Opponents of Stephen Harper’s politics have taken comfort in turning him back on some fronts recently. They stopped him on much of his election reform bill. They stopped him on his Supreme Court nominee. They saw the entrails of his operation exposed by the RCMP in the Senate expenses scandal.
But if they think he is checked or cowed, they might pause to think again. In reforming Canada on the basis of his brand of conservatism, the Prime Minister shows no sign of a let up. How far to the right can he move the country? Just watch him.
Updates being necessary, check developments in just the past week or two. We know that tolerance of dissent and civil liberties do not rank high on the Conservatives’ priority list. Last week, the media revealed that public demonstrations have been put under the surveillance of Ottawa’s bureaucrats. Exercise your right to take part in a peaceful protest and you might soon find yourself on the enemies’ list.
As a leaked e-mail revealed, an organization called the Government Operations Centre has requested all government departments to assist it in compiling a comprehensive inventory of protesters. The information, the e-mail went on to say, “will be made available to our partners.”
Opposition critics are calling it a super-spy agency trampling over citizens’ rights. Given the government’s record of targeting opponents, is it a wild characterization? Earlier, the Conservatives tried to make possible warrantless Internet surveillance. A bill now would make our personal data from telecom companies accessible to police authorities.
A privacy commissioner is supposed to ride herd over this kind of thing. Mr. Harper has just appointed a privacy commissioner with a police and security background, a background that typically yields little quarter to civil liberties. The choice was the last one on a committee’s short list.
In the area of criminal justice, where the government’s lock ’em up mentality has been well documented, the Conservatives introduced a new law last week cracking down on sex workers. The legislation essentially runs counter to the intent of a Supreme Court ruling. It comes after the pummelling the PM took in questioning the integrity of the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice.
On foreign policy, with his grandstanding as a leading hawk of the Western world, Mr. Harper has turned the country’s moderate reputation on its head. It plays nicely to his political base. Last week he was at the G7 in Brussels, fulminating about Vladimir Putin’s move on Ukraine. Unlike many leaders, Mr. Harper prefers black and white to nuanced portraits. At the summit, he sounded like he’d never heard of Iraq or Kosovo or Panama or Grenada or Vietnam.
President Barack Obama moved forward on climate change last week, but Mr. Harper continued to stonewall on his long-promised emissions regulations for the oil and gas sector. Despite the government’s spin to the contrary, Canada ranks among the worst in the advanced world when it comes to confronting climate change.
Guns were in the news last week with the tragic deaths of the Mounties in New Brunswick. Progressives were reminded of the whipping Mr. Harper gave them in abolishing the gun registry. It’s another example of how the country’s left is being repudiated as it has rarely, if ever, been before. Not to be forgotten is the crackdown on labour and union rights, the turning over of health care to the provinces, and the enthusiasm on the cultural front for Sun News, as opposed to the CBC.
With Mr. Harper’s shrinking of the revenue base, as well as his economic vision of resource exploitation, free marketeers have big reason to cheer on the economic front.
All this, but you will still find conservatives complaining because little progress has been made in the area of social conservatism. They have no need for complaint. Despite some recent setbacks, Mr. Harper is succeeding in remaking Canada along his intended lines. The values once deemed to be integral to the character of this country are continually being overturned.