1. He lies. He lies so often you wonder if it’s a reflex. He lies with such audacity there’s not need to cite any examples to convince you it’s a fact. You can just be directed to one of the sites that have catalogued his fibs, whoppers, exaggerations, misstatements and inventions. While all politicians are prone to lying, Stephen Harper’s serial dishonesty is the one thing that should make you wary of removing the training license that is a minority government and giving him the keys to the dominion.
2. Kudos to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network for breaking the Bruce Carson scandal. In a short election campaign, it’s the type of damning story that has the potential to bring down a leader. The Carson affair not only appears like it has lassoed Harper in another lie, it raises even more questions about his character. At the least, he knew Carson was guilty of two theft charges and had also been disbarred. Who keeps someone like that as a “right-hand man”? Plus, background checks for anyone hoping to work in the PMO are thorough, so it’s difficult to believe Harper wouldn’t know a close adviser had been convicted three times of fraud and ordered to receive psychiatric care. In an article last week, Maclean’s said Conservatives wondered “how the disbarred lawyer who’d served jail time in the ’80s was able to rise to the Prime Minister’s Office and have the ear of the country’s most powerful man.” Harper on Monday said he wouldn’t have hired Carson if he’d known about the three fraud counts. So, he either did know and he lied, or he didn’t know and there is incompetence among his team. Or he did know and he didn’t care because he believed Carson was the man to clean up the marketing image of the oilsands, pleasing a lot of Conservative backers in Alberta, and now Harper and his party must deal with the fallout after Carson apparently was taking advantage of his position to help his girlfriend’s company get lucrative business contracts from the government. In any case, it’s all another reason to deny the Harper-led Conservatives leadership of Parliament.
3. His bad taste in the arts. In 2008, Harper said “ordinary people” (a derogatory term in itself; who the hell wants their prime minister, or anyone else, to consider them simply as ordinary?) didn’t care about the arts. The truth is, Harper doesn’t care about the arts, which means he doesn’t understand that supporting arts and culture is vital to maintaining Canadian identity, promoting healthy relations within our communities and gentrifying dilapidated neighbourhoods.
Take a look at downtown Niagara Falls and see what the arts community has done for that city’s streets that not long ago were saturated with drugs and prostitution. As the majority of artists continue to be marginalized economically in the country, it’s more important than ever for government to support our emerging writers, visual artists, filmmakers, musicians and craftspeople. They’re the ones who create the good stuff, the stuff that defines us and gets bought up by corporations and promoted by governments as Proudly Canadian. Harper pulled nearly $50 million of support away from the arts community and is sure to do even worse if he’s returned to 24 Sussex with a promise to balance the books of the nation.
Since the cuts and statements that riled up Margaret Atwood three years ago, Harper supporters have come out in his defence, saying he has actually increased spending on arts and culture during his tenure as PM. You can read the Facebook thread on this topic for yourself and decide.
What we know is, we saw money go to support sports and heritage programs related to the Vancouver Olympics while some key arts programs were either axed or had their funding significantly reduced. There’s some grey area on this subject, for sure. What seems more evident, though, is Harper’s ho-hum approach to arts and artists. His lack of passion and/or interest is what reveals his position.
4. Leo Strauss, Ralph Reed, George Bush, Karl Rove and all of these scary neo-con ties. Harper, like Michael Ignatieff, is incredibly bright and thoughtful and even funny at times. Both can be immensely interesting but they’ve got some bedfellows who are not only odd, they make you scratch your head and wonder what’s really going on in the minds of our leading politicians. With Ignatieff, it was his cosying up to (at worst; excusing at best) the Bush doctrine of torture and support for the Iraq War. Ignatieff’s position was a lapse of intellectual reasoning. Harper’s ties with the neo-conservative movement that’s caused the world a quarter-century of pain is long, deep and spooky. This stuff is all over the Internet and you can dig it up pretty easily. The 2005 article from the Tyee (the best independent news source in the country, I think) is a good place to start. To push for neo-con-inspired reforms in Canada after they’ve failed miserably in the States would be sending the country backwards politically and socially. Harper hasn’t divorced himself from this ideology and that’s not good for his re-election hopes. Give him credit for managing the economy well and for maintaining a sense of fiscal prudence during this campaign while Ignatieff is promising the mint in social programs, but who is this guy who’s been our PM for five years? Although no one should be overly paranoid, the truth is Harper makes it very hard to let go of the skepticism we’ve held for so long about him and the philosophies that shaped his political beliefs.
5. He’s a control freak and he demonstrates it with his dealings with the press and the opposition. You can’t blame him for wanting things his way, you can blame him for trying to force democratic institutions to bend to his liking. Similar again to Bush & Co., Harper behaves like the political media is nothing more than a nuisance. While they may be that to him, journalists ensure democratic ideals within a society. His undermining of the media’s role in the past week — including the limiting of questions by reporters to five a day, the lack of forthrightness with answers, the failure to respond to journalists after making statements to them — is one more indication a majority Harper government would lack much too much transparency for my comfort, and probably yours as well.
The five-a-day limit on questions is so ridiculous even a Conservative Party member called the tactic stupid and hurtful to the campaign. It’s something Republicans would do. If there’s anything Harper should know by now, Canada doesn’t want his version of GOP Lite running Parliament Hill.