open themselves to new, perhaps unconventional or unpopular, ideas. I personally think my father's rediscovery of the art of writing for different kinds of readers will be his most lasting legacy. (2)
Maybe not intentionally vague, but ambiguous none the less.

And this is the most important weapon in the neoconconservative 'Reform' arsenal. If they told us what they really wanted to do, hand government over to the corporate world, they'd never stand a chance.

Canada's Reform (?)

Whether you want to call the Canadian 'Reform' a party or a movement is irrelevant. No matter what it is, the fact remains that it was behind the new Conservative Party of Canada. And to understand the secret to their success, you have to go back to a variety of right-wing players, that include media, think-tanks, foundations, federations and coalitions, all providing the infrastructure for the intentional change of our political culture.

How many people do you know who realize that this has been taking place for decades? Who saw it coming? Even Harper's critics believe that he came from nowhere, with an unquenchable thirst for power.

But Harper is just the latest face. He embodies everything that the leader of this movement requires. Malignant narcissism, a lack of empathy and an unflinching belief in the doctrine of corporate rule. And while he keeps everyone in line with an iron fist, he is not without his puppet masters.

David Somerville, the former President of the National Citizens Coalition, a corporate controlled AstroTurf group (Stephen Harper also acted as both the vice president and president of the NCC), told his followers that they must tap into both intellect and emotion (3), to achieve their goals.

They would create the story and use passion to sell it.

This is why it became so necessary to tap into religious fervour, though it is not exclusive. They also use the passion for guns, race and country, among other things.

I think one of the best earliest examples of the success of ambiguity and passion that drives this movement, took place in 1984, and involved the NCC, the pro-life movement, and Bill C-169.

Bill C-169 was designed to block spending in elections unless it was approved and accounted for by the party that stood to gain from the spending. Third party spending.
According to writer Nick Fillmore, until 1984 "the [National Citizens] coalition was very much an unimportant right-wing fringe group, paid little attention by most politicians, the media and even shunned by other right-wing lobby groups. The first breakthrough came in July, 1984, when the NCC successfully used the Alberta Supreme Court to overturn the federal government's bill C-169, a law aimed at preventing third parties from advertising a political position during an election campaign." Judge Donald Medhurst in striking down the law said there had to be proof that such spending undermined democracy before any government could impose limits on the freedom of expression guarantee in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms .... The NCC's court victory opened the door to virtually unlimited corporate spending in the 1988 federal election, arguably the most important election in Canada in decades. Advocates of free trade were able to far outspend opponents. (4)
This corporate funded initiative was a direct attack on our democracy because it gave power to money. But what I found interesting was how the righteous viewed the decision. From a pro-life publication: 'The Interim'.
It is a great pro-life victory that Bill C-169, the amendments to the Canada Elections Act, has been thrown out by the Alberta Supreme Court. On June 26, 1984, Justice Donald Medhurst of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that [out?] the changes made to the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The National Citizens Coalition and its president, Colin Brown of London, Ontario had asked the court to strike down the amendments contained in Bill C-169. The decision means that individuals and groups (including pro-life individuals and groups) will again be free to oppose or promote political candidates during a federal election campaign. (5)
This was obviously sold to the pro-lifers by the NCC, as an assault on their "freedom of expression" and they were no doubt able to solicit a lot of funds based on that passionate plea. Would it have been as successful if they had called it a corporate move to set the government's agenda? Not likely.

The art of ambiguity. People saw what they wanted to see and I doubt that it was not intentional. It would be interesting to hear other groups opinions of Medhurst's decision. What they 'heard' from the NCC's campaign.

Preston Manning and Stephen Harper used that skill when creating the Reform Party.
... policies regarding agriculture, labour, tax reform, foreign policy, social policy, and immigration are so muddied by calculated ambiguity that they leave the Reform Party and its leader enormous flexibility in fashioning actual policy. (6)
And though this was supposed to be a populist, grassroots party, it wasn't long before some of the more aware members began to realize that it was being run by a 'Calgary clique'.
The "clique" which was being criticized in 1990 consisted of Manning and four of his staff members. One of the key members was thirty-two-year-old Stephen Harper, a founding member of the party, its Chief Policy Officer, and the man who became known as Manning's chief political lieutenant. Though only a staff member, he often made speeches and was one of the two people, the other being [Stan] Waters, whom Manning trusted to speak for the party .... The charges of elitism and control of the party by a Manning clique struck a very sour note in an otherwise spectacular rise in party fortunes. (6)
An "elite" group using ambiguity and emotion to tell their story.

Ambiguously, when I say "elite group" I could mean the NCC, the Reform Party or Harper's PMO. All one and the same, I'm afraid.

Can't wait to see how the "story" ends.
"Those who tell the stories rule society." — Plato

1. Leo Strauss and the American Right, By Michael Lind, Washington Monthly, November 1997

2. The Real Leo Strauss, By Jenny Strauss Clay, New York Times, June 07, 2003

3. The Myth of the Good Corporate Citizen: Canada and Democracy in the Age of Globalization, By Murray Dobbin, James Lorimer & Company, 2003, ISBN: 1-55028-785-0, Pg. 197

4. Dobbin, 2003, Pg. 202

5. The NCC provides a Canadian pro-life victory, The Interim, August 29, 1984

6. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7 4, Pg. 215

7. Dobbin, 1992, Pg. 122

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lies Become Truths When Enough People Believe Them

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

"Those who tell the stories rule society." — Plato

One of the books I'm currently reading is Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis, a collection of reflections on the 2008 coalition attempt and Stephen Harper's reaction to it.

One of the book's contributors, Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Toronto, Lorraine E. Weinrib, discusses the lies used to justify the resulting prorogation, and how they became believable, simply because the government refused to address anything that might contradict their version of events.

In this way they were able to persuade the Canadian public of the truth of the lie. In religion mythology becomes fact when enough people believe in it, and the same can be said for history and politics.

Weinrib focuses on John Baird, but includes much of the false information that was never corrected, not the least of which was the fact that this was not a Coup d'Etat as the Conservatives claimed, but a legitimate action in a functioning Parliamentary democracy.
The near collapse of a minority government is not a significant event. The circumstances that surround this near collapse, however, signal that there may be further serious repercussions arising from the events of December 2008 to January 2009 ... these events reflect a pattern of disregard by Harper of a number of deeply embedded constitutional principles and practices. Each individual element poses cause for concern. The accumulation suggests that Harper is capable of precipitating a serious constitutional crisis to avert responsibility for his own mistakes and miscalculations and to stay in power. (1)
And after getting away with this, he has continued to challenge our constitution. Another self-serving prorogation, refusal to hand over documents relating to the torture of Afghan detainees, killing a climate change bill that already had the approval of Parliament and his latest attempt to extend the war in Afghanistan, without debate.

But back to the 2008 contrived "crisis".

When talking to Don Newman, John Baird suggested that the acceptance of the throne speech was proof that his government had the confidence of the House, but as Newman reminds him (video below): "You only have the confidence of the House until you lose the confidence of the House". Baird simply ignores this.

