Michael Harris has written a devastating indictment of the Harper regime. The piece is a little long. After all, the man has done a lot of damage in eight years. But, by far, most of the damage has been done since the prime minister was given his majority:
It was revealing. Unlike his minority governments, where a murder of political crows flapped overhead waiting for the fatal misstep, after 2011 there was no vote Harper could not win, and no cabal in the Opposition ranks that could topple him.
The new prime minister ushered in his majority government with a performance that both confirmed and contradicted some of his earlier pronouncements. It was true, as he once predicted, that the country was becoming unrecognizable through fundamental changes pushed through in his majority. Many of them had to do with the effective deconstruction of Canada’s democratic institutions. It was untrue, outrageously so, as he claimed, that he would be the prime minister of all Canadians after his election in 2011.
As the country quickly discovered, Harper was the Great Divider, pitting one group of citizens against another, a tactic singled out and criticized by former prime minister Joe Clark. He was the champion of a voracious corporate sector, the practitioner of bully-boy diplomacy, and the generous patron of the police and security establishment.
What makes Harris' piece so interesting is what insiders -- some anonymously -- have told Harris:
A former Harper cabinet minister told me that the prime minister despises the Charter almost as much as he does the man who gave it to the country, Pierre Trudeau.
“Mandatory minimum sentences have no rational basis,” criminal lawyer Clayton Ruby told me. “One of the reasons Harper put them forward is that he hates judges and doesn’t trust them. So he takes their discretionary power away from them and hands more power to the prosecutors. Now a prosecutor can make a deal with an accused, waiving a minimum sentence in return for a guilty plea. The real decisions will now not be made in open court, but behind closed doors.”
“The reason for the muzzling [of scientists] is clear: control the message,” said Jeff Hutchings, an internationally acclaimed fish biologist from Dalhousie University. “This is like an Inquisition – ‘Who did you speak to, what did you say’. This wreaks of an atmosphere of suppression.”
Harper's legacy comes down to one word: tyranny. That is why, Harris writes, the 2015 election will mark a watershed:
The year 2015 will be a Rubicon election for Canada. That is the year that Canadians will have to choose between a national security state run by an autocratic cheerleader of the oil industry, and any semblance of a healthy, inclusive democracy – provided, of course, the opposition parties present that option. It is a matter of serious debate whether the Harper government’s work can be undone, or whether he has created a new normal in the country’s public life.
Mr. Harper has worked hard to make his changes permanent. The next election will determine whether or not he has succeeded.