Posts from our progressive community

Keep Quiet - Chess Master At Work

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 08:12
Yessiree, Stephen Harper's choice to impose a longer election period rather than waiting to see whether his party would have a shred of credibility left after the PMO went under the microscope looks more brilliant by the day.

New column day

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 07:53
Here, on Donna Harpauer and the Saskatchewan Party are dismissing their own advisory group's recommendation to work to cut Saskatchewan poverty in half by the end of the decade.

For further reading...
- The StarPhoenix echoes Donna Harpauer's defeatism.
- Danielle Martin and Ryan Meili make the case for a basic income, which appears as one of the advisory group's recommendations. 
- And for a review of the multiplier effects of different fiscal choices, see Mark Zandi's analysis here (PDF) - showing infrastructure spending and income supports accomplishing far more than tax cuts or corporate giveaways.

Thursday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 07:36
This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Michal Rozworski reminds us that austerity in Canada is nothing new under Con or Lib governments, while pointing out what the public needs to do to repel it:
The campaigning Stephen Harper boasts that his tough austerity policies saved the Canadian economy. Lost in the rhetoric are two important facts. As most economists will tell you today, austerity measures are lousy ways to expand jobs and investment. And Harper's Conservatives were just carrying on the work of their austerity embracing Liberal predecessors.

The first round of Liberal cutbacks were quick and deep. A greater share of government expenditures redirected towards debt repayment created additional false scarcity of funds for direct spending. Spending on federal government programs and transfers to provinces, cities, and individuals fell by over five per cent of GDP from 1993 to the turn of the millennium. Spending growth did not just slow: absolute expenditures decreased.

Reduced fiscal transfers to provinces put the squeeze on local governments. Since the 1990s, Canada has seen provincial governments -- not just governed by Liberals and Conservatives, but also by New Democrats -- impose austerity further down the line. Since provinces are responsible for many basics like health, education, and welfare benefits, shrinking transfers have further eroded the working class's social wage. Privatizations, workfare schemes, tuition increases -- all were applied (unevenly) across the country.

Overall, the sharp turn to austerity created a more punitive welfare state. While Canada's economic growth in the mid to late '90s fed off that in the U.S., the character of its reforms was also in line with the Clintonite agenda. There was a similar push to create conditions for business expansion even less encumbered by working class demands. A major strategy was an attack on the social wage -- public spending on goods, services and income supports for people in Canada.
There is now more than one generation that has grown up with austerity and little else. Despite, or perhaps because of this, the youngest generation today is more inclined towards left politics than any other. Yet the space for even modest social-democratic politics has rarely been narrower. This opening and closure exist side-by-side in contradiction. To make the contradiction a productive one, we need an honest appraisal of political forces and how power operates: a political economy of the present.

Upon this foundation, we can create a political space that rekindles the imagination -- one that has less risk of falling into a mythologized, and wholly false, vision of the 1990s. Going back further, we also need to come up with more than simple nostalgia for the postwar prosperity, whose contradictions created the lumbering monster that still chews at our horizons.

Stopping and reversing austerity in Canada, as anywhere, requires an honest assessment of the forces allied in its favour. A consensus that has emerged over decades will not be broken easily. While putting a single man's face to it may be useful to start the conversation, we will need to go further, examining the systemic challenges that prevent a parting with austerity -- whether the slow-simmering kind Canadians are now experiencing, or sharper variants.- And Bruce Wark follows up by challenging the media's failure to recognize what's already been lost to past cuts.

- Kevin Campbell argues that the success of progressive parties and voters will depend on our ability to highlight their ability to do more for citizens' economic security. And Kevin Lynch points out that plenty of economists are on board to work on economic growth through fiscal rather than monetary policy.

- Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on a new study from the Atkinson Foundation and Mowat Centre discussing the need for community institutions such as universities, hospitals and municipalities to foster local development rather than needlessly sending money elsewhere.

- Finally, Dan Leger notes that the Cons and their supporters are thoroughly in denial over the facts about the Duffy scandal - though it's hard to see where else they could go without abandoning the party under Stephen Harper. And Chantal Hebert sees the combined scandal and cover-up as reflecting the Harper Cons' core character.

