Ralph Surette has had Stephen Harper's number for a long time. He's a veteran journalist and he knows a charlatan when he sees one. Bill C-51 is a superb example of how Harper operates:
Not that the bill doesn't have some good points -- but that's Harper's genius. He starts with a vaguely decent argument, then takes it to extremes -- but only to that precise extreme that can be muffled by the repetition of talking points.
But the bill itself is only the half of it. The deeper, ignored part is that the Harper government can't be trusted with laws of any kind. The omnibus bills delivered on short notice and passed in a whiz to avoid debate, the error-ridden bills passed with flagrant arrogance, the crippling of parliamentary committees and the abuse of parliamentary process at every level, the attack on the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and ultimately the two-faced hypocrisy of running a "law and order" government that abuses the law whenever it suits its ideology -- none of this gets into the talk. Harper is a repeat offender whose previous record is never taken into account.
What really disturbs Surette is that the opposition parties seem incapable of blowing the whistle on the prime minister:
Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair has made himself into an effective prosecutor-style interrogator in the Commons, but 90 per cent of his performance doesn't get past the Ottawa bubble. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau muddles as we await further policy. Neither focuses the big picture. (The Green Party's Elizabeth May, on the other hand, does -- but hers is a small voice). Mulcair and Trudeau are both trapped in the business of scoring points on the 24-hour news cycle. That's Harper's rink, where he stickhandles around them handily. As long as the focus is on the here and now, yesterday's dirty tricks are forgotten.
Harper has given them lots to work with:
It has always baffled me, given the richness of the material, that the opposition leaders didn't do this: keep a crisp little mantra of the Harper record in their coat pocket and recite it every time they speak in order to keep the Harper agenda in view: the electoral fraud, the destruction of environmental and fishery laws, the crippling of the census (done to protect privacy, no less -- no sign of those concerns in the terror bill), the muzzling of scientists, the tax persecution of environmental groups and charities considered unfriendly to Harperism (even a bird-watching group in Ontario that called last summer for a pesticide to be banned had Revenue Canada sicced on them), the veterans, the hundreds of millions of tax dollars wasted to promote the party, the bung-ups in military procurement, the chopping up of the tax system for partisan reasons ...
When are they going to get their act together?