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CKA Uber
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 12:58 am
 


Filibuster Cartoons
Title: Harper's legacy (click to view)
Date: April 4, 2012
I wrote the following article for the Huffington Post, but figured it would work just as well as an accompaniment to this this toon.

The 2012 federal budget was the last silky adornment to be peeled off in Stephen Harper's long dance of seven veils with Canadian Conservatives. Turns out there's not much underneath.

For the last six years, anyone who's turned to the Conservative Party for a coherent agenda of smaller government, lower spending, substantially reformed taxation, and a fundamental reexamination of the cause and purpose of all three, has been forced to nurse on a series of defensive excuses.

First it was all about making conservatism "electable" in Canada. This entailed merging the Canadian Alliance with the Progressive Conservatives -- a party that had long since abandoned any pretence of being on the right -- and Harper's subsequent Orwellian obsession with keeping all candidates of his new big-tent as muzzled and ideologically neutered as possible. There'll be plenty of time to be feisty and right-wing once the Conservatives actually took power, they were told, but in the meantime, for heaven's sake, don't frighten the poor voters!

Then the Conservatives actually did take power, but only under the embarrassing circumstances of a minority parliament. You can't honestly expect genuinely conservative government when the House is dominated by three leftist parties, the new narrative went. Just stay quiet and hug the centre a little longer. Before you know it we'll have a majority and then the real fun can begin.

The whole totemic notion of a Conservative "hidden agenda" was thus always as much a covert promise to the right as it was a fearful conspiracy theory of the left, but with the big budget reveal Thursday -- the first in Year Zero of the Harper majority -- it seems the whole thing truly was just a big lefty lie.

Five billion in surgical spending cuts (over the course of three years) for a government with revenues totalling over $250 billion is neither radical, nor particularly right-wing (the Martin-Chretien years, as the budget itself notes, were harsher), nor is the elimination of 19,200 bureaucrats (largely through attrition) in a country that employs over 250,000, nor is a 10 per cent cut to the billion-dollar-a-year CBC.  What it is, as John Ivision quickly noted, is "a grand vision of still-big government."

There are no more excuses left. The world must now make peace with the fact that middling moderation is not merely a Harper "tactic," but rather an end unto itself. We've wasted a lot of time assuming otherwise, so a rhetorical update is long overdue.

You can't blame the man too much. Moderation and piecemeal reform does "work" to an extent, at least in the sense that one of the easiest ways for a government to remain in power is to govern as blandly and offensively as possible, though this is rarely the stuff from which memorable legacies are made. In botching his last opportunity to introduce an identifiably unique vision for Canadian governance, Harper has unambiguously stated that greatness is not within his grasp.

In his epic 2002 survey on political leadership, King of the Mountain, Arnold Ludwig concluded that the success rates of world leaders is ultimately determined just as much by bravery and risk-taking as any actual policy outcome. This is why, for instance, public polls routinely rank Pierre Trudeau and Ronald Reagan as among the greatest leaders of their respective countries.

Both men were obviously flawed, relatively ineffective, and (to a point) hypocrites, with wide gaps between promise and delivery, but also marvellous visionaries and storytellers capable of tapping into some powerful instinct of hope and ambition deep within the hearts of those they ruled. There was, in short, a core of principled authenticity in these leaders -- in Reagan's case, a love of individualism, in Trudeau's, a deep passion for national unity -- which either tempered, softened, or otherwise made palatable their unimpressive chore of managing the federal government.

No one has ever offered such a defence of Harper, and I very much doubt anyone ever will.  He has no story to tell, and his leadership has mostly highlighted, rather than hid, the ugly pettiness, vanity, arrogance, and authoritarianism that motivates the majority of democratic politicians who are too untalented to try harder.

The Prime Minister is an intelligent man, and in terms of his own ideological development, chronicled in books like William Johnson's heroic biography, he may still be one of the most brilliant men to ever run the nation, at least insofar that his depth of understanding of Canada and the greater "Canadian system" of interlocking relationships between government, business, interest groups, bureaucracy, media, and conventional wisdom is far more well-rounded and critical than any of those who have come before him.

Harper was well-equipped to be a Canadian Reagan, but his legacy will be that of a Bush. It may be a very long time indeed before the leadership of Canada is entrusted to another man capable of conjuring up an inspiring and engaging conservative path for Canada distinct from the over-governed, special interest marbled morass that this unspectacular budget seems so eager to preserve.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:09 am
 


That there is a great piece of writing. Don't agree wioht all of it, but it's just really well put together.

It's worth noting that some great leaders, to paraphrase an old idiom, "have greatness thrust upon them." Winston Churchill may be the classic example. That opportunity may yet come for Harper.

From my lefty point-of-view, as much as the right is disillusioned with Harper, I am moderately impressed by him. Not just because he didn't yank the steering wheel to the right, but because he has been an effective administrator. I've always had a soft spot for politicians who prefer running their government to parading around in front of the media.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:10 am
 


That there is a great piece of writing. Don't agree wioht all of it, but it's just really well put together.