On Mad King Stephen's Monomania

Politics and its Discontents - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 05:54

This is not the post I was planning for today, but these letters about Stephen Harper's economic ineptitude seemed too good not to share:
Re: Another Orange Wave for Alberta? Aug. 20

Of course, the prospect of an Orange Wave in Alberta is tantalizing to many and I applaud Tim Harper’s article. However when he quotes Brent Rathgeber as saying that falling oil prices are not Stephen Harper’s fault, it would have been just as astute to point out that perhaps our PM can’t be blamed for the fall of oil prices but he certainly can and should be blamed for doing what no “investor” or “economic planner” worth his salt would or should do, which is to put all his eggs in one basket.

A prime minister with a sound economic plan that looked to a solid future would have long ago diversified Canada’s strengths by encouraging, supporting and subsidizing (much the way the oil patch has been subsidized over the years) our manufacturing sector, which took such a tremendous hit when our loonie became a high petrodollar and has yet to recover.

How does Harper have the gall to ask about anyone’s “economic action plan” when even the most cursory glance at our present near-recession predicament would make it abundantly clear that he, himself, didn’t have one that worked worth a bean.

J. Bartram-Thomas, Richmond Hill

It is factually based and verified that this government has exacerbated, greatly, the economic situation Canada finds itself in, world-wide or not. From its “all our eggs in one basket” reliance on commodities, to massive cutbacks to social programs, science, and R&D, to surplus elimination/deficit creation by handing out tax breaks for the rich and companies that hold but don’t spend cash, and so on and so on, this government has empirically proven itself to be both myopic and inept at handling our asset base. Any of the opposition parties would have done a better job at preparing us for the worst.

If one was on that unfortunate plane a few months back, as a supposedly skilled pilot was directly aiming at the side of a mountain, would one turn to one’s seat companion and declare that this is no time to change our aviation “expert”?

David Klarer, OakvilleRecommend this Post

Owe-lympics Myths: Reuse Pan Am Venues*

Dammit Janet - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 05:34
One of the biggest porky pies hyped by Toronto's millionaire hucksters is that we're good to go for the Olympics because of all the dandy new Pan Am venues.

Or, Myth 5 at NoTO2024.
Myth 5: We can re-use most of the Pan Am venues
Some sites can be re-used, but even under the relaxed Agenda 2020 guidelines there will be major holes. The ACC and Rexall Centre should be ok, but the velodrome and aquatic centre are too small and too inconveniently located. The Rogers Centre is exactly the wrong size for everything.  The athlete's village will have been converted to housing and we need to find somewhere to stick a $1B+ 80,000 seat track and field stadium. The Olympics are much larger than the Pan Am Games and that level of infrastructure just wasn't built.
Mayor John Tory seems to have been sold this bill of goods.
The mayor added that he’s asked for a report from city staff on the usability of Pan Am venues for a potential Olympic Games.

“It would disappoint me if all that investment we made in very excellent facilities was not to be, under these new rules, something to be taken into account, if one wanted to bid.”Prepare to be disappointed, Mr Mayor.

Chris Selley of the National Post pointed out that "the Pan Am organizers have always been frank: their facilities are not designed for the Olympics." He also says of the 80K+ seat stadium: "Toronto has no earthly need of such a facility."

John Barber weighs in:
Meanwhile in Ontario, taxpayers just spent $450 million on the four most expensive venues for the Pan Am Games, none of which will be good enough for the Olympics, all of which will have to be replaced by larger facilities if Toronto hopes to host in 2024. There is a long list of new stadiums and every variety of gold-plated facility to be built.Not only are these venues too small -- and will be too old by 2024 -- some are too too far apart.
. . . many of the venues built for Pan Am are so far from Toronto that they may not meet Olympic committee standards. Some events were in Minden Hills (more than two hours from the city), Welland (90 minutes) and Hamilton (one hour).
New ginormous 80-100K seat stadium, new athletes' village, new/upgraded/relocated velodrome, ditto aquatics centre. . . the list goes on.

In short, existing Pan Am venues are just not viable for Olympics. They will need to be upgraded, expanded or replaced.

All costing mega-bucks.

In other words, a successful Olympic bid would create white elephants like the totally ridiculous baseball stadium in Greece (pictured above).