Weinrib wonders how far they were willing to take this. Would they replace the Governor General with one more compliant, if their request was denied? We have since learned from Lawrence Martin's book, Harperland, that they were actually going to go to the Queen if they didn't get their wish.

Ultimately their success was sticking to their lies, and repeating them often enough until they became fact. The fact that they weren't fact, but fiction, was not important.

And one of these was the notion that the coalition was with separatists who would have veto powers. But as Weinrib reminds us:
Harper had engaged in a similar coalition-building plan to oust the Liberal minority government of Paul Martin, a plan that included a signed agreement with the leaders of the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois. The taint of support from a separatist party didn't seem to bother Harper when that support worked in his favour.
Every time this was brought up, the Conservatives changed the subject. They didn't have to call it a lie, simply because they couldn't. There was irrefutable proof. But by screaming "separatist" loud enough, they were able to keep the "truth" from the conversation.

I remember being particularly upset, when Gilles Duceppe brought in a letter showing that 2004 was not the first time those from the government side of the House had approached him about forming a coalition. In 2000, when Stockwell Day was leader of the Alliance, he presented a letter of intent, should Jean Chretien win with a minority. (he was returned with a majority)

Day not only denied that he had done such a thing, but stated that it was not in his DNA to join forces with separatists. He must have chuckled to himself, given that his father, a contributor to that DNA, belonged to the Western separatist party of Doug Christie, the Western Canada Concept. And in fact the Sr. Day ran as a WCC candidate against Tommy Douglas in 1972 (2).

But little of that came out in the media. Headlines were filled with "coup", "socialists" and "separatists". A few tried to correct the disinformation, but they were mostly ignored.
Harper played on the ignorance of the Canadian public as to the constitutional framework within which our parliamentary system of government operates. Polling at the time confirmed the public's lack of familiarity with the working of a minority government, in particular the governor general's role in the changing of governments. It is a matter of concern that a prime minister would feel comfortable exploiting, indeed encouraging, views that were inconsistent with some of the most basic features of our system of government. (1)
The hyperbole also had an impact on those already on the fringe. I watched a video on YouTube by a citizen who called this an attempt by Marxists to take over Canada. And Dennis Pilon, a political scientist at the University of Victoria, stated that : "the actions of this prime minister are coming dangerously close to inciting mob rule." (3)

There has been much discussion over whether or not Michaëlle Jean did the right thing, or whether the coalition would have provided a stable government. But that is not the issue here.

What is at issue is that our prime minister deliberately perpetrated a fraud to save his job. Repeating Weinrib: "... these events reflect a pattern of disregard by Harper of a number of deeply embedded constitutional principles and practices. Each individual element poses cause for concern. The accumulation suggests that Harper is capable of precipitating a serious constitutional crisis to avert responsibility for his own mistakes and miscalculations and to stay in power." (1)

Allan Gregg in his review of Martin's Harperland, shares this concern.
Even though it has become a cliché to refer to Stephen Harper as a control freak, the power of Martin’s argument hits you like a jackhammer. Those of us who follow these things quite closely remember a number of occasions when the Conservatives have found themselves in hot water because of allegations of abuse of power, but we tend to forget just how frequently this has occurred ... In total, Martin cites some 70-odd cases of these types of abuse and the combined effect is almost dizzying. (4)
It's the accumulation and frequency of the assaults on our democracy that are at issue, along with the ease with which this government can lie to us.
"The elite must, in a word, lie to the masses; the elite must manipulate them—arguably for their own good. The elite employ "noble lies," lies purporting to affirm God, justice, the good. ... These lies are necessary in order to keep the ignorant masses in line." - Leo Strauss

1. Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis, Edited by Peter H. Russell and Lorne Sossin, University of Toronto Press, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-4426-1014-9. 2, Pg. 65-68

2. Stockwell Day - Early life and career: Encyclopedia II

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

4. Negative Statesmanship: Stephen Harper may end up being known for what he does not do more than for what he does, By Allan Gregg, Literary Review

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Democracy in Crisis: Governing Under a Cloud

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

Susan Delacourt has a column in the Star today: Is Canadian democracy in real danger?

I believe it is.

She discusses the reflections of political scientist David Docherty, who believes that the House of Commons should be the centrepiece of Canada's democracy. But instead it is being abused as a place to take cheap shots without reprisal, while seemingly lacking validity, over issues of importance; like the climate change bill and the decision to throw Canadians into War for three more years, without input or debate.

There is an excellent book: Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis, that discusses the importance of Harper's first prorogation, when it became painfully clear that he had no intention of governing based on the will of the people. Parliament was an inconvenience, which of course meant that we were an inconvenience.

There were several constitutional and Parliamentary experts who contributed to the book, including Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Toronto, Lorraine E. Weinrib. She discusses Stephen Harper's "time out" and it's important significance.

This man had lost the confidence of the House, which meant that he could no longer legitimately be our prime minister. And when Governor General Michaëlle Jean allowed him to prorogue Parliament in December of 2008, to avoid the inevitable confirmation of this, there should have at least been some restrictions on his power, seeing as how he was actually on probation.
Some commentators considered the situation so exceptional as to call for conditions restricting Prime Minister Stephen Harper's powers to routine
matters for the duration of the prorogation of Parliament. No conditions were imposed. The prime minister went on to appoint one Supreme Court justice and eighteen senators during the period of prorogation – hardly routine matters – when the question of his support in the House was under a cloud. (1)
So how did he get away with it? It boggles the mind. And yet he did. And since that time he has continued to get away with increasing attacks on the democratic process and the principles of responsible government.
The events that led to the prorogation of Parliament demonstrate the fragility of one of the basic principles of British parliamentary government, the principle of responsible government. This principle stipulates that a particular government continues in office only as long as it enjoys the confidence of the elected members of the House of Commons. For this reason, minority governments are by definition less stable than majority governments. They are particularly unstable when a prime minister's preference is to denigrate the opposition parties and their leaders, rather than to build upon common ground. Delaying a vote of confidence is a serious matter because it creates the possibility of the democratically illegitimate exercise of public power. (1)
He had gotten himself into this mess. It was not a coup, but a reaction to his negative policies, after promising to play nice.
Why did Harper throw down this partisan gauntlet? Presumably, he wanted to take the first opportunity to establish his dominant author­ity over the new minority Parliament. (1)
He was counting on the perceived weakness of Stéphane Dion, and the fact that the Liberals couldn't afford another election.

The media are always singing the praises of the Conservatives because they have more money than anyone else. Why should that matter in a democracy? That's exactly what we want to avoid, is political success dependant on cash. Yes, the Corporate Welfare Bums take care of him very nicely, and he in turn takes care of them. But who is going to take care of us?

Canada is supposed to be a democratic country. But we now have a man in power, who is doing his utmost to change that.
Each individual element poses cause for concern. The accumulation suggests that Harper is capable of precipitating a serious constitutional crisis to avert responsibility for his own mistakes and miscalculations and to stay in power. (1)
I believe that Weinrib is right.

