Sunday, January 30, 2011

Harper, legacy or no? . . . .

Lately a lot of people have been talking about the legacy, or lack thereof, that Harper has bestowed upon this country after five years in power. One article in the Ottawa Citizen suggested that Harper has left a significant, though slightly imperceptible, legacy of pushing this country to the right. I believe that this is demonstrably fallacious if we consider basic right-wing policies. The Harper government has not demonstrated any particularly conservative fiscal strategy. Even before the recession arrived this government had spent like crazy, eating up the surplus and then taking us to the largest deficit that we have ever seen. Though they have cut some taxes, they have raised taxes in other areas and overall the average working person have certainly not seen any significant savings. Some might claim that the Harper Government has demonstrated conservative policy by cutting corporate taxes, something that they continue to harp on. But let's face it, this was a pattern began by the previous Liberal government. Furthermore, there is no conceivable way that one can claim that this present government has been more "fiscally conservative" than the Chretien\Martin government. Meanwhile, though there has been a lot of talk by the Harper government about a tough on crime agenda and supporting the military, not much has yet come to fruition in this regard and we will have to wait and see if they really produce 'conservative' results in this regard. And over all the Haper Conservatives have left the 'social' agenda more or less alone.

And since the Conservative actually received fewer votes in their second minority than in their first, and since their support is presently lower than when they called the last election, I don't see how one argues that they have pushed the country to the right.

What the Harper government has in fact done has not been to push the country more to the right, rather they have pushed the country away from democracy. They have undermined the ability for average citizens to challenge the arbitrary power of government, they have undermined adult literacy reenforcing the anti-democratic principle that a less educated populace is easier to control. They centralized power in the office of the PM and, by never bringing the Prime Minister in contact with the people or the media, they have distanced the most powerful office from the people at large. Without question, they have made the government more secretive and less accountable. And worst of all they have poisoned the political atmosphere of the nation and made an attack mode of government more acceptable and now more inevitable. They have raised personal attacks to the new normal and as all people who live by the sword they will eventually die by the sword.

But none of these things are 'right-wing' per se. These kinds of anti-democratic moves have been made by political parties of all stripes. These kind of things are about power not about policy. Though if Harper manages to stay in government for another few years they might take advantages of these anti-democratic moves to enshrine some major right-wing policies such as the death-penalty, restricting abortion, privatizing the health-care system (more than the Liberals have already done), eliminating universal education etc. But it is not clear that he will ever be able to do these things. At a fiscal level, the Liberals under Chretien and Martin pushed this country far to the right of what it was in the 1970s and even to the right of Mulroney. The Liberals moved with the times on social issues, but then so have the CP.

We have to counter this media fed perception that Harper has moved this country to the right. He dosen't deserve this credit. The Liberals did that for him. On the other hand, Harper has done something much worse than pushing the country to the right, he has pushed the country away from democracy and away from a reasonable and rational political discourse. And when the next Liberal government is sworn in (which is, regardless of one's political stripes, inevitable) the Conservatives will be the first to condemn all the anti-democratic mechanisms that they created in the first place. In other words, the Harper government has made us all losers, regardless of where you stand on any given policy. Unfortunately just as most Liberals don't recognize or are unwilling to admit that the present Liberal party is to the right of where the Tories once were, most conservatives are too blind to see or too partisan to admit that this government is destroying our basic democratic institutions and that conservatives will be as much victims of these moves as anyone else.

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