Sunday, April 12, 2015

Contempt - Always And Everywhere


Evidence emerged last week that, when concerns were expressed about Mike Duffy being appointed to the Senate from P.E.I., Stephen Harper brushed them aside as irrelevant. The evidence should remind us that Harper's default position -- on everything -- is contempt. Frances Russell writes:

As Parliament  and Canadians ready themselves for the unrolling of one of the juiciest Conservative scandals in Canada’s colourful history – the Mike Duffy, Pamela Walin, Patrick Brazeau Senate Expenses Affair – one of the country’s leading political scientists says the sitting prime minister is going out of his way to show his contempt of parliament.

“He’s very smart, he’s very shrewd,” University of Toronto professor of government Nelson Wiseman says.

“I believe accurately that most Canadians do not understand how parliament works, don’t understand parliamentary traditions and they don’t much care,” he continued in an interview. “And he (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) was vindicated in that view in the last election when he was promoted from being a minority prime minister to being a majority prime minister.”

Canadian parliamentary democracy has evolved differently from British parliamentary democracy:

In December, 2008, Canadians got to see our governmental shortcomings up close. The newly-elected  prime minister (Harper) had lost the confidence of parliament but was able to wheedle an inexperienced governor general into doing his bidding and handing the government to him and his party during a climactic – and fated – meeting in Rideau Hall.

By contrast, Wiseman continues, “in Britain when they have an election, the prime minister who has just been defeated vacates 10 Downing Street that same day.”

Canada, he suggests, has “gone off the rails” thanks to our proximity to the U.S. and its starkly different separation of powers governance.

“The authoritarianism is completely unsettling,” Wiseman continues. “Parliament is withering away. The government has been replaced by the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) and it’s just a referendum on the prime minister when you have an election.”

The next election will be about very big issues. Mr. Harper will try to convince us that it's all about balancing the budget. But it's worth remembering what Peter Russell -- professor emeritus of political science also at the University of Toronto -- said before the last election:

“Because I really fear…this may sound extreme…that if the Harper Conservatives were to win a majority in the House of Commons, it would be an indication that parliamentary crime pays…

“We’re the fourth oldest democracy in the world. I treasure it…[don’t put it] in the hands or people who don’t treasure it or respect it…[and] try to prevent a majority from killing it…

“I’ve never been more worried in my entire lifetime of democratic citizenship in Canada about the possible outcome of an election.”

If Stephen Harper wins the next election, Canadians will know contempt -- always and everywhere.


Dana said...

The evidence certainly seems to show that a lot of Canadians enjoy being held in contempt.

They can enjoy Harper's as well as mine.

If the 60% or so of us who don't want another Harper government demonstrate enough contempt for the remaining percentage who apparently do want another Harper government perhaps they'll stay home on election day basking in clouds of contemptuous bliss.

Owen Gray said...

They might even figure out that Harper is -- when push comes to shove -- contemptuous of them, Dana.

Just ask Mike Duffy.

Toby said...

Owen said, "They might even figure out that Harper is -- when push comes to shove -- contemptuous of them, Dana."

That may be true, Owen, but his base will vote for him anyway. My Veteran friends are totally disgusted with Harper and his cronys but plan on voting Conservative in the coming election. Why? Because they won't vote Liberal and, "There is no one else."

This phenomenon puzzles me no end. Why do people vote for individuals and a party which makes their life worse? There was a book on this, What's the matter with Kansas.

Owen Gray said...

Thomas Frank wrote another book titled "The Wrecking Crew," Toby.

The title applies as much to the Harper Conservatives as it did to the American Republicans.

Dana said...

Similar to farmers, Toby.

Get treated like shit and go back for more.

I find it very difficult to have rewarding relationships or communications with people who don't or won't understand that they are bringing the grief they experience down on their own heads. Sympathy for them is also very difficult.

They're like junkies in that way and just like junkies they are not be trusted.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

I'm betting Owen, that the silent majority will come through and throw Harper. Many have realized what a horrible mistake it was to not vote in the last election. Also there is an active move to get people out to vote in Oct. This of course would not happen if Harper once again fraudulently stays in power.

Owen Gray said...

I hope you're right. Pam. It seems to me that, if anything, the Duffy trial underscores the difference between what Harper promises and what he produces.

Anonymous said...

I don't care you people are clubbing it to death in Harper's position of favor not you Owen Grey they are not all but allot of them uninformed...

Um it takes allot of steadfastness to hold the course...

Cheers ,

Owen Gray said...

He's not going to change course, Mogs. It's full speed ahead over the cliff.

Anonymous said...


I live in a riding that has a Lib MP. Although it leans toward Conservative.

I won't vote conservative and I won't vote for the Lib MP because of Bill C-51 (among other reasons).

The only other choice is NDP, who really don't have a hope of electing an MP here.

So, so much for strategic voting.

In how many other ridings are people facing the same thing?

And we wonder why we get what we get.

Owen Gray said...

You have defined the problem precisely, Anon. Politics has always been messy.

Sometimes the deciding factors are which choice is the least obnoxious -- and the most realistic.

Norm said...

Anon @ 8:51 am
Please hold your nose and vote Lib if there is any chance of them winning a seat.
It's anyone but Harper.