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oust the bum!

I received a powerful piece of writing in my email inbox this morning; someone called Charles Young sent a succinct, even-handed précis of exactly why Stephen Harper needs to be ousted. Mr. Young is so fair that he insists his screed is not anti-Conservative, just anti-Harper. I wrote back to congratulate and thank him, assuming he’d had my email address from some left-wing website, and he wrote back to tell me he was my writing student years ago.

Reaping what you sow! I’m proud to have had a hand in helping shape this superb piece of rhetoric.  I don’t know how to condense it so am including it all here. I urge you, if you agree, to copy and send to anyone who might be considering a Conservative vote. This is crisis time, folks. As I said to my U of T class this afternoon, I hope next time we meet, next Tuesday, we’ll be living in another country.

Before that, in case Charles’s article is too long for you, here’s one from the Guardian that makes the same point:

Dear Friend / Colleague. With less than a week to go before we choose our national leader, I thought it was crucially important to put forward counter-argument (below and attached) to the misrepresentations of Stephen Harper. If you agree, please share with others. If you disagree, go ahead and share your views with others too. When so much is at stake it is better that we be knowingly committed than blindly following.
Charles Young
416 436-5851


Stephen Harper claims to be the best choice for Canada going forward. I strongly disagree, and outline my reasons below.

In large measure this is a non-partisan argument. I lay out the facts as I see them and the blame squarely on Stephen Harper. I have not targeted the Conservative party or conservative principles. I do mention in the context of the 2013 Fair Elections Act that the party pleaded guilty to violations in the 2006 election and paid a fine. The focus is on Stephen Harper. By all means vote Conservative in 2019 when he is gone.

Harper’s economic claims are bogus

·      Harper’s balanced budget boast is for votes, not the economy. The two best-performing economies in the world, USA and Germany, continue to run budget deficits to promote economic growth and development. Their debt-to-GDP ratios (2014) of 103% and 75% respectively puts Canada’s ratio of 87% in range, as is the UK’s at 87%. Harper’s ideology of a balanced budget ignores the continuing decline in Canada’s productivity, competitiveness, and innovation.
·      Harper has neither plan nor direction. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Dr. Mariana Mazzucato, author of The Entrepreneurial State, describes the institutions“…that have allowed Germany, China, and the United States to build globally competitive companies,” and notes that Canada “… despite having earned a fortune in petroleum revenues in the past 15 years that could have created a similar major institution, has nothing substantial of the sort, nor any proposal to create one.” “… if they [GermanyUSAChina] want to do something, they do it. They directly finance a sector or the most innovative companies, and they create grants or guaranteed loans to do it, not an indirect tax credit.”
·      Harper’s luck is running out. China and the commodity super-cycle have been keeping Canada afloat. Not any more. Quietly, mega oil-consumer China has become a world leader in green technologies. President Xi Jinping has committed to establishing the world’s largest cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Charles P. Pierce, writing in Esquire magazine, describes the Oct. 19 election this way: “It’s very much a referendum on aspiring oil sheikh Stephen Harper … Apparently, Harper loves the way, say, the Qataris do their oil business, but doesn’t think that much of their religion. A Christian oil sheikh, just as Jesus intended.”
·      Harper’s narrow-minded support for the oil sands could be a deadend. New research outlined in The Guardian (UK) is “the first to identify which reserves must not be burned to keep global temperature rise under 2°C”, the safety limit agreed by the world’s nations. These reserves include “almost all Canadian tar sands”. Currently, the world is heading for a catastrophic 5C of warming. “The study’s conclusion on the exploitation of Canada’s oil sands is blunt, finding production must fall to ‘negligible’ levels after 2020 if the 2°C scenario is to be fulfilled.” “These numbers show that unconventional and ‘extreme’ fossil fuel – Canada’s tar sands, for instance – simply have to stay in the ground.” The Bank of England, Goldman Sachs, and other financial experts have begun to study the consequences of expensive fossil fuel projects becoming worthless.

Harper is using a racist strategy to court votes

We may prefer that women not wear a niqab, the tradition of a tiny number of Muslim women in Canada. We may prefer that women not wear a niqab during a Citizenship ceremony. One woman, having agreed to show her face to the presiding judge, went to court for the right to then cover her face for the public ceremony. Both a federal court and a 3-judge Federal Court of Appeal rejected the government’s argument. Harper plans to take his case to the Supreme Court. Of the 2 million reports of criminal activity to the police last year not one mentioned a niqab. So why does Harper target niqabs? To quote again Charles P. Pierce, writing in Esquire magazine: “Harper, of course, having learned all the wrong lessons from the Bush-Cheney-Halliburton years, has been going to Trump University this time around, making a national issue of any Canadian civil servant who wants to wear a niqab.” Apparently he hasn’t been able to actually find a single employee who does, but he’s desperate for every vote he can scare up.