It's worth noting that some great leaders, to paraphrase an old idiom, "have greatness thrust upon them." Winston Churchill may be the classic example. That opportunity may yet come for Harper.

From my lefty point-of-view, as much as the right is disillusioned with Harper, I am moderately impressed by him. Not just because he didn't yank the steering wheel to the right, but because he has been an effective administrator. I've always had a soft spot for politicians who prefer running their government to parading around in front of the media.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 7:58 am
 


I think the writer should have waited and done his thinking before putting words to paper. The cuts are severe. They are $5.2 billion out of discretionary spending and that is a very different case to being out of $250 billion. It could be as much as a 10% cut depending on just what is considered discretionary.

The job cuts are not mostly by attrition: that is another spreading myth. Only 7000 of them are. Further, there have already been thousands of unannounced layoffs and, the effect on unemployment will be far greater when the multiplier effect kicks in.

The comparison with the Martin years is something of a strawman. Chretien and Martin had shrunk the civil service to its lowest in a generation. I think it was about a 15% reduction with a growing population that makes it far more severe than that. There was little room for Flaherty and Harper since the civil service is already stretched thin. Many of the job losses now will be to essential services: cutting the funding and staff to the Diplomatic Corps; to safety and regulatory branches. They will cost lives in some instances and intelligence gathering and service to Canadians overseas.

To call Harper a brilliant man with a deep understanding of the nation and its "interlocking relationships" makes me wonder where the writer has been hiding for the past thirty years. Harper has nothing in his head but a Randian hatred for democracy and for people. His understanding of "interlocking relationships" springs from an abysmal ignorance of Canada's Constitution and history: a belief that Canada was never more than a collection of separate states joined in a defensive alliance. He would not know that provinces were intended to be in Macdonald's words, " Municipalities writ large.

My computer keeps freezing so I am posting while I can without further comment or any revision.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:12 am
 


Russell says it well!

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Harper undoing Canada

By: Frances Russell

Stephen Harper's Conservatives dislike Canada. They reject much of what the rest of the world values and praises about us -- our respect for cultural, linguistic and racial diversity; our sense of social responsibility towards one another; our support for collective as well as individual rights; our history of common institutions and programs specifically designed to buffer citizens, regions and provinces from the vagaries of uncontrolled market forces; our honoured international role as a moderate middle power and the originator of international peacekeeping.

For proof of the low esteem in which our current government regards Canadians and their country, look no further than Thursday's federal budget, the first where the Conservatives could fly their true colours thanks to the "strong, stable, majority Conservative government" frequently bragged about by the prime minister.

Harper's Canada is the exact opposite of the Canada he now keenly looks forward to dismantling. Respect for cultural, linguistic and racial diversity is being twisted into trolling the world for specific human widgets to power specific needs of business and industry. Refugees and families seeking reunification are to go to the back of the bus, if not be pushed right off. Intergenerational and interprovincial social and economic responsibility for each other as citizens, once the purview of a robust panoply of federal initiatives, is being downloaded onto the provinces after a short phase-out period.

Resources are to be exploited as fast as possible. Concern for the environment and the rights of aboriginal and other citizens are a distant second. Food safety is to be left to the food manufacturers, drug safety to the pharmaceutical industry, transportation safety to the transport industry. In the new, "liberated" marketplace, self- regulation is the mantra. When it comes to matters of human health and safety, individuals and families will be largely on their own.

The tax system is to be revolutionized. The ability-to-pay principle that undergirded tax policy throughout most of the 20th century is being reversed. Rich individuals and corporations will save ever more of their gains; the poor will be left to become ever-poorer. Simultaneously, social supports are being systematically dismantled.

Even the reworking of Canada's once-highly-esteemed public pension system has been perverted. It's a mean-minded and highly political savaging of any notion of intergenerational equity. The Harper government will maintain the current generous pension system for baby boomers and seniors -- not coincidentally their base vote -- while cutting pensions for their children and grandchildren and those least able to save for themselves -- the growing number of working poor families and young people.

The former are forced to spend all they earn just to survive. The latter face skyrocketing university and college tuition debt. Both face a bleak, ever-narrowing labour market and a crazily overpriced and inaccessible housing market. They are the first generation in many to know they will not only not have it better than their parents, but will have it much worse.

Harper, the man who co-authored the infamous 2000 Alberta firewall letter, abhors the 1982 Canadian Constitution and its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He is a strict constitutional constructionist. He believes in the Canada of Confederation in 1867 when Ottawa managed defence, foreign affairs, fisheries, the currency and penitentiaries and the provinces looked after matters of a local nature.

Unfortunately for Canadians, what were local matters 145 years ago now constitute government's biggest, most expensive and important programs -- health, education and social assistance. The notion that 10 provinces and three territories of vastly different size and wealth can be left to finance them on their own assisted by an equalization program whose future is now in doubt as it comes under increasing attack from the right, is simply a prescription for growing disparity - - and disunity.

It was all predictable. During his years with the libertarian National Citizens' Coalition, the prime minister seldom hid his disdain for Canada and Canadians. "Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status," he told the National Post in December 2000. In 1997, he asked an American audience not to "feel particularly bad" for Canada's unemployed. "They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance."

