Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Mélange Adultère: Part Five

File It Under "Disingenuous":

While we wait for Fidel Castro to preside over the opening ceremonies of San Francisco's Gay Pride Parade, let us enjoy the ironic splendour of Stephen Harper's recent laudations in honour of press freedom. No, really--this actually happened.

Harper's eerily dissociative comments at the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada were recorded thusly:

In prepared remarks to be delivered to the event in Markham, [Harper] said freedom for Canadians goes hand-in-hand with journalistic freedom.

He said the liberty of Canadians is strengthened when journalists are free to pursue the truth, "shine light into dark corners" and help hold governments accountable.

Naturally, Harper would not take questions--from journalists--during or after the event (Canada's not that free). This was fortunate, as Harper's fatuous ad populum, boiler-plate drivel was allowed to stand undisturbed by awkward queries concerning, among other things, precisely what aspect of press freedom a prime minister is defending when he uses the power of his office to launch a vicious and unprecedented smear campaign against a journalist (using charges later totally discredited by his own expert) in the course of waging a desperate paranoia-fuelled partisan war to suppress the adverse effects of well-founded bribery

Less fortunately, Harper denied himself the opportunity to thank the media for never having been too interested in the question of just what he meant by "financial considerations". Oh, well--perhaps next year.

Stephen Harper: Still Widely Loathed After All These Years

Now we hear that the CPC is sitting at 36.6% support nationwide. Adjust this percentage for the size of the sample and the typical number of eligible electors who routinely bother to vote, and you'll end up with a core base of Harperoid support roughly equal to the number of Canadians who think Elvis is still alive.

It must be depressing to have methodically violated each one of your principles, shredded every last vestige of your dignity, executed every conceivable act of political defalcation, pandered--on bended, rug-burned knees--to every key ethnic, regional, and ideological special interest, and still be forced to rise dejectedly from your sweat-drenched carpet with 36.6 measly per fucking cent. It must be enraging. It might even be enough to make Harper suspect that Canadians hate him as much as he hates them (as if that's even possible). Really--what will Harper have to do to push himself into majority territory? He's already degenerated into a cheap song-and-dance man--literally.

I fear that his advisors may soon press him to adopt extreme measures. I'm not at all prepared to discount the possibility that we shall see Harper strip down to his boxers, slather his Falstaffian gut in canola oil and perform a pole dance to "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" on The O'Reilly Factor if he doesn't see his numbers go up, way up, by Christmas.

So for God's sake--if you ever get a phone call from a polling company, please express total, undiluted support for the CPC. We need to give the party a false sense of security (the higher their numbers, the quicker they'll dissolve the House), and, more importantly, we need to keep Harper's clothes on. Think of the children, people.

Unhappy Anniversary!

In a few months, we shall have had four years of minority CPC ministries. I wonder if those legions of committed Harperoids who expatiate endlessly on the chess-masterly brilliance of their leader and the unprecedented productivity of his reign are really prepared to set his "accomplishments" against those of other minority governments. I think they're not, actually--so I shall do it for them.

Let us list what Mike Pearson managed to accomplish during four years of his five-year premiership:

* the establishment of universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan, and the federal student loan program;

* the adoption of the Maple Leaf as our official flag;

* the institution of the 40-hour work week and a minimum wage;

* the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces;

* the negotiation and ratification of the Auto Pact;

* the total overhaul of our immigration system, including the elimination of racial criteria and the adoption of the points system we use today;

* the supervision of Canada's massive Centennial celebrations;

* the re-establishment of cordial relations with America whilst taking a public stand against the Vietnam War.

That's what four years looked like to Canadians during the Pearson era. Look at that list: there's hardly an item that does not describe a colossal event--each one brought about by a minority government that faced in John Diefenbaker's Tories arguably the bitterest, most implacably obstructionist Opposition a Canadian government has ever encountered. Amazing. And Pearson pulled it off without once feeling the need to perform amateur cabarets whilst shrine-hopping on Club-Med-like Indian "trade missions".

Now, here is Harper's four-year legacy:

* a fixed-date election "law" he's already broken;

* a so-called Accountability Act whose main provisions remain unfulfilled;

* free trade with Columbia.

