Lawrence Martin has admitted that the title for his latest book was inspired by Rick Pearlstein's examination of the Nixon administration. However, Martin writes, Harperland is not Nixonland -- at least not yet:
Harperland is not in a league with Nixonland, certainly not on the basis of what we know now. But that doesn’t mean that the abuse of power by this government is not of an extraordinary nature. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t shadings of character and behaviour that are similar to Nixon’s.
There’s been a siege mentality at work here that calls to mind those times. We have a leader who seems incapable of escaping his brooding resentments and authoritarian urges. Many observers talk of a paranoia strain in the Harper team which has led to a reliance on the dark arts, a reliance which, in terms of volume, goes beyond anything we have seen in Ottawa as far as memory reaches.
Canada, has never been immune to the abuse of power. But, under Harper, Canada and Canadians have been treated with more contempt than ever before:
Not helping the Conservative case was their leader becoming the first prime minister to be found in contempt of parliament. It was for refusing to share basic information on program costing with parliament’s democratically-elected representatives.
Not helping was the prime minister’s instituting of an unprecedented vetting and censorship system wherein all information is controlled from the centre. Resultant muzzling stories are extraordinary. The science community is so distrusted that Harper operatives, in part of what commentator Allan Gregg sees as an Orwellian obsession, shadows distinguished scientists with chaperones – media minders as they’re called – to see they don’t step out of line.
Not helping have been many other developments. Campaigns to discredit opponents were a staple of the Nixon years and have been, though not to the same degree, of the Harper years. Targets include, to name just a few, diplomat Richard Colvin, Veterans’ affairs advocate Sean Bruyea, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, and budget officer Kevin Page. Between elections, the Harper team has brought in character-assassination advertising, much of it dishonest or out of context, to a degree far beyond what our politics has seen before.
Our prime minister is a doodle. We've never had one like him before. And the longer he stays, the more damage he does.