Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Harper Government

Much has been written over the last few days about the "Harperization" of Canada's government. As much as the term "Harper Government" is an affront to to all Canadians, it is an absolutely accurate characterization of what has happened under this prime minister.

Jeffrey Simpson argues that the present government is not -- nor was it ever -- a conservative government. He makes the point, not by comparing the Harper government to previous Liberal regimes, but by harkening back to the record of the Progressive Conservatives under Brian Mulroney. Since returning to Parliament, the Harperites have moved to quickly end debate and pass legislation which would abolish the long gun registry and the Canadian Wheat Board. And, of course, there is the omnibus crime bill:

Mr. Mulroney’s party, enjoying two huge majorities, never moved on these fronts. The PCs had a minister of state for the Wheat Board who was committed to the institution’s proper functioning. They tweaked the criminal justice system but they never dreamed of an all-fronts “tough on crime” approach in the face of overwhelming evidence that such an approach wouldn’t work. And, if anything, they wanted to toughen gun-control legislation, not weaken it, although, in fairness, the long-gun registry came after Mr. Mulroney left office.

All of these initiatives sprang from the government's Reform Party roots. And, as Simpson makes clear, anyone who thinks the Reform Party is dead is whistling into the wind. Traditionally Conservatives have stood for conservation. But we have it on the authority of Environment Minister Peter Kent that conservation is nowhere on this government's agenda. They are a 166 member wrecking crew, focused on overturning Canadian institutions -- not the least of which is Parliament itself. As Andrew Coyne notes:

Parliament, in this version, is not a body of legislators charged with scrutinizing bills and holding government to account. It is simply an electoral college. Its sole function is to convert a minority of the popular vote, through the alchemy of the first past the post electoral system, into a majority of the seats. Should it fail in that responsibility, delivering what the British call a “hung Parliament,” the government is entitled to carry on without it, as governments have in recent years: ignoring confidence votes, or proroguing Parliament to avoid them.
The simple truth is that the government of Canada has become government of one man, by one man and -- in the final analysis -- for one man.

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