That's the lot. That's what Stephen Harper has to show for four years of facing the most pathetically invertebrate Opposition and the most thoroughly demoralised Liberal Party in our post-BNA history. That's the evidence, we are told, of the man's consummate political acumen.

There's no need to await the official conclusion of Stephen Harper's tenure. The trophy for the most negligible prime ministership since Sir John Abbott's has been awarded. There was no serious competition.


Aeneas the Younger said...

Well done, again.

Your point about Pearson is valid, although the Diefenbaker Tories certainly picked & fought their battles. I would give both the Conservatives and Liberals of the 1964-68 period much of their chops for their ability to govern the nation and still retain some semblance of common vision.

Minority government works when there are reasonable men & women sitting in parliament.

By-the-way, Unification of the Armed Forces may have been a massive legislative feat, but it was a colossal mistake and failure.

SeanStok said...

Now, now...

There are a few more accomplishments of note:

-Recognized Quebec as a nation, then proceded to characterize their elected representatives as separatist traitors. Surely the most awe-inspiring display of simultaneous sucking and blowing we've ever witnessed.

-Was shrewd enough to delay that killer final exam by pulling the fire alarm of parliamentary democracy, otherwise known as prorogue. Frat boys across the country applauded his ingenuity.

-Forced Ontario to stop selfishly hoarding such treasures as Baird, Clement and Flaherty.

-Ended discrimination in Senate membership. From now on, such things as avowed disinterest in politics and illiteracy will no longer be a barrier to participating in the reading and debate of political documents and issues.

Thanks for another great one, SF!

CanuckRover said...

New posts from SF make me giddy.

I'm surprised you left out this "almost accomplishment":

Coming incredibly close to doing the impossible and uniting the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc through a stunning display of arrogance and stupidity.

Sir Francis said...


Well, they were sometimes able to work together when it counted, I suppose. The fact is that Pearson and Diefenbaker hated each other with a passion that rivalled that with which Meighen and King had despised each other. That didn't help.

Remember also that the 1962-3 period was a bruising and embittering one for both leaders, and the issues--especially vis à vis America and the nuclear blackmail it was inflicting on us--had badly polarised the whole country.

What is amazing from today's vantage point is that Diefenbaker--with his undisguised anti-Americanism--carried the West and the Prairies virtually in his pocket, while it was Central Canada's urban enclaves that went with Pearson's acquiescent continentalism--a total reversal of the current national sensibility. There's no way Ernest Manning would ever have pulled a Ralph Klein and written an open letter to the White House apologising for the prime minister's refusal to accept American nukes, and he would have been strung up on a lamp-post by Albertans had he done so in a fit of temporary insanity.

As for unification, yes, it was disastrous—a classic technocratic abortion of the equally disastrous kind McNamara imposed on the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. I included it for its purely quantitative value: it was as huge an initiative as it was misguided

Sir Francis said...


Thanks for the addendum! Yes, I did miss a few of the CPC's Napoleonic thrusts into the vast steppes of epoch-making statesmanship. To wit:

Surely the most awe-inspiring display of simultaneous sucking and blowing we've ever witnessed.

...rivalled, perhaps, only by the CPC's branding of Layton as "Taliban Jack" for suggesting that we negotiate with select elements of the Taliban whilst propping up an Afghan government that negotiates with select elements of the Taliban as a matter of routine.

Was shrewd enough to delay that killer final exam...

Yes, I suppose forcing the Governor General to establish a constitutional precedent that now allows a prime minister to shut Parliament down whenever his power is threatened by the expressed will of the House should count as an achievement. It has certainly brought the PMO closer to the possession of fully Czarist prerogatives, a desideratum since at least the early Trudeau era.

Ended discrimination in Senate membership...

...or enhanced it, by deepening an already well-entrenched bias in favour of wretched incompetence.

Sir Francis said...


Coming incredibly close to doing the impossible and uniting the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc through a stunning display of arrogance and stupidity.

Since arrogance and stupidity come effortlessly to Harper, I don't think the coalition fiasco can be considered one of his "achievements". One might as well give him an Order of Canada for having a pulse.

Aeneas the Younger said...