Most ominously in light of Thursday's budget, he told an NCC audience in 1994 that: "Whether Canada ends up with one national government or two governments or 10 governments, the Canadian people will require less government no matter what the constitutional status or arrangement of any future country might be."

Frances Russell is a Winnipeg

author and political commentator.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 4, 2012 A11


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:22 am
 


eureka wrote:
I think the writer should have waited and done his thinking before putting words to paper. .


Compensating for both a pathetic bias and hopeless comprehension with bullying reveals the depths of your dumbness.

You should stop.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:25 am
 


Zipperfish wrote:
From my lefty point-of-view, as much as the right is disillusioned with Harper, I am moderately impressed by him. Not just because he didn't yank the steering wheel to the right, but because he has been an effective administrator. I've always had a soft spot for politicians who prefer running


Me too. Eureka points out that he did/does pull on that steering wheel to some degree. I think the moderates are just relieved it didn't swerve the car all the way into the ditch. But he's the only leader who should be pm right now, neither the Libs or Dips are ready. And he's even doing some things I agree with, like immigration.


Last edited by andyt on Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:38 am
 


Gunnair wrote:
eureka wrote:
I think the writer should have waited and done his thinking before putting words to paper. .


Compensating for both a pathetic bias and hopeless comprehension with bullying reveals the depths of your dumbness.

You should stop.


Idiot!


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:43 am
 


eureka wrote:
Gunnair wrote:
eureka wrote:
I think the writer should have waited and done his thinking before putting words to paper. .


Compensating for both a pathetic bias and hopeless comprehension with bullying reveals the depths of your dumbness.

You should stop.


Idiot!


Jeez, Eureka. When Gunnair calles the quoted sentence bullying, you know it's not worth even replying to him. JJ can certainly stand up for himself, so if he really feels you done him wrong, he'll let you know. And he won't whinge about being bullied.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 11:34 am
 


Sorry JJ, but there's a lot of holes in your argument.

Harper's not doing anything major while in a minority government was based on nothing less than his tendency to try and bully those in Opposition instead of working cooperatively as is necessary when in a minroity situation, not because he couldn't accomplish anything. Previous minorities (Pearson's is a prime example) accomplished a lot when they worked with other parties instead of constanlty attacking them as Harper did from 2006 - 2011. Harper's unwillingness to be concilliatory was the main reason everyone ganged up on him every time he tried to ram through a bill based on conservatism.

I also don't necessarily agree with the "Harper may be one of the most brilliant leaders to run the nation" statement either. He's definitely shrewd and a very sharp tactician, but other leaders have been more brilliant (King, Pearson, Clark who were academics and/or professors). I guess it all depends what you are calling brilliant - his intelligence or his political ability.

Finally, his legacy is still too far away to be determined IMHO. He's might be taking small steps budget-wise, but he's made huge changes to Canada since the election - killing off the LGR, Wheat Board and introducing his omnibus crime bill. Those changes are huge, no matter whether you agree with them or not. The "Lefty lie" as you put it has been anything but.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:20 pm
 


bootlegga wrote:
other leaders have been more brilliant (King, Pearson, Clark who were academics and/or professors).
Are you saying mediocre minds can't become academics and/or professors?


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:33 pm
 


Yeah, Joe Clark, Stephan Dion, and Michael Ignatieff were all kind of the walking embodiments of mediocre. Being an egghead from a university means squat when it comes to day-to-day effectiveness and ability to command. This doesn't mean rush to the other side of the ability scale and elect a sammich person of the Sarah Palin ilk but being a "perfesser" really doesn't mean all that much either.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 3:38 pm
 


I think we should be very careful when using terms like brilliant, unless we include qualifiers or descriptions of brilliance.

I know quite a few people that are brilliant at one thing and complete morons at another.

They are still brilliant, but you would never know it until you put them to the single task they are brilliant at.

Harper is very sharp mathematically and with systems. He is a very good administrator. He does, however, have some serious flaws in the inspirational and leadership areas. So, as a whole, I would hesitate to call him a brilliant Prime Minister.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 3:49 pm
 


andyt wrote:
eureka wrote:
Gunnair wrote:

Compensating for both a pathetic bias and hopeless comprehension with bullying reveals the depths of your dumbness.

You should stop.


Idiot!


Jeez, Eureka. When Gunnair calles the quoted sentence bullying, you know it's not worth even replying to him. JJ can certainly stand up for himself, so if he really feels you done him wrong, he'll let you know. And he won't whinge about being bullied.



Ra ra sis boom bah! Yeaaaaahhhhhhh, Eureka!

Don't take much have your toadying feet sticking out of his ass.


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Last edited by Gunnair on Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 3:50 pm
 


eureka wrote:
Gunnair wrote:
eureka wrote:
I think the writer should have waited and done his thinking before putting words to paper. .


Compensating for both a pathetic bias and hopeless comprehension with bullying reveals the depths of your dumbness.

You should stop.


Idiot!


Oops...you tapped out already.


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