Bob Altemeyer, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Manitoba, has studied authoritarianism, and the phenomenon of a willing populace. When he wrote his thesis The Authoritarians, George Bush was still in power, and Altemeyer suggests:
There has never been a more obvious, appropriate, and pressing time for this discussion. The threat that authoritarians pose to .. democracy has probably never been clearer. It is just a coincidence, but human affairs have provided the foremost example of how badly right-wing authoritarianism can damage ... George W. Bush has been the most authoritarian president in my lifetime, as well as the worst. And that’s not a coincidence.
Stephen Harper is clearly the most authoritarian prime minister we have ever had, as well as the worst. And that’s not a coincidence either. But why should he be accountable when we don't demand accountability?

Our democracy is being undermined from below, simply because we are allowing tyranny from above.
“The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy” - Charles de Montesquieu

1. Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis, By Peter H. Russell and Lorne Sossin, University of Toronto Press, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-4426-1014-9. 2, Pg. 63-65

2. The Authoritarians, By Bob Altemeyer, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, 2006

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Patriot Game: The Charter of Rights

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
"And we have a Supreme Court, like yours, which, since we put a charter of rights in our constitution in 1982, is becoming increasingly arbitrary and
important ... 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."
Stephen Harper (1)
In April of 2007, Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms celebrated it's 25th anniversary. Stephen Harper refused an invitation to be the keynote speaker at an event marking the occasion.
The Harper government is passing on a major Ottawa conference marking the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights, with the Prime Minister and three Cabinet ministers turning down invitations to speak. In fact, the milestone anniversary will be a muted affair within the government ranks ... Mr. Jedwab said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, Heritage Minister Bev Oda and former justice minister Vic Toews were also invited to address the April 16-17 event, but they declined. (2)
The fact is that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has always been a thorn in the side of the Reform movement. Preston Manning preferred that it would have been more like the American model.

On the Charter of Rights, Manning takes the position that Canada should have, like the U.S., a concept of rights which makes no mention of race, gender, or language. His support for triple-E Senate is modelled after the U.S. Senate and is proposed for Canada in spite of the fact that a similar model "often makes government impossible" in Australia, according to Desmond Morton.

Last, Preston Manning wishes to emulate the U.S. by including a provision for property rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights. This concept is rooted in American individualism and free-enterprise culture. However, it may be less appealing in Canada, which has had a more co-operative and collective approach to life and to government. (3)

Stephen Harper's views were similar to Manning's but based a lot on the book The Patriot Game by Peter Brimelow, who saw both the patriation of the Constitution, and the Charter as not only an attack on Anglo Canadians, but the endowment of too much power on the judiciary.
Certain aspects of public policy were entrenched, however, notably bilingualism, and a "Charter of Rights and Freedoms" was added .. the new constitution clearly does pose a legal threat to much of its nationalist legislation restricting the use of English. More subtly, the constitution represents a break with the British tradition of common law, custom and precedent, and greatly enhances the power of the judicial branch. (4)
What Brimelow opposed the most, and what was reflected in the views of the Reform party members, was that in his mind the English had conquered the French in Canada, so they should accept the Anglo hierarchy. What he failed to understand was that Quebec and French Canadians, were to be equal partners in Confederation as one of our country's founding peoples.

So the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms set out to right a wrong.
The difficulty Francophones faced in the civil service ... the one addressed by the resulting bilingualism policy, was not discrimination against Francophones as such, but the fact that at the higher levels they had to work in English. Francophones who were prepared to speak English could always in effect resign from their race in working hours, unlike the American blacks. (5)
"Resign from their race in working hours"?

And this was the logic that Stephen Harper found so compelling that he went out and bought ten copies of Brimelow's book to give to friends. And when Harper addressed the Reform Party Assembly in Saskatoon in 1991, and stated emphatically that there would be no special privileges for Quebec, his mind was made up.

And we have to remember that his political views are not organic, but set in stone. He only gave Quebec special status, because he said that he needed to "suck up to them."

Another bone of contention for the movement was the entrenching of rights, including those for women, ethnic groups and Aboriginals, but especially for homosexuals.

One of the Reform Party founders, Ted Byfield, stated that the only thing that should be legislated in Canada was morality, but this charter actually, in his view, attacked morality, by protecting "sin". And protecting that sin was the judiciary.

This would start a war. One that is ongoing.

On June 12, 2000, Harper railed against biased judicial activism. "Serious flaws exist in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and there is no meaningful review or accountability mechanisms for Supreme Court justices" (6)

And on September 2, 2009, at a closed-door speech to Conservative supporters in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., he spoke against judicial independence and made it clear that if he ever obtains a majority, he will stack the bench with judges who are not "left-wing ideologues." (6) "I ask you for a moment to imagine how different things would be if the Liberals were still in power. . . . Imagine how many left-wing ideologues they would be putting in the courts. . . ."

Maurice Vellacott had accused Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of calling herself God, and though it was a lie and he made a meager attempt at an apology in the House of Commons, the sentiment remains.

One of the worst attacks however, has been on Louise Arbour (shown above right). Arbour is the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and the Court of Appeal for Ontario and a former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. She has since July 2009 served as President and CEO of the International Crisis Group.

Someone all Canadians should be proud of. And yet Harper’s ministers refused to recognize her work, while Vic Toews launched a personal attack, as part of his party's policy.
The Conservative grenade hurlers couldn't help themselves. Next up to the plate was Treasury Board Secretary Vic Toews, whose target was Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and a former Supreme Court justice. Arbour had a far more distinguished reputation than Toews did, but that didn't stop him from labelling her a national "disgrace" when she praised a new Arab human rights charter and chastised both sides in the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. Toews hollered "Shame on her!" when the matter was raised in the Commons. (7)
Yes shame on her. How dare she stand up for human rights abuses, earning enough of an international reputation that she would be given such high positions.

We need to start recognizing and supporting our public intellectuals, who have been taking a beating since Stephen Harper came to power. Canadians have always taken pride in the accomplishments of it's citizens and this government would prefer that we forget them, so they can be free to pursue their agenda of Americanization.

U.S. style prisons. U.S style courts. U.S. style justice.

Canadians should be proud of their Charter of Rights and Freedoms and proud of the fact that we have for decades been seen as a Just Society. Harper's law and order agenda is a wrong fit for us. It's not who we are, just who he would like us to be.

One of my favourite quotes about the Reform movement came from the Vancouver Sun, and I share it often:
"Reform is somewhat un-Canadian. It's about tidy numbers, self-righteous sanctimoniousness and western grievances. It cannot talk about the sea or about our reluctant fondness for Quebec, about our sorrow at the way our aboriginal people live, about the geographically diverse, bilingual, multicultural mess of a great country we are." (8)

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

2. PM passes on marking Charter anniversary; Rejects invitation, By Janice Tibbetts, National Post, April 11, 2007

3. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7 4, Pg. 190

4. The Patriot Game: National Dreams and Political Realities, By Peter Brimelow, Key Porter Books, 1986, ISBN: 1-55013-001-3, Pg. 34

5. Brimelow, 1986, Pg. 191

6. The Hill: Harper challenged as silence of the jurists ends, By: Richard Cleroux, Law Times

7. Harperland:The Politics of Control, By Lawrence Martin, Viking Press, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-670-06517-2, Pg. 130

8. Vancouver Sun, April 8, 1994

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Patriot Game: Western Separation

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

In 1965, a student at Winnipeg College climbed to the roof of the school to hoist a nine-foot Red Ensign when the Canadian flag was first being raised. His name was Doug Christie and he would become a life long separatist, advocating for the Western provinces and territories to split with Canada and strike out on their own.

