Monday, March 09, 2015

Sometimes Wisdom Comes With Age


The conventional wisdom holds that Stephen Harper's base is old and intellectually lazy. I suspect that's true. But we need be neither physically nor intellectually frail as we age. Michael Clague, who will turn 75 this year, reminds us of that simple truth. He certainly carries no brief for Harper's anti-government:

The very idea of government that Mr. Harper conveys is not in the tradition of our three great parties. His Conservative party campaigns on being anti-government. Previous debates among Progressive Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats were around how much government should itself provide programs and services, but all recognized that government has a responsibility to make sure they are provided. It was part of the social contract with citizens. Now our federal government takes no interest in the idea of a social contract. Let the chips fall.

This federal government does not inspire Canadians to believe in the best our country has to offer. It mobilizes us through fear. Fear of crime. Fear and anger of Big Government. Fear of external threats. Fear that environmental action will destroy our economy.

Like the man who has insisted that the present government bear his name, Clague knows that he and it are not who or what they claim to be:

I would have thought such fundamentalist conservatism would include a staunch defence of civil liberties, human rights, transparency, truthfulness and the need for public, democratic accountability. Instead, we have an aggrandizement of unaccountable political power in the prime minister and his office. Omnibus budget bills contain so much policy over so many subjects that profoundly affect Canadian lives that it is impossible for the opposition parties, the public and the media to decipher them for meaningful discussion and debate. 

And he knows what a true leader does:

Whether my next prime minister is 56 or 75, I'm looking for a leader who is frank with Canadians about the immense challenges that are shaping our future, who reminds us that there are no simple solutions, and who recognizes that compromise and give and take are essential. I'm looking for a leader who calls Canadians to public service and commits to making a difference for the health and well-being of all members of society. I'm looking for a leader whose inspiration engages us to take responsibility for building a better a country -- a leader who is accountable, who acknowledges her or his shortcomings, who encourages divergent views, and who does not pander to our base instincts.

Mr. Clague reminds us that, sometimes, wisdom comes with age.


Lorne said...

Clague's article is excellent, Owen, and deserves to be widely read. It is good to see someone who puts to the lie the notion that as we age, we become more conservative. Clearly, Clague's years have given him the broader perspective needed to appreciate what Canada has been and can be again.

Owen Gray said...

Harper has always commanded support from a very narrow slice of the electorate, Lorne. He's been successful because he's been able to leverage the support of that relatively small group of supporters.

If Harper is to be sent packing, the numbers on the other side of the equation -- far greater than Harper's supporters -- are going to have to organize themselves strategically.

Hugh said...

I think we are looking a time of transition. The age of economic growth, going back 70 years, is coming to an end. But so much debt has built up, in expectation of that growth continuing.

Owen Gray said...

But remember how we arrived at these deficits, Hugh. The Golden Age of Economic Growth featured much higher taxation rates on the wealthy.

When the neo-conservatives told us that lower taxation on the wealthy would create jobs and growth, they were selling snake oil.

Folks like Mr. Harper are still selling the same medicine.

Anonymous said...

Ya Owen they are not selling 'snake oil' they are creating cushy corporate board room jobs like Mulroney did for himself with NAFTA. They are literally selling themselves as whores do to the corporate world. They have no soul look at the pictures of Harper his eyes are completely vacant.

Um they live like royalty and have disdain for the common Canadian. Plus they believe they are above the law like royalty normally does. After all they make the law and most of it is detrimental to the common Canadian citizen.

This is the neighborhood where Harper's home is in the Mount Royal neighbourhood in Calgary Alberta Canada.

And the opposition nor the media talks allot about this one:

It did get out though but not through MSM and was never followed up on. Mr. Stephen Joesph Harper "Tough On Crime" PM should have resigned over this one.

So his son has a grad party lots of under aged kids get drunk and Harper gets the 'get out of jail free card'.

Must be nice to be a member of nuevo rich royalty. You can do whatever you want and get away with it.

Mogs Moglio

Owen Gray said...

Whatever happens to Harper's political career, Mogs, you can be sure that financial worries won't be on his platter.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think Mr. Claque makes a common mistake of perceiving the Harper government as conservative. Our political keel has shifted, listing hard to the right. The Liberals are today's conservatives and the Conservatives have moved far to the right of anything that could be deemed genuinely conservative.

I don't see the political spectrum as linear but, rather, circular. Democracy is at the bottom of the circle, totalitarianism at the top. Liberalism is dead-centre bottom. To the left is socialism while conservatism is to the right.

Yet as you move ever further left or right you move away from democracy into increasing authoritarianism until both left and right eventually meet in totalitarianism at the top of the circle. Along the path forces such as secrecy, opacity and unaccountability steadily displace democratic elements.

Owen Gray said...

That's an interesting schematic you propose, Mound. Certainly, today's Liberals are closer to Brian Mulroney's Conservatives than they are to the party of Justin's father.

And the NDP has shed all remnants of socialism.

Perhaps we're closer to the thirties, when there were totalitarian governments on both the left and the right.

The Mound of Sound said...

It's certainly been well studied and documented, Owen, that the era of neoliberalism has marked a significant expansion of illiberal democracy and a commensurate decline in liberal democracy. Wherever it comes to dominate politics, market fundamentalism operates at cross purposes to liberal democracy. Unfortunately none of our major parties seems cognizant of this impairment of our democracy.

Owen Gray said...

As I recall, back in the early 70's, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell was warning business of what he called "an excess of democracy," Mound.

It would appear that the movers and shakers took his now infamous memo very seriously.