I have voted in every federal, provincial and municipal election since I turned 18. That's almost 40 years of voting. My preference in these elections, which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, is to vote Liberal. But I have voted for other parties too. I have supported the NDP on occasion, and voted Marxist-Leninist in a federal election when I was probably 20 in order to register a "protest" vote: this was not my greatest electoral moment, I admit. I have even voted Conservative ( gasp!). The year was 1988 and the issue was free trade and I supported Brian Mulroney's initiative and voted against John Turner. History seems to support my decision. In other elections, I have toyed with the idea of voting Conservative when faced with weak Liberal choices: choices like Stephane Dionne and Paul Martin, or even Jean Chretien in his later administrations. I admit that, provincially, I supported Bob Rae, only to regret my decision shortly after, but not really liking the prospect of David Peterson. And, recently, in the provincial election of last fall, I really had a hard time supporting Dalton McGuinty's government, and ended up voting for an NDP long-shot, only because I couldn't vote for Frank Klees, our local MPP. I have never supported another local, Belinda Stronach, even when she became a Liberal, because I saw her defection from the Conservatives as sleazy opportunism.
My point is that, while a life-long Liberal, I have always had a grudging admiration for the reasonable Conservative point of view. In a former blog, I praised Joe Clark for his view of Canada as a "community of communities", which ran counter to the views of my all-time political hero, Pierre Trudeau. History has indicated that Clark was right, and Trudeau was an idealist whose ideas were wonderful, but not practical. I have supported Brian Mulroney, despite my dislike for the man personally: he always seemed slimy, but his concept of Canada was not far off the mark. And, provincially, Bill Davis guided Ontario with a steady, if rather dull hand, but his educational policies put Ontario in the right direction for almost 20 years, until the ruinous policies and antagonisms of Mike Harris ruined what was a fine system and turned it into a run-of-the-mill programme that resembles some of the worst of American educational ideas.
So, as a Liberal, I find that I am actually longing for the days of the old-time Canadian Progressive Conservatism of gentlemen such as John Diefenbaker, Robert Stanfield ( probably the most underrated Canadian politician in the 20th century), William Davis, Brian Mulroney, Joe Clark and others. As a matter of fact, a gentlemen by the name of Sinclair Stevens, a minister in many Mulroney governments, is a frequent visitor in our local Tim Horton's. I often see him and wish I had the chutzpah to go up to him, shake his hand and buy him a large double-double.
Because you see, gentle reader, that this particular breed of Conservative politician has vanished from the Canadian landscape. Instead, we have the type of Conservative idealogy espoused by the likes of Ralph Klein, Mike Harris, Preston Manning, Stockwell Day, Tim Hudak, Rob Ford, Tony Clement, Frank Klees, and the most despicable of all, Stephen Harper.
These people are not Progressive Conservatives, the type that I could vote against but still admire and not cringe when they won power. No, the above named men are anathema to everything I believe and wish for my country, province and locality. And those who support them are, I believe, mostly unaware of what they are. They believe that these men are honourable, trustworthy, and wish to guide Canada into a bright and responsible future.
They are, in fact, the enemy of Canadian democracy, for the following reasons:
1) In 2011, the Harper Conservatives were held in Contempt of Parliament, in the first case against a minister of the crown, Bev Oda, and in the second case against the entire cabinet, for failing to provide opposition requests for details pertaining to government costs on certain programmes. Never in the history of Canadian politics has a cabinet, and therefore an entire government, been charged with contempt.
2) Twice, the Harper Conservatives prorogued Parliament. By suspending Parliament, they avoided having to deal with opposition challenges. This is the rough equivalent of a spoiled child who doesn't get its way picking up his ball and going home, rather than facing his playmates who want to play a different game. Admittedly, Harper was in a minority situation at the time, but prorogation is a drastic step, and he did it TWICE, thus showing his disdain for Parliamentary democracy.
3) The Robo-call Scandal is perhaps a tempest in a teapot, but it shows that this breed of Conservatives will do ANYTHING to win an election, including place misleading calls to possible Liberal supporters to go somewhere else to cast a vote in an election, only to find that the location they've been sent is bogus. More of this will be revealed.
4) Attack ads. An excellent column in the Toronto Star deals with this issue, so I won't repeat it. Suffice to say that the recent ads against Bob Rae are offensive in their juvenile tone and name calling, and are reminiscent of the attacks against Michael Ignatieff in the last election campaign. What's different about these ads, though, is the fact that there is NO election campaign on-going: the next federal election is 3 years away. But the Harper Conservatives are counting on the disgust felt by the electorate with the low tone and childish quality of political debate in Canada, thus creating another low voter turnout next time, which will probably benefit the incumbent Conservatives and result in another victory for them.
5) The book Harperland: the Politics of Control , written by the journalist Lawrence Martin, paints a somewhat unflattering portrait of the type of administration practiced by Stephen Harper. It shows a man who is in unquestionned control of his party and government, and will tolerate little or no opposition to him or his inner circle of advisors. According to the book, Harper is an autocrat and is a believer in a type of realpolitik that sees the world in black or white, friend or enemy, and where winning is the only thing that matters.
There are other issues besides these. Locally, Rob Ford's battle with the city council on the issue of transit shows how the new non-Progressive Conservative feels about defeat in any type of council on an issue that is democratically debated and voted. Provincially, Tim Hudak berates McGuinty on any issue he can think of without offering any type of alternative: the upcoming provincial budget will prove to be very contentious and will, in all likelihood, result in another election, one the electorate doesn't want. The CBC discusses all these regularly on The National's segment entitled "At Issue", where the commentators routinely decry the state of Canadian democracy. Indeed, it is in a shambles and is disgraceful.
Stephen Harper and his brand of Conservative thugs and lackies are to blame. And his heros, named above, enabled him to get to this low point.
I strongly urge all my Conservative friends to resist them, and vote against them. Or, if you can't do that, please get involved within your local Conservative riding association and try to get a more reasonable agenda back where we need it: an agenda that allows for decency, tolerance of other viewpoints, and acceptance of loss of debate or votes when that happens.
In other words, the type of politics practiced by Brian Mulroney, Joe Clark and Bill Davis. Oh, for the good old days .... sounds rather conservative, doesn't it ??