Reflections on Harperland
Tonight’s speech was pretty much what one could expect from Stephen Harper. He was speaking to his adoring faithful, using the same lines and platitudes that he has always used and that always seems to satisfy his minions. In that sense it was a very cleverly crafted speech - for the converted, for the choir, but not very convincing for those outside the party lines.
For those outside the party there are some serious omissions.
The environment was one of those. It received a single byline while being equated with the economy, an economy that quite directly affects the environment in a negative manner. The main faults with our economy is its extractive nature, Canada and Canadians forever being ‘drawers of water and hewers of wood’ although in modern terms it is extractors of hydrocarbons and minerals. To be sure in the future if current trends continue, our water will also be up for sale at some ridiculous price while European water companies do their best to privatize our local water resources - and by that historical standard, it will not be to our economic benefit. Really there is nothing wrong with being a resource country, but we are not getting the benefits that should accrue from those resources, and we need to husband them carefully for our own future needs, NAFTA not withstanding.
As for CETA, the wonderful free trade act with the EU, the public has had no input into those discussions, no feedback, making the agreement a decidedly non-democratic article that one would have to assume favours large corporate businesses. This is particularly true with reference to NAFTA within which foreign corporations are allowed to sue the government for perceived losses - and have done so - and have won - all at the taxpayer’s expense. This will also be available to corporations within CETA.
As for the thousands of jobs it is supposedly going to create, this is simply political conjecture. The same was promised for NAFTA, but the net gains in the workforce were null. Certainly some bureaucratic jobs will be created or maintained, but the average small business, the average worker - whose wages have stagnated over the past thirty years - will see little if any real gains from this, other than the ongoing trend in the race towards the lowest wage for workers.
Considering where the party base comes from, and recognizing the racism that is apparent in Canada towards its First Nations, it was no surprise that no mention was made of accomplishments in economic, health, education, political, environmental and other areas concerning the indigenous people of Canada. There are none that are significant. Perhaps when Harper indicated that the north was opening up its resources this is perhaps what he was referring to - his ongoing program to disenfranchise the First Nations and open up all their territory for the exploitation of the consumer economy that is teetering on the brink of both financial and environmental collapse.
Harper did mention that he was going to continue to call a spade a spade in foreign relations. Allow me to do the same.
As much as Canada supports Israel unequivocally with its apartheid approach to Palestinians, he is guilty of crimes under international human rights law and international war law. When foreign companies - mostly mining companies - operate in third world countries, they are doing so with the backing of the Canadian taxpayer who are thus helping ruin sensitive ecological environments as well as destroying ethnic indigenous cultures. Canada has willingly followed the U.S. with its international humanitarian and war crimes in its wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Serbia - and in its interventions in other countries (Haiti comes to mind - where the U.S. engineered, with Canada’s help, the removal of a democratically elected president). When Harper goes on about other countries racism and humanitarian laws, he does not recognize that Canada does the same with its indigenous population.
Harper has instituted two Orwellian offices within his bureaucratic structure - the Office of Religious Freedom and the Office for Democratic Reform. The former is a cover for his hard-right populist Christian dominionism, and with his racist bias against Islam, it is doubtful that it has much to do with religious freedom, and more to do with promoting his own dogma.
For the latter, it is simply laughable - Canada’s system, while nominally democratic, is not truly there. The simplest fix would be to get rid of the first past the post system of voting and have run-off elections so that whoever wins must actually have a majority of the vote, no matter how small - a simple idea that all in the electorate could understand. As for the Senate, it is inherently a non-democratic institution, and neither elections nor rearrangement of its apportionment will make it democratic. For more democracy, it needs to be abolished - otherwise leave it alone as everyone at least understands it is a partisan patronage reward for whomever is in power.
So yes, Harperland is wonderful for the minions of Conservative supporters, but leaves a lot to be desired in creating a healthy community, a healthy world community. Handing out dribs and drabs of tax credits and cheaper TV channels does not add up to the increasing power of corporations - backed by the government - to keep wages low and give more profits to government supported private corporations.
So while the speech was great for the already converted, and will help keep ‘the base’ - sounds rather al-Qaedish, does it not - it will do little for those that can do some of their own thinking beyond what the party is telling them to believe in. And I do note, “I expect people to be held accountable for his actions.”
And oh, by the way, if the world economy is struggling how can Canada be lifted by a rising tide? Or is it just a hot air balloon, an economic bubble as it were?