His movement would gain some support in 1980 when Quebec was holding a referendum and the government of Pierre Trudeau had announced the National Energy Policy. However, it wasn't the NEP that created the uproar but changes to the tax laws in Alan MacEachern's budget.
MacEachen's senior advisers soon focused his attention on how billions of dollars were being lost yearly to scores of dubious corporate tax breaks. Finance officials put together a tax reform package designed, among other things, to eliminate 165 of the most costly and counter-productive tax expenditure measures and in the process increase revenue by close to $3 billion.

When he introduced the legislation it caused a firestorm of protest from the corporate elite. Neil Brooks, now professor of tax law at Osgoode Hall Law School, was working for the finance department on the tax reform package and has recalled the tactics of the large corporations. "It's almost a classic example of what's called a capital strike. I mean, business simply said to the government that if you go ahead with these measures we will stop investing in Canada." The development industry reacted instantly. "Literally the next day they were closing jobs down and . . . pulling cranes off construction jobs."

Life insurance companies had their own strategy. The industry, which for years had paid income tax rates of close to zero, wrote to every one of its policyholders, telling them the new measures to tax investment revenue would greatly increase their premiums. "The government," says Brooks, "at one point was receiving thousands of letters a day from people across the country."(1)
But in the west, they couldn't sell it as the wealthy fighting against tax increases, so instead made it about Ottawa pandering to Quebec and Ontario, at the expense of the western provinces, especially Alberta. The National Energy Policy then became the enemy, despite the fact that many wealthy westerners liked the new policy, because it promoted 50% Canadian ownership and allowed further development of government lands.

Soon after the announcement of the NEP, [Alberta Premier Peter] Lougheed fired three effective salvos: a constitutional challenge to the natural gas tax; a staged reduction in shipments of oil to other provinces; and a freeze on the oil sands, whose development the NEP encouraged. Although the Petroleum Club and the radio talk-shows in Alberta cheered the premier, and bumper stickers declared "Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze," [energy minister Marc] Lalonde had included provisions in the NEP that attracted key Albertan players.

These entrepreneurs and their lawyers rightly saw the provision that there must be 5o percent Canadian ownership on the Canada Lands —those potentially rich areas under government control—as highly beneficial. Dome Petroleum, Nova, and Petro-Canada therefore complained about the new taxes on gas and oil but did not join Lougheed's general denunciation of the NEP. The influential Bob Blair of Nova, a major figure in the oil patch, openly declared his Liberal allegiance and remained in close touch with both Trudeau and Lalonde. "Smiling Jack" Gallagher of Dome most enthusiastically embarked on the acquisition of foreign oil companies, which were eager to abandon Canada in the wake of the NEP. (2)

Unfortunately, after the 1980 election that ended Joe Clark's brief governance, those fuelling the separatist campaign, went into action.
Highlighted against the rise and fall of the abbreviated Tory reign, the 1980 election aroused immediate anger and concern in the West. In Alberta, a sixty-year-old Edmonton millionaire and car dealer, Elmer Knutson, sent an angry letter to the Edmonton Journal the day after the election."' The letter, which has acquired an almost mythic stature in western separatist folklore, adumbrated a series of themes which were to be the staples of western separatists and other right-wing elements in subsequent years."' It especially complained of a French-dominated Ottawa, as exemplified in such policies as bilingualism, and the fear that Trudeau's majority Liberal government would now proceed with constitutional reforms which would reinforce French domination of the rest of Canada. Knutson's solution to this perceived threat was simple: Quebec must be made to leave Canada.

Knutson was not a stranger to political matters. In the late 1970s he had been co-chair of the One Canada Association, an organization 'committed to increasing police powers, ending bilingualism, and tightening immigration policies. Then, in December 1979, Knutson lost the Edmonton South Tory nomination to incumbent Douglas Roche, whom Knutson once described as 'a socialist masquerading as a conservative But the response to his Journal letter — 'One lousy little letter,' in Knutson's words — astonished even him. In one month, Knutson received 3800 replies, most of them positive.' As a result of this public response, Knutson formed the Western Canada Federation (West-Fed) in March 1980. At almost the same time, the results of the federal election breathed new life into the faltering political career of a thirty-four-year-old Victoria lawyer, Doug Christie. (3)
Peter Brimelow, author of The Patriot Game, the book that was a Bible for Stephen Harper's early political leanings, saw things a little differently. This was an attack on English Canada:
In the fall of 1980, after the federal Liberals' return to power and their imposition of the National Energy Program, reports began to filter back to Central Canada that the natives on the western frontier beyond the Ontario boundary were unusually restless. Several organizations had sprung up advocating that the West - the Prairie provinces, British Columbia and the federally administered Yukon and Northwest Territories - separate from Canada. The two most important were the Western Canada Concept Party, begun in British Columbia and headed by Doug Christie, a Victoria lawyer; and the Western Canada Federation Party, based in Alberta and led by Elmer Knutson, an Edmonton farm equipment millionaire.

Both these parties argued that, to adapt Joe Clark's Shawinigan comment during the Quebec referendum campaign, the Canada to which they had wished to belong no longer existed. The conditions of Confederation had been changed, and they wanted out. Less active but worth a footnote was the Unionist Party, which directly advocated joining the U.S.: it was founded by Dick Collver*, until 1979 leader of the Saskatchewan Progressive Conservatives, who shortly afterwards acted on his beliefs and moved to Arizona.

Suddenly, Christie and Knutson were attracting crowds of thousands to their meetings. Prominent Western figures were expressing sympathy, notably Carl
, a well-known oilman and former Tory federal MP, who had even been considered a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Alberta the previous year but who told a luncheon gathering of 700 Calgary businessmen in October that after the NEP he had "sorrowfully" become a separatist. At the same time, the Edmonton Journal ran a poll showing that a startling 2 3% of Albertans supported an "independent West." There were angry exchanges in the House of Commons in Ottawa when Tory leader Joe Clark drew attention to the phenomenon. He was immediately accused of thereby "aiding and abetting" it. Pierre Trudeau offered the helpful opinion that Western separatism was "nil and non-existent," being at, root "a fight about money" in no way comparable with Quebec's grievances. This naturally inspired redoubled efforts to prove him wrong. (4)
He was right of course. The uproar was over the closing up of the tax loopholes, but instead was channeled against the NEP. And Quebec's grievances were completely different. Many of the French-Canadians had been living like plantation slaves in their province.

The NEP wasn't perfect but it wasn't the disaster it was made out to be. But that didn't stop the Reform Party from reviving it for political gain.