Diefenbaker & Pearson generally came into some agreement on Social Welfare policy - outside of that, not so much.

The West was always generally continentalist, save for some sections of Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Diefenbaker was big in the West because he opposed the Eastern elite (Liberals generally)in a populist manner, and not because of his residual Toryism. In that sense, he was a "Reformer" before the notion of a Reform Party. A Reformer with some tory leanings to be sure, but not quite a full-on Tory.

And that is the crux of our problem; toryism in the West became imbued with an anti-establishment (redneck) tone because Diefenbaker was anti-Bay Street. Conflation & confusion. EC Manning's work is indicative of this problem.

Part of Grant's "Lament" was that Diefenbaker was the wrong instrument to speak in defence of the dying embers of English-Canadian Nationalism. But as Grant would point-out, this was all we had by the early 1960's. So, it was what we got.

Diefenbaker became a folk-hero to tories in Canada because he at least, tried. His attempt to maintain some sense of traditional nationhood was extremely flawed, but at lest he (confusingly) cared enough to fight it out between 1957 and 1963.

Sir Francis said...

I think the West was traditionally less continentalist than many would assume. Certainly, the Progressives were fiscally continentalist (on the tariff issue) but not culturally so. The CCF was manifestly nationalist and pro-Commonwealth. Even Social Credit was founded according to the political ideals of the Englishman Douglas. Diefenbaker's Prairie czar, Alvin Hamilton, delighted in offending Americans--as he did with his Chinese wheat deal.

And I'm not sure Diefenbaker's populism was necessarily unprecedented or at odds with his Toryism. Yes, cries of "Prairie Bolshevist" did come from some quarters, but Arthur Meighen (another Westerner) had also played the populist card more than a generation earlier by nationalising the railroad and taking it way from the Montreal magnates, earning him the enmity of the élite.

The fact is that, by the time of Diefenbaker's prime ministership, Canadian big business had gained an almost totally north-south orientation and had become inextricably linked to the American economy during the King/St. Laurent era. In that context, Diefenbaker's anti-Bay Street populism was a nationalist (and thus Tory) populism perforce.

And because "progress" had become seamlessly identified with American values by the early '60s (thanks mostly to Kennedy's "Camelot" mythos, but also Johnson's "Great Society" rhetoric), Dief was widely seen as not progressive (as he thought he was) but as a reactionary Queen-and-Country throwback.

Of course, the Americanising forces that destroyed Diefenbaker were present not just in the nation at large but also in his own party--not only in the new southwards orientation of the traditionally Tory captains of industry (including, perhaps most crucially, in the Albertan oil boom) but also in the party's willingness to borrow American methods and ideas: it was FDR's New Deal that inspired Bennett's 1935 campaign, and Alister Grosart (Dief's main advisor and rain-maker) employed Madison Avenue techniques to sell his candidate in '57. Those were ominous signs of things to come.

Aeneas the Younger said...

The National Policy was not something the West supported. "Crow Rate" anyone?

The point is, American Industry was not held in as much suspicion across the West as it was in certain quarters in the Old Colonies, but as you pointed-out, even Ontario was failry co-opted by 1970.

Also, don't dismiss the rise of mass communications in the 1960's and 1970's. American dominance of news services, periodical media, and television (and in border regions - radio) had quite an eroding effect on Canadian nationalist sentiment amongst the mass.

Tomm said...

Sir Francis,

Are you seriously this superificial? Do you believe even one word of the drivel you have caused me to read?

If so, I have mis-judged you. I thought you were more than just a 2-D cartoon of a University Professor.

Let us start with your first assertion that somehow equates a free press with the fifth estate in Canada playing "gotcha" with the Conservative Party because they disagree with their politics. It is clear that Harper isn't talking about the partisan hacks working for the Hill Times but instead talking about journalists in so many countries that are heavily censored, or live their lives in fear of assassination. Yet somehow you missed this. Right over your head.

You then wander into the Conservative's popularity in the mid-30's and equate that with those who think Elvis is still alive as if that is some "aha!" moment. It wasn't. It just made the 5% of the Green Party, the 15% of the NDP, or the 25% of the Liberal Party seem even more forlorn and somehow dirty.