*Second in an irregular and ongoing series.

Previous posts:

Owe-lympics Myth 5: Health and Fitness Legacy.

Toronto Star and Olympics: Something Stinks

Toronto Councillors' Twitter Accounts

10 People on Twitter

Why Stephen Harper's Latest Fear Campaign Won't Work

Montreal Simon - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 02:51

It says something really horrible about Stephen Harper, that whenever he feels threatened he tries to scare Canadians.

First he tried to scare them by claiming that the criminals were EVERYWHERE and that only he could save us by sending even more Canadians to jail. Even though the crime rate is at its lowest level in decades. 

Then he claimed that the terrorists were EVERYWHERE, and that only he could save us from being beheaded in our beds.

Now he's showing his teeth again, and trying to scare Canadians with the Great Economic Menace. 
Read more »

Why Would Any . . .?

Northern Reflections - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 01:08

In his latest column, Tim Harper recounts his frustrated and frustrating attempts to talk to Conservative candidates across the country:

I never met Mike Little, the Conservative candidate in the key riding of Burnaby North-Seymour. I met every other candidate but Little had personal considerations so he couldn’t meet me. His campaign ignored my entreaties anyway until I was about to leave Vancouver, when I got a noncommittal statement on an environmental issue.

In Edmonton-Mill Woods, the campaign of Tim Uppal told me the minister of state for multiculturalism couldn’t meet me because he was too busy meeting voters. That wouldn’t be so odd, except I had first requested time with him dating back to June, before the election was even called.

After I called candidate Naval Bajaj on his cellphone, he agreed readily to an interview, but when I arrived at the strip mall that housed his campaign office a week later, it had been mysteriously cancelled. Like Uppal, a campaign aide told me he was too busy meeting voters. So, I offered to come back later that evening. Meeting voters, I was told. The next day? Meeting voters. The next evening? Meeting voters. 
Other journalists have had the same response to their requests for interviews:

Globe and Mail writer-at-large John Ibbitson reported on the weekend that he could not get an interview with the Conservative candidate in Mississauga Centre, and Glen McGregor of the Ottawa Citizen was told by the office of Don Valley North Conservative candidate Joe Daniel that he would not be doing any interviews until after the election.
If there is one thing the Duffy trial has made clear, its that Harper candidates are kept on a short leash. And if -- like Mike Duffy, Brent Rathgeber or Bill Casey -- they break ranks, the PMO will spare no effort to destroy them.
Which leaves one to ask two questions: Why would any semi-intelligent person want to be a Conservative candidate? And why would any semi-intelligent person vote for a Conservative candidate?

Ezra Is Getting Good At Begging For Forgiveness

Anti-Racist Canada - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 22:35
So Connie Fournier wrote a book about how much she, her husband, and many of the denizens of Free Dominion feel betrayed by Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party. While we haven't bothered to read it, a friend did let us know we were mentioned in it, though not by name because we have cooties:

The biggest offenders in this attempted character assassination were anonymous bloggers with ties to violent anti-racist groups. Their obsession with writing about us and posting personal information about Free Dominion members spooked us to the point where we moved our household to a different location and kept our new address a secret.

The book is getting rave reviews though. But in the rather incestuous world of the fringe conservative echo chamber, the people giving the five star reviews appear to be mostly members of Free Dominion, fringe conservative bloggers, or both.

Like Jay Currie who seems to have a writing gig with Ezra Levant's "The Rebel."

In Currie's most recent (and evidently only thus far) article, it appears that he discusses  Ms. Fournier's book. And he makes some pointed, and potentially defamatory, comments about one Richard Warman.

Or at least we're guessing this is the case, since Levant pulled the article from the website:

Just so our readers can get a clear view of the reason for the article being removed:

Checking Mr. Warman's website confirmed our suspicions:

Rebel News Network/Ezra Levant – I have received an apology and retraction from Rebel News Network for defamatory material on their website. The question is if this constitutes some kind of world record for the shortest time ever for a media outlet (or youtube channel if you prefer) to go from inception to receiving a libel notice resulting in apology and retraction?