Harper’s views and actions (or inaction) mirror the right-wing of the Republican Party

·      He sees climate change as a low priority. He withdrew Canada from the Kyoto Accord for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions. He gutted the Ministry of The Environment and curtailed environmental assessments. Harper rejects both a free-market cap-and-trade system (53 countries) to reduce emissions and a rebated carbon tax (14 countries) to reduce consumption, as in BC where the provincial income tax for the middleclass is the lowest in Canada. With Harper we can expect little for Canadians at the next global climate change conference in Paris starting next month.
·      He pursues a law-and-order agenda that is costly and counter-productive. Harper has spent $ millions to build super prisons, despite the long-term decline in crime rates and the failure of the American experience. Judges are refusing to impose mandatory sentencing in specific cases, citing cruel and unusual punishment contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down or softened several of Harper’s crime laws. In the USA harsh sentencing including the death penalty has produced no evidence whatsoever of reducing crime. Harper’s Canada would emulate the United States, which has 2.4 million people locked up, the highest rate of incarceration in the world, including China, Russia, Mexico, across the Middle East, Europe, South America. Almost 25 % of the American population has a criminal record and a lifetime of obstacles. Even as right-wing Republican presidential candidates acknowledge the failure of the “tough on crime” agenda; even as the Auditor-General of Canada provides data that low-risk offenders are better rehabilitated under supervision in the community at one-third the cost of imprisonment, Harper stands his ground. It still gets votes.
·      He has radically expanded the government’s policing powers under the guise of security against terrorism. All the while that the United States has been providing such security it is Americans, not “terrorists”, who are regularly shooting children, students, movie-goers, and other Americans. You are far, far more likely to be injured in a car accident, bitten by a shark, struck by lightening, or felled by chronic disease than from an act of terror. Harper’s Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 Bill C-51 gives more power and wider discretion for surveillance and arrest to government agencies over the utterances, material, and activities of citizens and organizations. The Act does not define terrorism. In other words, if you oppose the government too vigorously, you may be at risk. Harper’s attempt to pressure York University and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to cancel programs exploring Arab-Israeli peace caused the 65,000 member Canadian Association of University Teachers to comment, that Ottawa’s political interference was something rivalling the infamous McCarthy communist witchhunt in the US in the 1950s.
·      Harper is drawn to war. He was eager for Canada to join the war in Iraq. As Leader of the Opposition in 2003 he blasted leader Jean Chretien for refusing to do so, saying: “We support the war effort and believe we should be supporting our troops and our allies and be there with them doing everything necessary to win.” The official Congressional report: Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with 9/11. That war cost the United States hugely in treasure, lives, and disabilities. The Harper government took 7 years to reluctantly ratify the 2008 International Treaty on the use of cluster bombs, regarded as particularly inhumane. Like landmines, cluster bombs continue for years to kill civilians, especially children attracted by the brightly-coloured baseball-size unexploded sub-munitions.Canada insisted on a loophole that it could cooperate with armies that use cluster bombs. In like fashion, Canada’s funding for land-mine clearance, in which it was a global leader, has dropped from $49 million in 2007-8 to just $8 million in 2013-14. In Cambodia alone there are still 6-8 million landmines, and someone gets blown up every 3 days. Our funding went from $3 million to zero in 2013-14. Three hundred de-miners have been laid off. Clearly, every little bit helps to balance the budget.
·      Harper aspires to military power. Shunning Canada’s legacy as peacekeepers and conciliators, Harper tried hard to spend $ billions on F-35 fighters, the most delayed and problematic warplane in history. Harper insisted the cost was $16-18 billion. Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, analyzed the cost to be S29 billion. Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information in Washington, who worked for both Republican and Democratic senators and the US General Accounting Office for 30 years, said that Page’s numbers were “far and away” more accurate than government estimates. The Pentagon’s own information indicated operatingcosts to be higher than even the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s forecast, totalling more than C$24B over 30 years for 65 aircraft. That was in 2011 with the C$ at par with the US$. Kevin Page, in his just released book Unaccountable: Truth, Lies and Numbers on Parliament Hill describes “… a moment in which they (the government) collectively could have said, ‘Hold it, we got this wrong. We need to make this right.’ Instead, some civil servants and politicians chose to hide, confuse, obfuscate, and try to deceive the entire country.” The F-35 is still on the Harper agenda, despite the fighter jet being considered by experts as too special-purpose and ill-suited forCanada’s vast northern geography and multi-faceted needs. During the F-35 debacle Canada, for the first time since WWII, lost the vote for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, awarded to Portugal.
·      Harper uses lower taxes to win votes. Taxes underpin the Canadian single-payer medical system that distinguishes us and every other developed country from theUnited States. Taxes make possible individual, family and community services at every level of government. It is these shared services that bind the fabric of Canadian society. To declare that “… all taxes are bad.” as he did a month before the 2006 election is to denigrate the value of community in Canada and to favour the rise of inequality. The Republican refrain is that lowering taxes will grow the economy. Yes it will – for the richest. “All of the economic gains since the Great Recession have gone to the top 1%.” (Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank and Nobel Prize-winner). As for lowering corporate taxes … In 2009 Canada’s largest bank, RBC Financial, had 80,000 full and part-time employees and net profit of $3.9 billion. In 2014 RBC Financial had 78,000 employees and net profit of $9 billion. Does RBC need lower taxes?