Doug Christie's Western Canada Concept Party had one seat in the House of Commons, but only for a few months. He was joined by another disgruntled Anglophone, who had left Quebec during the Quiet Revolution. He would run as a WCC candidate against Tommy Douglas, but of course lost. His name was Stockwell Day Sr. and his son is now in the Harper government.


Dick Collver moved to Arizona, coming back to testify during the trial of Colin Thatcher. According to Collver, Thatcher had visited him on his Arizona Ranch, asking him where he could hire a hitman.


1. The Myth of the Good Corporate Citizen: Canada and Democracy in the Age of Globalization, By Murray Dobbin, James Lorimer & Company, 2003, ISBN: 1-55028-785-0, Pg. 168

2. Just Watch me: The Life of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, By John English, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-676-97523-9, Pg. 488

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, Pg. 57-58

4. The Patriot Game: National Dreams and Political Realities, By Peter Brimelow, Key Porter Books, 1986, ISBN: 1-55013-001-3, Pg. 240-241

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Redefining Populism and The Canada West Foundation

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
"We have Rightwing protectionist Conservatives, championing free enterprise -with no interest in social reform. We have Leftwing socialism trying to build reform. There is a large intelligent mass at the centre that is demanding a more enlightened approach - Fiscal responsibility + social reform. Free to own, free to achieve, free to grow and to change but who want their government to take responsibility for stimulating growth ... Only thru liberalism can we have both a free society and a quality of life." Stan Roberts Founding Reform Party Member
The Canada West Foundation was founded in 1971 and was funded by individual memberships, corporate donations, as well as provincial and territorial grants. It's aim was to conduct research into the economic and social characteristics of the West and the North, and to make proposals regarding it's development.

It was not partisan and it's founding members included Duff Roblin, former Tory premier of Manitoba, and Liberal MP James Richardson. Other prominent people who filled their ranks, were the media king Izzy Asper, political columnist Gordon Gibson, former governor general of Canada, Edward Schreyer; and Jim Gray, vice-president of Canadian Hunter Exploration. The chairman was president of Burns Meats, Arthur Child. Child was a millionaire and, according to writer Peter Newman, a member of Calgary's 'nouveaux riches'.

But the most prominent member of the CEF was its president, Stan Roberts. a former Liberal MLA. In 1970 he wrote a note to himself, possibly intending it to be part of a speech, but this was how he felt about the federal political climate.
If NDP had been elected two years ago - inflation. If PCs had been elected two years ago - 2 countries. (1)
Roberts could probably best be described as a Social-Democrat. He was a fair and intelligent man, who would later help to create the Reform Party. In fact, he challenged Preston Manning for leadership of the Party, fearing that Manning was bringing in too many from the Right-Wing fringe, and he had the backing of the man who provided the seed money, Francis Winspear. He was right of course, but through crafty maneuvering, Manning won the day.

I think it would have been a much different party had Roberts headed it up, but he died soon after, so I guess we'll never know.

Roberts was part of the Task Force on National Unity headed by former Liberal cabinet minister Jean-Luc Pepin and former Ontario premier John Robarts, to address the Quebec Question after the election of René Lévesque .
By 1978, he had become convinced that western Canada had to become more involved in the constitutional process. In his own words: 'What has happened in Quebec may have precipitated the crisis, but it's not an Ontario-Quebec debate. It's a Canadian debate and we in the west have a part in it.' (1)
Canada West Foundation and the Quebec Question

In 1976, the CWF commissioned a report by M & M Systems Research Ltd. of Edmonton examining how a new balance of national and regional interests and aspirations could be achieved within Canada, 'while maintaining the unity and integrity of Canadian Confederation.""

And of course, M & M was owned and managed by Ernest and Preston Manning. It would later be renamed Manning Consultants Limited, in 1969, a year after the elder Manning's resignation as Alberta premier. The Mannings had never been too far from the political arena and had forged strong ties with big business.

Through their work with NPARF and the National Citizens' Coalition, they envisioned a New Canada, one run by the corporate sector. In 1970 they had drafted a paper that became a blue-print for neoconservatism in Canada.
In 1970, M & M produced its first paper, entitled Requests for Proposals and Social Contracts. Based on the system of contracting used by such American agencies as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and written in the now familiar language of systems theory, the paper advocated the provision of social programs by private industry and commerce." ... neo-conservative solutions to the increasing fiscal problems of the liberal welfare state. (1)
It all looked good on paper.
The Mannings' paper was used as the basis for discussions held at public meetings throughout western Canada, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories during September and October 1977. Then, in December 1977, the foundation commissioned three reputable political scientists - David Elton and Peter McCormick, of the University of Lethbridge, and Fred Engelmann, of the University of Alberta - to study federal systems of government existing elsewhere in the world.

Their study, entitled Alternatives: Towards the Development of an Effective Federal System for Canada, came out in February 1978, and made several specific proposals, notably that the Senate be replaced by a House of Provinces consisting of delegates from the provincial governments. The intent of this proposal was to bring the regions into the federal decision-making process, while not fundamentally weakening or decentralizing federal authority. The study also made clear where the authors stood on the Parti Quebecois's proposal of sovereignty-association: 'There is no question but that French Canadians have legitimate grievances ... [However, the] fuzziness of political independence and economic association would generate feelings of exploitation of both sides of the new divide ... Quebec would [succeed] in creating in political reality that which until now has seldom existed outside her nightmares – a politically unified English Canada facing an isolated Quebec.

This study subsequently became a discussion paper at the CWF's Alternatives Conference held in Banff, Alberta, on 27-9 March 1978. Among the many funders of that conference was the Winspear Foundation, named after Francis Winspear, the disenchanted former Liberal. The conference attracted 300 delegates from across the country, including 50 from Quebec, and several high-profile speakers, including Flora MacDonald, the federal Tory critic for federal-provincial relations, Alberta premier Peter Lougheed, and Saskatchewan premier Allan Blakeney. In the end, Elton, Engelmann, and McCormick's proposals were generally endorsed by the delegates. Stan Roberts noted: 'with a clear consensus the delegates supported the concept of a strong central government . (1)
And it received a lot of praise from all quarters. But it never got off the ground. It came at a time of much political turmoil. Joe Clark won the election in 1979, only to lose another several months later. Quebec was holding a referendum and the battle lines appeared to have been drawn.

The CWF took on a more combative role, with their director Arthur Child, and the west was about to rise up again.

And within a decade Preston Manning found the time was right to start a new party, founded on Western grievances. But any organization or political party founded on anger is eventually going to be consumed by it. And when the Reform Party made their way to Ottawa, they came ready for a fight.

And under their new name, the Conservative Party of Canada, and new leader Stephen Harper, they are just as combative, and unwilling to compromise.