A further look at Mr. Warman's website included this little nugget too:

Richard Warman v Connie Fournier and Mark Fournier – December 2nd, 2015 is the date that has been set by the Ontario Court of Appeal for the meritless appeal by the Fourniers in my successful libel action against them. Of interest is the fact that they’re not appealing the $31,000 in damages awarded against them by the jury of their peers they demanded. The Fourniers are only appealing the permanent injunction to stop defaming me and the $62,000+ in costs against them personally.

The Fourniers, wisely, seemed not to have repeated the defamatory statements that are suggested in the extirpated Currie article, which is probably for the best considering they are already in pretty deep on the above successful libel action and a second upcoming concerning the Anne Cools smear. Interestingly Levant and other fringe conservative bloggers have apologized for that too.

Yeah. Don't @#$% with Richard Warman.

Why Is the Con Clown Joe Oliver Missing In Action?

Montreal Simon - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 22:06

The economy is teetering on the edge of disaster. The stock market is on a wild roller coaster ride. The loonie or Harper peso has fallen to its lowest level in eleven years. Thousands are losing their jobs.

But Joe Oliver, the alleged Con FInance Minister, is nowhere to be seen.

He has held no newsers, issued no reassuring statements to worried Canadians. He has been missing in action. 

And it seems the only Canadians he's willing to talk to are the rich old guys at private men's clubs.
Read more »

Owe-lympic Myths: Health and Fitness Legacy

Dammit Janet - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 13:13
There are many myths about Olympics among the millionaire hucksters' talking points. On the NoTO2024 website, the Top Ten are listed.

I'm going to take a few of these on, not necessarily in order.

Myth 8: The Olympics will make us healthier
Studies have shown that hosting the Olympics has no measurable impact on fitness and sports participation levels following the Games. There is, however, evidence that funding gets pulled from other regions in the country, causing cutbacks to sports funding that hurt participation.
The claim that Olympics would bolster a healthier, more active population figured large for the London Olympics (with, note, state-funded healthcare like Canada). But a comparison of activity levels pre- and post-Olympics concluded: "no Olympic legacy yet apparent."

I know. You're shocked that two weeks lying around on their couches watching professional-turned-amateur-probably-doped-up athletes doing odd things didn't turn the UK into a nation of svelte, kale-gnawing overachievers.

Furthermore, from London again -- where, unlike Beijing, the media closely monitored claims and outcomes -- money meant for "good causes" was pulled from other areas of the country.

In the UK, they have Camelot, similar to Ontario's Trillium Fund, that distributes lottery dough to good causes. For the Olympics £425 million was diverted to the Olympics.
Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative shadow culture spokesman, said the diversion of lottery money to the Olympics and the public bodies administrative spending meant that 1.1 billion Lottery tickets will be sold this year before the good causes receive a penny.That's a lot of lottery tickets.

Where does that dough go? The Good Causes award categories are arts, education, environment, health, heritage, sport and voluntary.

Here's sports.
From building new sports venues, to inspiring future generations to participate in sport, lottery funding is helping to grow grassroots sport across the UK with new facilities and coaching that are helping communities to stay healthy, fit and active.
So, the London Games literally sucked money out of grassroots sport for elite sport.

But the London Games were so profitable they paid it all back, right?

Three years on from the end of London 2012 and £425 million in raided lottery cash owed to charities and communities across the UK has not been repaid, and the new Government has gone silent on the issue.
Now, this bit should sound familiar to students of Canadian sports history.
However government ministers have continued to drag their feet on the issue – repeatedly suggesting that repayment may take until 2030 or beyond. Despite repeated requests the new Conservative Government has refused to make a statement on this issue. The Directory of Social Change (DSC) has led the Big Lottery Refund campaign, supported by over 3800 charities, which aims for an immediate return of the lottery cash.Well, heck, that would be only 18 years to repay Olympic debt. We've come a long way from Montreal, eh? They took 30 years to pay off $1.5B even with new taxes.

Donald Trump anounces his candidacy for the president of U.S

LeDaro - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 12:03

I don't understand what is he saying. :)

On biased decisions

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 11:05
It shouldn't come as much surprise that the Duffy trial has revealed that the Harper Cons sought to make the Senate as subservient to the PMO as the Cons' trained seals in the House of Commons:
Mr. Rathgeber said the PMO staffers’ handling of the situation was all too familiar and speaks to a “culture of invincibility” among some of the PMO staff.

