Sunday evening after Cross Country Checkup, the CBC aired two political ads. The first was Stephane Dion talking about how he and his wife like to go snowshoeing. The second was a Conservative attack ad, the premise of which was that ordinary folk had called their comments about Dion into an answering machine. "I'm scared of the Green Shift," said one, "because I can't afford to pay more to fill up my car." (Never mind that the Green Shift does not affect gasoline prices.) The attacks were pure fearmongering. They were brief and rapid fire, and after they finished, the entire bit was repeated again.
Now come on. I liked the snowshoe ad and wish we could maintain that level of decorum. But we Liberals have suffered through two years of nasty attack ads that range from distortions to outright lies. They've maligned our leader, told lies about our policies, spread false rumors about infighting in our ranks, and even boasted about interfering in our leadership selection process. I won't go as far as Harper and actually lie, but the gloves are off. I'm going to work my hardest to hit back at those nasty, lying jerks.
Harper has a record of being a nasty piece of work, from belittling his old boss Preston Manning for being too soft on social issues to masterminding the hostile takeover (by immoral if not illegal means) of one of Canada's founding parties. You can tell what he's really like just from looking at his face: he has cold, close-together eyes and his tight little smile never extends to them.
As prime minister he's a megalomaniac. There are talented people in the ranks of Conservative MPs, but talent isn't, apparently, what he wants in the cabinet: looking good in photo ops and touting the party line seems to be the goal - that and political considerations like regional representation that will get him votes. The result is a history of gaffes at the highest level that defies belief. All through this administration, from Rona Ambrose through Maxime Bernier to Gerry Ritz, Harper's government has shown staggering incompetence.
The problems with the Harper cabinet are not just little slips. Harper wants us to believe that the Agriculture minister's callous jokes were just a stress-related mistake, but the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada issued a statement saying, "Minister Ritz has repeatedly disappointed the professional scientists and inspectors who work for him during the listeria crisis. The comments he apologized for are the last straw. Crisis requires real leadership and Mr. Ritz is clearly not fit to lead."
It gets even worse. The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) lays the blame for the listeriosis crisis on Conservative policies and is calling for a full public inquiry. They say "this outbreak was 100% avoidable and unnecessary" and was brought about by lax standards and a decision to transfer inspection duties to the industry. Further, they say that listeriosis "may be the least of it." The government has also handed self-inspection to the operators of animal feed mills and cut back on avian flu preparedness. The CMAJ says, "Listeriosis pales in comparison. Overall, it would seem that, as a country, Canada is far less prepared now for epidemics than in the past."
Harper likes to describe himself as an economist. He is no economist. The guy has a Master's degree in Economics. I have a Master's degree in Economics, and I can tell you that it doesn't make one an economist. Masters-level economics bears little relation to the real world; it's essentially Economics 101 with more advanced math. Harper isn't even a good economic manager: it took Chretien/Martin four budgets to eliminate the deficit left behind by Mulroney, but it took Harper/Flaherty only three budgets to bring us back to the brink of deficit.
The reason we are on the brink of a deficit despite sound fundamentals is that Harper wants a deficit to justify spending cuts. He may not be an economist, but he has economists working for him and they told him that cutting the GST would not boost the economy - as say, an income tax cut would have, resulting in overall higher tax revenues. He is playing the old conservative confidence game of nuking the economy and then blaming it on social spending.
Harper should move to Texas, where people share his values, rather than trying to mess up Canada, where people don't. He has said things in the past like, "Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term." and "In terms of the unemployed... don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance." and "The NDP could be described as basically a party of liberal Democrats, but it's actually worse than that... the NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men." and "Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society... It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff."
Now he says that he's softened his views. When asked what his views are, he obfuscates and bafflegabs. "My own views on abortion, I'm not on either pole of that and neither of the interest groups on either end of this issue would probably be comfortable with my views." If you think he's saying that he no longer wants to make abortion illegal, I have some land for you in Florida.
Craftily, stealthily, just as he schemed and planned to steal the Conservative brand, everything has been heading towards securing a majority. Once he does: kerpow. Boy, will we regret it.
And we can't say we didn't see it coming. Just a week before the election was called, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty made very clear how he plans to undermine universal health care. If Harper gets a majority he won't cancel it outright: he'll just make it increasingly unfeasible and chip away at it until everyone will agree that it's unsustainable.
Even with a minority, Harper has done plenty to change the character of Canada. He killed the best hope for aboriginal Canadians that we've ever had. He destroyed a brilliant day care program. He killed off productive, necessary, low-cost institutions like the woman's legal resource center. He slashed funding for the arts and NGOs. He killed the gun registry program. He created a phony youth crime crisis and passed legislation to put more people (especially more young people) in jail, and for longer periods. He extended our military involvement beyond what it was originally intended for - a temporary peacekeeping mission - into a military occupation supporting a dubious US agenda. And he has politicized religion in a way we haven't seen before, according to this article.
Harper's campaign against Ontario could be just bitterness that we don't support him, but it seems deeper than that... as if he believes we're evil and must be kept down. He has screwed with our economy, underfunded us, done his best to humiliate our Liberal premier, and even ensured that we're under-represented in parliament.
The heinousness of his decision to tax income trusts was not that he did it. It's that he first promised that he wouldn't do it - causing Canadians to spend millions on investments that plummeted in value. Thousands of Canadians lost a big portion of their retirement savings. You just don't do that.
A majority would also allow Harper to wiggle out of the several scandals that are hanging over him him right now: Massive campaign spending fraud in the last election, resulting in a reprimand from Elections Canada, resulting in PMO interference in the civil service; politcial interference in our nuclear regulatory agency; a public inquiry into the listeriosis crisis and how his policies led to it; a former Foreign Affairs minister with a history of reckless disregard for confidential papers and a girlfriend with mafia ties; the attempt to buy the vote of a dying Liberal MP; the previous Tory prime minister admitting to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from an arms dealer, with tens of millions of dollars in bribes still unaccounted for.
The summary is: This is a bad government. It's incompetent, and its values do not reflect those of most Canadians. It is led by a man who has no scruples and a very, very big hidden agenda.
I'd be happy to donate all of my anti-Harper writing to the public domain. Please feel free to use it any way you see fit, such as cutting and pasting it into comments on newspaper articles. Go negative! Go big! Go now!
The Harper Record (free book, PDF)
100+ reasons not to vote for Harper