What Allan Gregg calls Negative Statesmanship.
Now, with the publication of Harperland: The Politics of Control, Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin has entered this fray and one-upped past observers by claiming that Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has taken “the politics of control” to an entirely new level—and in this case, the intent is most emphatically personal. For Martin, this tendency is no mere response to a more fractured and frenzied media, but a studied, long-term strategy designed “to break the [Liberal] brand.” The result has become “a Soviet-style monitoring maze” and “a vetting operation unlike any ever seen in the capital” that demands all aspects of government pay unwavering obedience to the Prime Minister’s Office.
And Stan Roberts' notion that "only thru liberalism can we have both a free society and a quality of life", his vision of a new party that might be termed "capitalism with a human face" (1), has been lost in the ideology of 'only thru corporatism can we lose the notion of a free society and destroy our quality of life'.

Capitalism with the face of a monster.


1. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada. By Trevor Harrison Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6, pg. 65-69

2. Negative Statesmanship: Stephen Harper may end up being known for what he does not do more than for what he does, By Allan Gregg, Literary Review

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Just Society: Oil, Americans and Mythology

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
"In the course of the conflict between the Reagan administration and Ottawa, we Albertans are expected as loyal Canadians to cheer for the victory of Mr. Trudeau and his thug government. Some of us will find this very hard. We will wave the flag, of course. But deep in our hearts we will be hoping that the Americans whip the hell out of him." - Ted Byfield, founding Reform Party member (1)
Carl Olof Nickle (1914 - 1990) was an editor, publisher, oil baron, soldier and federal politician, representing a Calgary riding. He would retire from politics in 1957 and focus instead on the Alberta oil and gas industry.

As early as 1956 he had been discussing that industry and the Middle East. During one lecture he said:
I would like to comment on the outlook for expansion of markets for our Western Canadian crude oil a matter of particular importance to all Calgarians because of the effect it has had, and will have in the future on our growth as "Canada's Oil Capital". The recent and continuing crisis in the Middle East, where about two thirds of the world's presently proved oil reserves are located, has further emphasized the importance to Canada, this continent and to the Free World of the proved reserves plus the far vaster undiscovered reserves of the Western Hemisphere, including those of our Western Canada.

The longer term outlook is a confused one, in which the one fact most apparent is that the Middle East cannot be banked on as a secure supply of oil for Free World needs. The military might of Russia poses a constant threat. Even if there is no attempt by Russia to seize the Middle East by force which would almost certainly involve the Western World in a war for survival of its oilfed economy we face the prospect of interruptions to oil supply caused by the combination of Soviet propaganda and Arab nationalism. (2)
He speaks of the possible involvement of the Western World in a "war for survival of its oilfed economy". He also speaks of the threat of a "combination of Soviet propaganda and Arab nationalism."

This is not unlike the lecture given by American General Thomas Metz when he spoke to a group of senior Canadian military officers, soldiers, defence analysts and lobbyists in Toronto in 2006.
He ... shows a chart depicting the military challenges America faces, measured in terms of level of danger and level of likelihood. At the very apex—the most dangerous and the most likely—sits just one: radical Islamic terrorism. "Radical Islam wants to reestablish the Caliphate," says Metz. "Just as Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, you can read what they want to do." (3)
A Caliphate is a union of the Muslim world. It was the first political philosophy that adopted the notion of using their natural resources to look after their people. It wasn't communism, or socialism, it was just a belief in something bigger than they were. God or Allah, and they believed that this is what he wanted them to do. But nationalizing their natural resources (oil) runs contra to the West's goals of exploitation. Metz continues:
In his southern drawl, the general notes how much oil the U.S. consumes—roughly 25 per cent of the world's consumption, even though Americans make up only 5 per cent of the world's population—and how central this is to the country's high standard of living ... The connection between America's voracious oil consumption and the dangers of radical Islamic terrorism are never explicitly stated by Lt.-Gen. Metz; he simply notes that the Islamic world has a lot of oil and what happens there has an impact on energy markets. But an important element has clearly been added to the picture: the U.S. needs what lies under the ground in the Islamic world if Americans are to go on living the bounteous life that lies at the heart of the American dream—a life that has them devouring the lion's share of the world's energy. (3)
Not unlike 50 years ago when Carl Nickles raised the possibility of "the Western World in a war for survival of its oilfed economy."

So when Russia invaded Afghanistan, Reagan, the product of American corporatism, went into action, working with a group of "Terrorists" to secure the oil for American interests. And this is why Albertans, like Ted Byfield, hoped that Americans would whip the hell out of Pierre Trudeau, because he worked to secure our oil for the benefit of Canadians first. A home grown, non-religious caliphate.

I've written before about the National Energy Program that has taken on mystical proportions, through good PR. Even Westerners not born at the time, will raise it as an argument for their feelings of "alienation".

But the NEP did not destroy Alberta, nor was it an attempt to destroy Alberta. It was a battle between the Government of Canada and (mostly American) corporate interests. And it was not about oil so much as it was about taxes and regulations that hampered the Americans from getting richer at our expense.

The Red Flag Budget

When Joe Clark's government fell after only a few months in power, and Pierre Trudeau returned with a majority, the western provinces were concerned with the direction the government would now be going. Clark had attempted to reduce or reverse some of the programs and policies of the previous six years, including the elimination of Petro-Canada's role in national energy matters and, if possible, the privatization of the company. (4)

But he was gone, and Trudeau instead took an interventionist approach, deemed necessary to protect Canadians. As oil prices were rising, Alberta grew richer, and as this meant that equalization payments to the other provinces would increase, he would need extra revenue to ensure that the cheques didn't bounce.

Eventually Trudeau and Premier Peter Lougheed reached a suitable arrangement, and appeared on the front page of newspapers across the country, sipping champagne.

But this did nothing to appease the oil industry which was mostly American. You can see from the following chart that in 1980 only 26.1% of the Petroleum industry was Canadian owned and 18.7% Canadian controlled. And though Ontario had been forced for many years to pay higher than the market rate for their oil, to prop up the industry, the West now rose up in anger that they might have to start paying back.

And the most vocal among them was Carl Nickle:

The most outspoken of these critics was Carl Nickle, a prominent oilfield executive and former Tory MP, who publicly condemned the entire budget outright as discriminatory and repressive. "I believe short term political gain for central Canada will foster more alienation, possible [sic] even lead to splitting the nation apart." (1)

But what they were the most upset about was the new tax structure in finance minister Alan McEachern's budget, that would eliminate many deductions, the corporate sector had enjoyed.

When Allan MacEachen was appointed finance minister in 1980 big business requested that government examine the tax system with a view to making changes. But MacEachen's senior advisers soon focused his attention on how billions of dollars were being lost yearly to scores of dubious corporate tax breaks.
Finance officials put together a tax reform package designed, among other things, to eliminate 165 of the most costly and counter-productive tax expenditure measures and in the process increase revenue by close to $3 billion. When he introduced the legislation it caused a firestorm of protest from the corporate elite.

Neil Brooks, now professor of tax law at Osgoode Hall Law School, was working for the finance department on the tax reform package and has recalled the tactics of the large corporations. "It's almost a classic example of what's called a capital strike. I mean, business simply said to the government that if you go ahead with these measures we will stop investing in Canada." The development industry reacted instantly. "Literally the next day they were closing jobs down and . . . pulling cranes off construction jobs." (5)

This was because of taxes, not the NEP, but if the corporate world was going to create an AstroTurf, "grassroots" movement they couldn't very well say that they were upset that they would have to start paying their fair share. So instead they sold it as being an attack by Ottawa on the West, and with the help of Ted Byfield, an early Reform Party mentor, they shifted public sentiment from one of Canadian nationalism to Western regionalism, and it almost broke up the country, as several separatist movements exploded on the scene.