“It’s shocking, but it validates everything I’ve ever said about their modus operandi. They have no ethical, or sometimes legal, boundaries and I would say without any doubt that a Senate report into expenses is a higher level of improper interference but that level of micromanagement goes on in House of Commons reports all the time,” he said.

Opposition members have long alleged that since the Conservatives have had a majority on every committee since 2011, no committee report is tabled until the PMO signs off on it.

“There is no part in the Ottawa bubble that they think is beyond their reach or their ability, quite frankly, to manipulate or control,” said Mr. Rathgeber.

“The fact that Parliament is supposed to be independent from the government and is supposed to be a check on the government is completely perverted in their view. They don’t see Parliament, either the House of Commons or the Senate, as being a check on executive power. They see the government caucus as an extension of PMO communications and their rubber stamp.”
Mr. Beardsley said that near the end of his time in the PMO he could see a shift toward the office “tightening up” and becoming more proactive in its “micromanagement” of issues. He has looked through the emails himself and considers them proof of what was speculated about the change in management under the succession of chiefs of staff leading up to Mr. Wright.Nor should it come as much surprise that the Cons' political direction has been based on developing excuses to reach a desired outcome, rather than actually applying rules as they stand.

But it's worth highlighting what that combination means for one of their primary attacks on the NDP.

Remember that the only decision-making body which has claimed to find a problem the NDP's parliamentary offices is the uber-secretive Board of Internal Economy - a committee of MPs with a Con majority.

The NDP has gone out of its way to have somebody evaluate its actions other than MPs acting as puppets for the PMO. And the Cons have refused any such neutral assessment.

So let's ask: is there any reason to think the BOIE's Con members operated under anything other than the PMO's instructions in sitting in judgment of a political opponent? And if not, shouldn't the Duffy scandal tell us everything we need to know as to whether that judgment is based on anything more than Stephen Harper's politically-motivated orders?

Great line of the day

Cathie from Canada - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 10:32
From Sun Media parliamentary bureau chief David Akin, on Facebook, as quoted in a Sandy Garossino tweet

Embedded image permalink

Wednesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 10:30
Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Robert Reich discusses the unfairness of requiring workers to take all the risk of precarious jobs while sharing few of the rewards:
On demand and on call – in the “share” economy, the “gig” economy, or, more prosaically, the “irregular” economy – the result is the same: no predictable earnings or hours.

It’s the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century, and it’s happening at lightening speed. It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will have uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.
Courts are overflowing with lawsuits over whether companies have misclassified “employees” as “independent contractors,” resulting in a profusion of criteria and definitions.

We should aim instead for simplicity: Whatever party – contractor, client, customer, agent, or intermediary – pays more than half of someone’s income, or provides more than half their working hours, should be responsible for all the labor protections and insurance an employee is entitled to.

Presumably that party will share those costs and risks with its own clients, customers, owners, and investors. Which is the real point – to take these risks off the backs of individuals and spread them as widely as possible.

In addition, to restore some certainty to peoples’ lives, we’ll need to move away from unemployment insurance and toward income insurance.- Max FineDay writes that while the work structures which are increasing stress on workers may be new, the principle of ensuring that everybody's basic needs are met has is anything but. And Sean McElwee discusses how different our public discourse would look if we heard about the plight of people living in poverty as regularly as we're informed of stock market fluctuations.

- The Star reminds us that the Cons' useless "tough on crime" rhetoric is as empty now as it's ever been.

- Meanwhile, Chinta Puxley reports that Canadians continue to be at risk due to the Cons' cuts to food inspection and other health and safety services.

- Steven Chase exposes the secrecy behind the Cons' plans to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

- Finally, Bill Tieleman writes that nasty, negative politics only survive because they seem to work - while recognizing that the only way to change that reality is to demand better in numbers which ensure that appeals to the worst in people don't sway enough votes to swing elections.

Stephen Harper getting ready for Thanksgiving and October 19, 2015 elections

LeDaro - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 09:52
It is hoped that after October 19, 2015 he will have a lot of time to dance preferably in Calgary, Alberta.

