The last federal campaign saw the implosion of the Liberal party and a strong comeback for the Conservative party. After a long 13 year purgatory, this right wing party is finally back to power in Canada.
We must not be fooled by the looks of things though. The actual Conservative party has nothing to do with Brian Mulroney’s conservatives who governed the country from 1984 to 1993. This new conservative party, who has a his grass roots base mainly in the West while having very close links with far right Republican America, represents a real menace for Canadians and Quebecers on long term.
The bogus liberal
At the end of the Gomery Commission, opposition parties had its share of munitions to attack further more a Liberal party used by power and mostly, an exonorated Paul Martin who was far from being in control, always hesitating and not knowing what to do next.
In a minority government situation, a united opposition confronted the government and who was forced to change his political agenda by allowing more substancial social transfers to the provinces.
Stephen Harper, who had failed miserably in the 2004 election, saw a golden opportunity to reinvent himself and change the image of his party. Seing M. Harper during this campaign, it’s hard to figure out why he decided to associate himself the Canadian Alliance for so long.
The conservatives were really carefull through the campaign. Very few times did you hear a controversial political stance from their part. They did not want to discuss abortion or same sex marriage. In fact, M. Harper portrayed himself as a good « liberal » (in a classic sense) wanting to defend the sick and the poor while putting some order in this corrupt canadian state and protecting social programs that the population so desparately needs. As politicized citizens, we know better. We know this picture is wrong but the success of this theatrical masterpiece is complete.
The rule of image
M. Harper understood to perfection this old saying by Machiaveli : « The end justifies the needs ». The object is more important than the message. Everything is a question of confidence and perception. While portraying himself as a moderate (which he is not), he was able to gain the confidence of a growing number of people who were relunctant to vote for his party in the past.
All of this brings us to the image question in politics which surronds us everywhere those days. A new wardbrobe, a new haircut, playing with his emotions, try to look calm and in control of the situation (mostly by shutting up and kicking away his influencial MP’s and ultra-conservative close advisors who could bring him trouble), all of these elements put together were able to save his political career and revive the far-right movement in Canada.
Who is to blame for all of this? Seeing that the Conservative campaign was solely centered towards a powerfull chief image and a strong « need for real change » movement, newspapers and medias everywhere should’ve questionned other MP’s in a more insistfull way to know their ideas and see how this vision of change is coherent.
The same goes for Stephen Harper, they should’ve confronted him a little bit more, while having some MP’s or advisors making controversial statements contradicting his. The general population also has a responsibility to inform itself, not only by our big media conglomerates but also by more alternative information sources, newspaper articles or specialized journals.
The Conservatives had all the playing field for itself. Normally, it takes two to tango. When you’re alone a field, you can do whatever you want. In sports, if the team you’re playing against does nothing to stop you, even though this team is better than you, you’re going to win, even if you know you didn’t deserve to win. This doesn’t make sense but that’s exactly what happened on January 23rd, Stephen Harper’s great mascarade fooled the Canadian population.
A new party?
In reality, the Conservative party is the same that it’s always been. A party composed by a majority of Canadian Alliance alumnies who wants to impose a Ralph Klein like government to Canadians while flirting dangerously with America’s far-right politics.
Where are the old progressive-conservatives who should still hold their own in this new party? They’re still there alright, but their influence has declined considerably in this present Conservative party (who evacuated the word « progressive » from its name, just so you know).
It’s easy to see that while being the official opposition, most of the important opposition critic spots were held by ancien Alliance MP’s. There’s a logic and troubling continuity between the political stances of the Conservative party (anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-Kyoto, less state as possible, etc.) and those defended by the Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party (ancester of the other two partys).
Knowing that, how can we explain this sudden popularity boost for the Conservatives? The population connected to them mainly because they talked about simple every day things close from their lives and who are bothering them right now (corruption, fiscal imbalance, violence, lowering of the GST). Other parties (except maybe the Bloc québécois) weren’t able to do the same as well during the campaign.
Stephen Harper has promised to put order in all of these things and the general population fueled by their fears and the demonization of Liberal corruption were instinctively attracted to these promises. The need for change was also a strong factor. People wanted to slam the door shut on a corrupt government used by power.
To paraphrase Paul Martin, the Conservatives truly have an hidden agenda. The media did a good job of portraying Stephen Harper as a moderate but the fact is that he’s still very conservative and essentially homophobic.
He is the one who was still opposed recently to same-sex marriage even though nearly 60% of Canadians say the opposite. Let me remind you that seven provincial and territorial courts and the highest court of the country have already sanctionned this question. Mr. Harper still says he’s ready to consult the House of Commons once again with a free vote.
There’s also some questions surrounding the right for abortion. Several influent conservative MP’s are openly opposed to the liberty of choice, but during the campaign, Mr. Harper didn’t want to scare up Canadians so he decided to shut those MP’s up.
The links between America’s National Rifle Association and some conservative MP’s are well know. Mr. Harper was openly opposed to the National Firearms Registry and will probably support its abolishment if the opportunity presents itself.
A bad choice for Quebec
And Quebec in all of this? What do we win by supporting the Conservatives? There’s nothing much positive about the election of a Conservative government for Québec besides a possible decentralization or better respect of constitutionnal competencies of the provinces.
Social conservatism is practically dead in Québec. Québec is one of the most progressive states of the Occidental world, I don’t see how Quebecers would like to go back in time 50 years. Here’s something to think about : is Mr. Harper ready to defend the French language, not only in Quebec but elsewhere in Canada? We know th
at in the past, he wasn’t the greatest advocate for bilinguism. He still has to prove himself. For the environment, the Conservatives want to abolish Canada’s participation in the Kyoto protocol even tought Quebec is making huge efforts with limited financial resources to reduce his glasshouse effect gases while promoting hydroelectricity and eolian energy.
It is true that some in Quebec (mainly the ADQ with their autonomistic approach) will satisfy themselves with a constitutionnal openness towards Quebec, but we must go further than that. The national question has not yet been settled once and for all. To develop a better society, we must have a global view and integrated development approach profitable for most and not only for a small priviliged group of the population. That is why a sustainable development approach is so strong in Quebec. Even though they managed to elect 10 MP’s, the Conservatives are still flunking big time in Quebec.
The population expressed itself on January the 23rd. I had never hoped for a Conservative win, the same goes for the Liberals. Canadians are very divided, and it reflected in the electoral results. A minority government more fragile than the Liberal minority government unfolded. I think queer people and allies all across Canada can be happy about those results mainly because Mr. Harper’s team won’t be able to pass their hidden agenda, the far-right conservative legislation they’ve been hoping to impose to Canadians for so long.
With the NDP and the Bloc holding the balance of power, the Parliament will have a « Big Brother » type progressive watch on this new government to make sure it behaves himself.
What can we say about the Liberals? They’ve got what they had coming. You can’t constantly violate our country laws without expecting being caught eventually. We live in a democracy and Canada is not incarnated by the Liberal party like the Nazis were incarnating Germany at one time. (which is not quite the same but you see my point). I think that this period of time off for the Liberals should be the perfect time to reflect on the past sins and clean up the rotten core of this party.
Now, let’s see what the Conservatives have for us. It’s sure not gonna be much better than before but as citizens living in a free democracy, we’re the ones sanctionning our government, we have at least 2-3 years to make up our minds. So, Mr. Harper, see you in 3 years!