Harper is unworthy to be Canada’s leader

·      Harper is a ruler, not a leader. In his biography Stephen Harper, released in August, author John Ibbitson describes Harper’s desire to control information:“Bureaucrats are prohibited from speaking to reporters. Scientists are prohibited from releasing the results of their research. Access to information requests are routinely held up for so long that by the time the information is released, it’s no longer of any use, and the pages are mostly blacked out in any case.” Ibbitson goes on to say: “The Conservatives’ autocracy, secretiveness, and cruelty, critics accuse, debase politics to a level that threatens the very foundation of Canadian democracy.Columnist Ralph Surette of the Halifax Chronicle Herald: “Hardly anything in his world hints of Putinism more than Harperism.”
·      Harper rules with his inner circle. Conservative MPs have no voice to represent their constituencies. Cabinet Ministers are tightly scripted by the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). For 2015 more than a quarter of sitting Conservative MPs, 46 by last count, have chosen not to run Oct 19, including 4 cabinet ministers. Harper is the first Prime Minister since Louis St. Laurent (1948-1957) to have a dropout rate > 25% and still lead the party into an election. If Conservative MPs want to serve a ruler, what does that say about them, and why are they running for office?
·      Harper believes we do NOT have the right to know. Conservative candidates have been instructed to boycott community debates, just as he has boycotted the nationally-televised debates of previous elections. The strategy is simple: constantly run personal attack ads (starting well before the elections), answer the fewest questions, repeat sound bites on the major issues, rely on falsehoods and fear-mongering to bring in the votes.
·      Harper is the only Prime Minister to be critical of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Like right-wing Republicans, he is also critical of the Supreme Court. As leader of the opposition in 2003 he argued in Parliament that the Equality clause in the Charter was not meant to protect gay people. When criticized in 2007 for manipulating the process of appointing judges, Harper as Prime Minister declared his preference for judges who saw things his way. He would rather they defer to the government than rely on the Charter or their own consciences. Such political intrusion into the judiciary that protects the rights and freedoms of citizens in a democracy would be unacceptable in most developed countries.
·      Harper designed the 2013 Fair Elections Act to his advantage. After the Conservative Party pleaded guilty to violations in the 2006 elections and paying a $230,000 fine, Harper’s response was the 2013 Fair Elections Act. Among other things it limits the power of Elections Canada to investigate election fraud and to encourage voter turnout. Assembly of First Nations National Chief, Perry Bellegarde, points out that the new requirement for 2 personal IDs will mean many in First Nations communities will be unable to vote. Ditto for students and seniors since the Voter Registration card mailed to you by Elections Canada can no longer be used to verify your address. How prevalent was individual voter fraud to have required a “fair elections” act? Among the 28 million votes cast in the last 2 elections: 18 incidents reported to Elections Canada.

Not this time

Please note that I have said nothing negative about the Conservative party or Conservative principles. This is about Stephen Harper. By all means vote Conservative in the next election when Harper is gone. The Canada that welcomed many of us as immigrants was a kinder and gentler nation for Canadians and for the rest of the world. That the world is different today is all the more reason that we put Canada back on the path of a sustainable peace and prosperity.
Our children and grandchildren will be greatly affected by those who govern. Short term gains can cost us greatly in the longer term. ideology must give way to consultation and collaboration among all levels of government, industries, civic society, and global partners. In the last election Harper became Prime Minister despite winning only 39% of the votes cast, meaning a substantial majority did not want him.
Our first-past-the-post system meant that many Conservative candidates were elected because the majority of votes were divided among Liberal, NDP, and Green candidates. In this close election one way to prevent a repeat of 2011 is to ensure more votes in favour of the most qualified progressive candidate. Please go or if you wish to participate.
Charles Young



3 Responses to “oust the bum!”

  1. theresa says:

    This is excellent, and worth forwarding — as I did to many friends and contacts yesterday, with (mostly) good feedback. Someone sent me a link in return to a profile of the awful Leader in the Calgary Herald. My heart sank. But I keep telling myself that the change is coming. I can hear that wonderful moment when Van Morrison (I hope i'm remembering this correctly!) sings, "change, change….i'm gonna walk down the street until I see my shining light." Oh yeah!

  2. beth says:

    Okay, Theresa, I'm hanging onto the shining light image – though my politico neighbour predicts a Conservative minority, hard as it is to believe, once the rural vote kicks in. WHO ARE THOSE PEOPLE?

  3. theresa says:

    Well,some of them live in this riding (west vancouver – sea to sky- sunshine coast) which has been Conservative for years but not always. (And it's been redrawn…) J. S. Woodsworth lived in Gibsons for a time — his daughter–in-law Sylvia is still the heart of our local NDP group. I think the Conservatives are everywhere but most of them won't admit to voting that way.

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