Free This Country from the Scourge of Harperism

Montreal Simon - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 09:44

These days you might get the impression that this election is all and only about the economy.

The economy that Stephen Harper has helped drive into the ground.

But today two very different Canadians sum up what it's really all about.
Read more »

Wishful Thinking. Oh, to Dream.

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 09:39
Got an email this morning from the Green Party. It spoke of an "independent poll" that showed the Greens in second place on my home turf, Vancouver Island.

No information about the poll itself but I can say this. While travelling around my own town I've been pleasantly surprised at the number of Green Party lawn signs, second only to NDP signs, and the dearth of CPC signs. I have yet to see a LPC sign anywhere.

You Drylanders watch out. When we become the Province of Vancouver Island, we'll be a Green bastion floating serenely beyond the orangish-red wasteland to the east.

Why the Far Right is Always Wrong

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 08:32

Neoconservatism of the type practiced in the U.S. and worshiped at the secret shrine in the closet at 24 Sussex Drive is a mental infirmity. That's why since it was spawned during the Clinton years (the Project for the New American Century) to its rise to power during Bush/Cheney and its tenacious grip on survival under Obama, it's been consistently wrong. The Iraq disaster was its crowning achievement but there's been so much more and all of it wrong, dead wrong.

Harvard prof. Stephen Walt dissects the neoconservative malfunction in "So Wrong for So Long, Why Neoconservatives are Never Right."

Living (Usually Broke) in Harper's Petro-WonderLand

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 08:20

Shifty Harper constantly blames setbacks to Canada's economy on problems abroad. It's his "heads I win, tails you lose" ploy and it usually works with the gullabillies who form a critical part of his base.

With almost two months remaining in the election campaign, we can expect China's market meltdown to send Harper squealing like a porker about how the economic blowback hitting all petro-states isn't our fault. Blame China.

Me, I'll blame Comrade Shifty for his "oilfields first" policy that even had his minions changing "tidewater, tidewater, tidewater."  China's ship may be sinking, so to speak, but it was Harper that lashed Canada's dinghy hard alongside.

The perils and pitfalls that beset petro-states have been well chronicled, especially the boom and bust cycles.  I'm sure the lessons haven't been lost on Alberta's sophisticates but, since Peter Lougheed left this mortal coil,  Alberta hasn't been burdened with a surplus of intellect.

Norway is Alberta's constant shame. They listened to Peter Lougheed's caution. They adopted Plan Lougheed. They're rich. They have the largest sovereign wealth fund on Earth. Alberta rejected Plan Lougheed, even though it was written just for them. Alberta doesn't have Norway's sovereign wealth fund. Alberta has debts and deficits.  And if the last three petro-busts have taught us anything, if and when the good times return, Alberta will do it again.  Kind of makes you wonder why we should trust those obvious mental defectives to run bitumen pipelines across our province.

For what China's meltdown could mean to Canada, there's this handy piece from - "China's Meltdown Spells Even More Peril for Petro-States."

The (un)fortunate Luck of our Oligarch. . .

kirbycairo - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 08:17
The widespread belief that Stephen Harper is some kind of political genius does not even vaguely conform to anything in reality. In fact, I suggest that like most petty oligarchs he is not even above the average intelligence of a ambitious and driven political opportunist. However, people often mistake focused devotion to a cause, or extreme ambition for intelligence.