Then, you attack his integrity. You then follow this by genuflecting in the direction of Lester Pearson and ridiculing the accomplishments of Stephen Harper. Sorry, but Harper has done some tremendous things. Apparently you have either disagreed with them or dismissed them as nothing special. That's too bad. It is certainly less than objective.

Don't be quite so proud of yourself. Stephen Harper has caused some important corner's to be turned in this country. You wouldn't be quite so upset if you didn't think so too. You just don't like where he is taking Canada.

Sir Francis said...

Feel better now? Good.

But if you expect me to take seriously one syllable of the bile you've just spat, I've misjudged you, Tomm. Hardly anything you've said even hints at an argument in embryo. Come back when you've calmed down.

When and if you do, you might actually attempt to show me how, precisely, Harper's legislative achievement exceeds or matches Pearson's--and by pointing out those policy items that benefit Canada, not just Tomm.

By the way, I compared Harper to Pearson specifically to be as fair as possible--by comparing two continentalist, America-loving, Quebec-pandering liberals, whose political philosophies are similar. Had I compared Harper to a real Tory (not that we've had many protracted Tory minorities), your idol would have come out much worse. So count your blessings (if counting isn't considered a form of élitist intellectualism in your household).

Tomm said...

Sir Francis,

You are comfortable arguing historical comparisons. Something I am more than a little spotty on. Why should I engage you in that? I have lost before I have begun.

But being naive and thinking the best of us all, just like a good Harper supporter, I will stick my head in the lion's mouth. I believe the Prime Minister would attempt to dissuade me from this...

Harper has begun to dismantle the Canadian government levers developed by the LPC. He has stripped away a considerable amount of stubborn inertia that the Ottawa mandarins engage when they don't like the direction of the elected politician's. This is a major change and one that we have needed to take for a long long time. 5,000 civil servants in a pile can indeed be wrong.

Harper has refused to allow the media to dictate to him what a correct path for Canada looks like. He has not engaged the journalists on their terms but his own, regardless of the political consequences. He has taken many knives by columnists, journalists, and the publicly funded media and continues to take them. But has not backed down. And he hasn't lost his sense of humour. To my mind it is crucial that Jim Travers and Greg Weston are not the ones leading our politician's around by the nose.

He stood up to the outrage that was to cave in on Kyoto. It was probably one of the most difficult things ever tried by a Canadian Prime Minister. He did it in a Minority Parliament without an ally, and won. He saved us billions of dollars that would have gone to Russia or the Czech Republic. He then further refused to cave into the continuing pressures from global corporate ENGOs, who the media is treating like prophets. Instead we are helping the world turn the corner and ensure that all nations be engaged, not just the elite western ones.

Harper is re-jigging what it means to be Canadian. By the open and direct support for our military to the new rules around Immigration and our identity in its broadest terms. With respect to one specific and topical case; considering how the Islamification of western Europe has affected politics there, it is pretty important that we recognize what is causing the Islamic enclaves to behave the way they have and avoid that here. With respect to First Nations, rather than treat aboriginal people with benign paternalistic neglect, he is trying to engage them to both settle land claims and become part of the greater Canada.

With respect to "Canada", he has stopped playing one region off another and been quietly divesting Federal involvement in areas of provincial jurisdiction. He is thankfully standing up to the massive social justice experiment so dear to every little interest group that had its fingers in the Liberal Party.

Well, there is a ton more he has accomplished, but I am tired.

I already know what you will do. You disagree that each and every point I am making is actually of value; and argue that he is destroying the fabric of your beloved Ontariocentric nation.

Fill your boots.

Tomm said...

Sir Francis,

A couple more points of interest. Firstly, why would you be looking to compare Harper's government with that of Pearson's. They are separated by 50 years and facing extremely different challenges. I would suggest we compare what was accomplished under a more recent government as a better test of actions.

Secondly, I don't know if you have noticed but Canada has been awarded the first of the 14 "Fossil of the Day" awards at COP15 by the ENGO voting block. It is exciting to watch the level of hypocrisy the western media wallows in when countries like Brazil and China are playing a much uglier game with respect to climate change, their wallets, and their economies. I am hoping Canada wins all 14, but we'll have to work at it day by day and just see what transpires.