"In the months and years that followed, Byfield's Alberta Report continued to mythologize the intent and the impact of the NEP" (1) and it would culminate in the creation of a new party, with the help of Stephen Harper: the Reform Party of Canada, now calling itself the Conservative Party of Canada, headed up by the same Stephen Harper. It was Byfield who gave the party their original battle cry: "The West wants in".

And that same Stephen Harper is helping "the Western World in a war for survival of its oilfed economy" (not fighting radical Islam) by committing our soldiers to three more years of war. And he is continuing his program of tax reduction for our wealthiest citizens, meaning that the rest of us will have to absorb the costs of those three more years of war.

Forget 'Western alienation'. This is the alienation of Canadian citizens and we want in dammit.


1. 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, Pg. 60-65

2. Nickle Forecasts Expanded Role For Canadian Oil Stimulated By Middle East Crisis, Oil Patch History, November 17, 1956

3. Holding the Bully's Coat, Canada and the U.S. Empire, By Linda McQuaig, Doubleday Canada, 2007, ISBN 978-0-385-66012-9, pg. 67-69

4. Towards a Just Society: The Trudeau Years, Edited by Thomas S. Axworthy and Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Viking Press, 1990, ISBN: 0-670-83015-1, Pg. 60

5. The Myth of the Good Corporate Citizen: Canada and Democracy in the Age of Globalization, By Murray Dobbin, James Lorimer & Company, 2003, ISBN: 1-55028-785-0, Pg. 168

Monday, November 15, 2010

Redefining Populism as Fraser Institute Drafts Policy

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

On August 23, 1971, Lewis F. Powell, then a corporate lawyer and member of the boards of 11 corporations, wrote a memo to his friend Eugene Sydnor, Jr., the Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (1) Outlining the need for a business-financed propaganda infrastructure, he stated:
"Success in defending capitalism lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations”. Over time, this machine would hobble activist governments, undo the social and economic advances of the 1950s and '60s, and put business back in the driver's seat, Powell predicted. (2)
Two months later, President Richard Nixon, endorsed his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration's "hands-off business" philosophy. (1)
The memo would also make news north of the border. The corporate sector in British Columbia became alarmed when an NDP government was elected in 1972, and sprang into action:
In the fall of 1973, Michael Walker was working for the federal finance department when he got a call from an old college friend, Csaba Hajdu. Hajdu's boss, MacMillan Bloedel's T. Patrick Boyle, and other business executives in B.C. were greatly agitated by the NDP government of Dave Barrett and wanted advice on how to bring about its demise. In the spring, Walker met with Boyle, who twenty-three years later is still a Fraser Institute trustee. While a think-tank was not an ideal way to deal with the immediate problem of getting rid of the NDP government, Boyle and his mining-executive friends were apparently willing to take the long view. Walker's pitch was good enough to persuade fifteen of them to hand over a total of $200,000 to get the project started." It was the seed money for the Fraser Institute. (3)
And according to Trevor Harrison:

The Fraser Institute was founded in British Columbia in November 1974 by Michael Walker, the son of a Newfoundland miner. Walker, holder of a doctorate in economics from the University of Western Ontario, started the institute with the monetary support of BC's business community, which was still reeling from the NDP's election in 1972. By 1984 the institute was operating on an annual budget of $900,000, funded by some of Canada's largest business interests, including Sam Belzberg of First City Trust, Sonja Bata of Bata Limited, A.J. de Grandpre of Bell Canada, and Lorne Lodge of IBM Canada.

The Fraser Institute also boasts impressive conservative credentials. The institute's authors include Milton Friedman [Ronald Reagan's economic adviser] and Herbert Grubel, while its editorial board includes Sir Alan Walters, former personal economic adviser to Margaret Thatcher. Finally, William F. Buckley Jr, brother-in-law of BC Socred bagman Austin Taylor, is a favourite guest speaker of the institute. In short, the Fraser Institute is a conservative think-tank heavily funded by the corporate sector. (4)
Canada's neoconservative movement had it's first "think-tank", though certainly not it's last. And it wouldn't be long before they would start moving into government circles:
By 1975, B.C.'s right-wing had once more coalesced, this time under W.A.C. Bennett's forty-four-year-old son, Bill Bennett. Barrett's NDP was defeated by the Socreds. (5)
They stayed in power for several years with the help of the corporate funded Fraser Institute:
As Socred fortunes began to wane, Bennett's political advisers decided upon a marketing strategy that would present Bill Bennett as the 'tough guy' who would straighten out BC's economic problems. The result was his announcement in 1982 of a curb on public sector wages and a freeze on government spending. The economy, however, continued to crumble.

An election was set for 5 May 1983, during which Bennett promised that, if elected, he would continue the policies of moderate restraint practised in 1982. On election night, Bennett's Social Credit party took thirty-five seats (49.8 per cent of the vote) to the NDP'S twenty-two seats (44.9 per cent of the vote).

Before the opening of the new legislature, the Socred cabinet was advised by the Fraser Institute's Michael Walker of the policies it should take to turn the economy around. Guided by Walker's advice, the Socreds set about making British Columbia the 'testing ground for neoconservative ideology.'

On 7 July 1983, Bennett's government introduced both a budget and an astonishing twenty-six bills. Among other things, the bills removed government employees' rights to negotiate job security, promotion, job reclassification, transfer, hours of work and other working conditions; enabled public sector employers to fire employees without cause; extended public sector wage controls; repealed the Human Rights Code; abolished the Human Rights Branch and Commission, the Rentalsman's Office, and rent controls; enabled doctors to opt out of medicare; removed the right of school boards to levy certain taxes; and dissolved the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission."' (5)
They were on a roll, and would continue their mission, guiding both Ralph Klein and Mike Harris, through their steamrolling of social services, and promotion of the corporate sector. Stephen Harper would also seek out the Fraser when he was helping to create the Reform Party, and they continue to guide his policy.


Redefining Populism: Think Tanks, Foundations and Institutes, Oh My!

Fraser Institute Paper Reveals That Stephen Harper is Not a Conservative

The Fraser Institutes's Role

The Fraser Institute: From Chickens to Iron Ladies

The Fraser Institute, Roger Douglas and Revisionist History

National Citizens Coalition and Other Right-Wing Groups Help Mike Harris

Stockwell Day: Flat Head, Flat Tax, Flat Out Wrong

How to Create a Business-Financed Propaganda Infrastructure


1. The Powell Memo: (also known as the Powell Manifesto), Reclaim Democracy, April 3, 2004

2. Harperstein, By Donald Gutstein,, July 6, 2006

3. The Myth of the Good Corporate Citizen: Canada and Democracy in the Age of Globalization, By Murray Dobbin, James Lorimer & Company, 2003, ISBN: 1-55028-785-0, Pg

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, Pg. 48-49

5. Harrison, 1995, Pg. 51-53

When the Foxes Take Over the Hen House

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

Ronald Reagan was a "B" movie actor. By the early 1950's his career was in the toilet and he was reduced to print ads in magazines, and parts in forgettable pictures.