Instead of being a political "genius," Harper has built a political career out of a very fortunate (for him) confluence of events. The first, and most obvious, of these fortunate occurrences was the fact that Harper won the leadership of a newly united rightwing party at a time when the Liberals had been in power for a long time and were widely perceived as scandal ladened and politically out of gas. Furthermore, almost his entire time in power has been spent at a time when the Liberal Party, which was for so long thought of as the "natural" party of power, has been through a difficult time of trying to rebuild itself, a process that it hasn't been particularly successful at accomplishing. Harper succeeded on the backs of two rather hapless Liberal leaders neither of which resonated with the public. And perhaps more importantly, the second of those leaders (Michael Ignatieff) was arguably so rightwing that Liberal Party ceased for a time to have any real reason for existing. Then, more recently, Harper had one of his greatest strokes of luck of his entire career when Trudeau made what I think may turn out to be the single greatest political mistake in Modern Canadian history (outshining even Hudak's one hundred thousand layoff promise and Prentice's stunning effort to blame average Albertans for his Party's financial mismanagement). Trudeau's support of Bill C-51 (regardless of how you feel about the bill itself) could be, I believe, the undoing of the Liberal Party itself. For years the Liberal Party was perceived by people on the left and in the centre as being little more than a rubber-stamping committee of Harper's government. Under Dion and Ignatieff the Liberals voted over and over to support Harper's legislative program. Whatever the reasons for this support, it turned out to be, I think, a colossal mistake that made the very existence of the Liberal Party seem meaningless to many. Then the Liberals got lucky: Harper won a majority and Trudeau took over the leadership of the party. The Liberals could look forward to a period of stability for their rebuilding and Trudeau, for a change, did seem to resonate with the public and he had a chance to rebuild the party as something distinct from the Conservatives. Sure he made some gaffs but what politician, particularly young ones, don't? Things were basically going well until Trudeau made a fatal error. In supporting Bill C-51 Trudeau suddenly reiterated all the negative feelings that had caused the real decline of the Liberal Party in the first place - he rubber stamped a Conservative bill, and not just any bill but one that is a fundamental and profound attack on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a bill that former PMs, constitutional experts, international rights groups, and almost every jurist in the country have said is dangerous and wrong-headed. Trudeau essentially handed the head of the Liberal Party to Harper on a plate. It wasn't a genius move on Harper's part, most rightwing politicians would have tried this. Rather, it was just a very blatant mistake on Trudeau's part. Harper must have been elated at his luck.

But Harper has enjoyed other political good fortune that has kept him in power and made him seem like a political master-mind to those who don't pay enough attention. Perhaps Harper most unexpected good fortune was that he has faced what I would argue is the most compliant media of all Western Democracies. Harper has a dark and troubling past that has never become an issue with the media. Perhaps more importantly, he has treated the media and public with absolute disgust and disrespect with almost no blowback for over ten years. I have lived in both the US and England during turbulent times and it is almost impossible to imagine the media of those countries giving a leader a continual pass on so many things. Harper has also been lucky in the sense that our proximity and close cultural association with the United States allowed much of the rightwing extremism of that nation to creep into our own culture. This has helped Harper take advantage of a wing-nut base that has increased as the Tea-Party wackiness in the US has gained more power.

On top of all this political good fortune, Harper has engaged in good-old-fashioned political corruption, fraud, and illegality to maintain his power.

But here is where all of Harper's luck coalesces: Harper is often been said to be a master of "message control," but this is a misunderstanding of Harper's underlying strategy. The idea of message control is only a part of Harper's real political cause which is the continual limiting and destruction of information at every level. Harper's political efforts are always centred on undermining the free flow of information. End the long-form census, muzzle civil servants, muzzle his own MPs, refuse to reveal basic financial information to the House or to the People, stop funding adult literacy programs, don't talk to average Canadians, never talk to the media in a meaningful and unvetted way, undermine the freedom of information; these are all part of Harper basic strategy - destroy the life-blood of democracy: information.

Let me make this clear - this is NOT political genius, it is just the basic program of all dictators and oligarchs throughout history. It is a strategy which all effective politicians are aware of, but which only those afflicted with a fundamentally anti democratic spirit are willing to take advantage of.

The only constant being change, Harper's cabal must eventually fall. It is just in the nature of things. You can't limit information forever, particularly in a technologically driven society. Furthermore, I believe that the supremacy of Neo-Liberalism is coming to an end. Like capitalists always do, they let their greed destroy the basis of their power. People have been surprisingly willing to tolerate unequal political systems in modern times as long as they seem to be in a process of gradually generalizing the wealth. But over the past forty years as the wealth of the system seems to be doing the very opposite of this and concentrating in fewer and fewer hands, the system itself is generating dissatisfaction that will eventually lead to real change.

When Harper finally does fall, and when the younger generation begins to rebuild, one thing we have to hope above all others is we can put in place very basic protections of information so that a future maniac like Harper will not be able to cripple our system by keeping the nation in the dark.


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