Friday, October 13, 2006

Thoughts for a Weekend

I try to maintain perspective, I really do.

I try to remain confident that our current government is just as committed to the well being of Canada and Canadians as most if not all of our previous governments. I try to believe that even if I disagree with them they nevertheless, by their lights, have the best interests of the country at heart.

Then I remember how remorselessly the Conservatives have been aping the strategy, tactics and language of the US Republican Party.

I recall how welcoming they've been to the radical christian right organizations that the Republicans courted so effectively and it now turns out, as many suspected, so hypocritically.

I recollect the Republicans leading pollster and election strategy advisor, Frank Luntz, coming to Ottawa to give them a workshop on how to leverage and maintain their power.

And then I look south at the trainwreck the Republicans have wrought. My perspective vanishes and I despair for the future of my country. I do not mean that figuratively.

When a nation of nearly 300 million, with an economy 10 times the size of ours becomes so dysfunctional in a little over 10 years of Republican domination, how short a time will the Conservatives need to re-create a similar result here.

Look at the wedges they've managed to deploy in mere months. “Defence of Religion”, which needs no defending; slashing or eliminating women’s programs and banning those few remaining from lobbying; attacking the Wheat Board and banning it from defending itself. There are probably more that I haven’t thought of and I am certain that there are more to come. Political wedges, following the advice of Frank Luntz, is very nearly the sum and substance of their playbook.

Soon we’ll have another wedge issue introduced in Parliament when they introduce the motion to re-open the same sex marriage debate. Even though it’s clearly understood by all that their only recourse for turning back that clock would be to use the notwithstanding clause. Thus becoming the first government in the western world to manipulate its constitution to eliminate the previously established rights of citizens.

Whose rights would be next?

I’ve even begun to question how safe a legal concept habeas corpus would remain under Canada’s Neo Government as they continue down the road of mimicking today’s Republicans. Among many Conservative supporters there is a deep contempt for the courts, the legal system and the established law of the land. Occasionally a quieter, more subtle yet similar contempt is heard from members of the Conservative government. I wonder if the right to face and question your accuser, perhaps especially if your accuser is a Conservative, is a target of that contempt.

This incarnation of conservative political philosophy is unprecedented in Canada. Just as the current version of the Republican Party in the US is unlike any before it, a fact to which many traditional American Republicans are now awakening. Canadians are lulled by the application in the media of the old, trusted identification of them as Tory. Edward Greenspon of the Globe and Mail defended the Globes use of the word in relation to today’s Conservative Party by telling me in an email of June 3, 2005 that “This may not be the party of Sir John A Macdonald at the moment, but it is the only party with any strands of John A. Macdonald’s political DNA and may yet persevere to be the party of John A. Macdonald in the future.” I can’t help but wonder how much rope he, and by extension the rest of our national media, is willing to give them. I cringe to think how much of today’s Canada will be dangling at the end of that rope by then.

Today, after not even a year of Conservative government, I look around me and I already see a significant reduction in things to admire about my country. If these Conservatives are given a majority by the time their first mandate is over we will look, sound and feel very different. We will be much like the bitterly and irreconcilably divided USA of today I strongly suspect. The early evidence of that is already irrefutable.

We are edging closer and closer toward becoming a country of which I would be ashamed to be a citizen.

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