But he had a look and a voice that was homey enough to convince people of anything. And that brought him to the attention of a man named Lemuel Boulware, General Electric's vice president of employee, public, and community relations, who hired Reagan to be his company's spokesperson.

Corporate America was tired of having to give in to worker's demands and wanted to shift public sympathies away from the labour force, to what journalist Murray Dobbin calls "the good corporate citizens".

But first GE had to be seen as the company reaching out to workers.

Over the past few years, few contract negotiations in U.S. industry have been as bitter and bumpy as those between General Electric Co. and the C.I.O.'s International Union of Electrical Workers. With out fail, the I.U.E.'s trigger-tempered Boss James B. Carey peppered the company with shouts of "chiseling," called its offers a "sham" and "an obvious trap." Once, in a crescendo of rage, he bellowed that G.E. was an "aid and ally" of the Communists. Usually G.E.'s negotiator, Vice President Lemuel P. Boulware, gave every bit as good as he got.

This year the script was totally rewritten. After a month of calm discussion, G.E. and the union signed a new five-year contract that made everyone happy. Cooed G.E.'s Boulware: "A splendid settlement." Echoed I.U.E.'s Carey: "A splendid settlement." (1)
General Electric were the good guys. And until his retirement in 1957, Boulware never stopped reminding his workers of how good the company was, and they had Ronald Reagan selling the same notion to the public. This strategy became known as "Boulwarism".
As personnel and press boss at General Electric, Vice President Lemuel R. Boulware, 62, was one of the most controversial labor-relations managers in the history of a new art. A tough, trap-jawed Kentuckian, Boulware was a hard bargainer during contract negotiations and never failed to point out what a company like G.E. did for its employees. Many businessmen considered "Boulwarism" a smart strategy for combating Big Labor, imitated it widely, even though unions bitterly hated it. (2)
The unions began losing the battle for public opinion. And by 1960, when GE had to renegotiate with it's workers it was a whole new ball game. They could afford to be tough because any bad press could be directed at the union bosses.
The milling picket lines, the fire hoses, the club-wielding police were all reminiscent of the bloody strikes of the 1930s. When the International Union of Electrical Workers struck General Electric last week, the company vowed it would keep its plants open for all employees who wanted to work. Both sides knew the vow could lead to violence. It was not long in coming.

The last time G.E. faced a strike of comparable proportions—in 1946—it closed down its plants, but since then it has hardened its policies. Under Vice President Lemuel R. Boulware, who now serves only as a consultant, G.E. developed a broad policy known through the industry as "Boulwarism," in which the company makes an unceasing effort to sell itself to the workers. In bargaining, the company first listens to the unions' demands, then puts all that it is willing to grant in its first contract offer; after that it will make only minor concessions, thus making gains from a strike problematical. (3)
But it wouldn't be enough to simply bust the unions where possible, so they also targeted government, launching a lecture circuit for Ronald Reagan, "as a crusader against big government." (4) The man who had been a liberal all of his life, was now the "spokesman" for neoconservative policies.

So who better to put forward as president when corporate America decided that life would be better if they simply ran the country? Ronald Reagan. The ultimate company spokesman.

And he did not disappoint. In 1981, Congress enacted the largest tax cuts in U.S. history.
GE was one of the biggest winners in the tax cut bill, getting a S283-million tax rebate for the period 1981-83 despite making profits of $6.5 billion. The tax windfall allowed GE to go on a buying spree of other companies, including RCA and NBC. This was a pattern for all the corporate giants as capital investment increased dramatically, with almost all of it going to other countries. In effect, the billions in tax dollars sacrificed by the American people were used to further deindustrialize their own heartland and boost the growth of super-corporations.
And taxpayers would also fund the propaganda that would allow the wholesale dismantling of the industrial infrastructure, because corporations used their enormous tax cuts to buy up media outlets, further shifting public opinion to their cause.

And besides enormous tax cuts to the wealthy, Reagan also allowed CEOs to run the treasury, beginning with Donald Regan, director of Merrill Lynch, who became secretary of the treasury and White House chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan.

In the following video clip, we see Regan bark at the president, telling him to speed it up. Which begged the question. Who was really running the country?

And Merrill Lynch has done very well indeed. When they were "bailed out" by the American people, 75% of the taxpayers' money given to the firm, was used to pay bonuses to their CEOs.

General Electric also represents the new corporate government:
GE has the resources to develop and promote new political ideas and to organize public opinion around its political agenda. "It has the capacity to advise and intervene and sometimes to veto. It has the power to punish political opponents." And its political opponents are usually Democrats, because like most large U.S. corporations GE has consistently supported the party of business ...

GE nurtures its good corporate citizen image with an $18.8-million fund for its foundations (less than half of 1 percent of its net earnings). But even here much of the money is directly self-serving, going to business think-tanks, business associations, and coalitions fighting government regulation. So the Institute for International Economics lobbies for the corporate line on trade, and the Americans for Generational Equity campaigns for cuts to entitlement programs like social security. GE was a key funder of the Committee on the Present Danger, which propagandized for the massive military buildup of the 1980s, and of the Center for Economic Progress and Employment, which, despite its name, is a front group of industry giants determined to gut product-liability laws.
While corporate Canada always had a voice in political matters, it was Brian Mulroney who first moved lobbyists right into government. And now Stephen Harper has also cut out the middle man.

His first defence minister, Gordon O'Connor, went right from lobbying for military contracts with Hill and Knowlton to helping to decide which of his former clients got to cash in.

Bernard Prigent, the VP of Pfizer, was appointed to the governing council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the federal agency that distributes about a billion dollars annually for health research.

Guy Giorno, Harper's former chief of staff, was one of the most influential lobbyists for the oil and gas industry, and his new chief of staff, Nigel Wright, was with the firm given the sole source contract for our new fighter jets.

And if you don't think that corporate Canada is in charge of the country, why are they getting further tax cuts, while Canadian citizens are being told they will have to tighten their belts?

Fascists no longer wear uniforms. They now wear three piece suits and Testoni shoes.
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini

A Deceptive Democracy: A Confidence Game

Redefining Populism as Fraser Institute Drafts Policy

A Just Society: Oil, Americans and Mythology

The Success of Neoconservatism is Based on Emotionally Fuelled Ambiguity


1. LABOR: The Splendid Settlement, Time Magazine, August 22, 1955

2. PERSONNEL: Boulware Bows Out, Time Magazine, September 23, 1957

3. LABOR: Violence on the Picket Line, Time Magazine, October 17, 1960

4. The Myth of the Good Corporate Citizen: Canada and Democracy in the Age of Globalization, By Murray Dobbin, James Lorimer & Company, 2003, ISBN: 1-55028-785-0, Pg. 43-45