Marci McDonald’s 2006 article in The Walrus, Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons, gave us the first systematic analysis of the hidden Christian fundamentalist agenda of Stephen Harper’s goals for Canada – the establishment of the conditions necessary for the Second Coming of you-know-who. Who knows if Harper is such a fantastical fool that he really believes in all that anti-evolutionary, anti-woman, anti-gay, pro-Israel STFUness. What matters is that a bunch of nutbars has such power in the corridors of Canadian political power.
Harper has cemented a partnership with people who have become astonishingly powerful in the US and whose religious ideology nicely parallels social conservatism. Harper is known to be a fiscal conservative, but has needed the support of old-style Progressive Conservatives who haven’t necessarily had the ability to attract the support of the far right wing – if they had, they wouldn’t have lost their Party. Each time Harper throws an anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-Israel, law and order dog biscuit to this crowd he wins votes that would not necessarily fall into his lap via fiscal conservatism alone.
Is all this becoming more clear to Canadians?
Antonia Zerbisias’ interview with McDonald, now the author of a book on these issues - The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada - provides us with a startling (to some people) collection of issues that have come to the fore of late that certainly substantiate the writer’s painstaking research, from the cancellation of Paul Martin’s national daycare programme to the introduction of private members’ bills that would limit women’s free reproductive choice to Harper and company’s otherwise inexplicably over-the-top support of Israeli policy towards Palestine and general opposition to same-sex marriage.
That’s a cartload of issues and each one deserves it’s own discussion. I’m going to have a brief look at how acceptance of the Fundy Formula effects women or, for the sake of the almost alliteration – teh girls – and how “liberals” have failed to appreciate the significance of CON policy and legislation.
From the outset women and women’s advocacy groups have had no difficulty apprehending HarperCON’s anti-woman agenda. As McDonald points out, he began with the cancellation of a national daycare programme, moved on to a systematic assault on women’s equality-seeking groups and from there to defunding NGOs with specific focusses on providing reproductive services to women in developing countries and anti-violence initiatives. He has also engaged in a vicious public assault on his former Minister for the Status of Women, Helena Guergis, whose portfolio had been all but disabled anyway.
These issues share many common characteristics and some that are not so obvious. For instance, though most of us here understand quite well that the lack of a national daycare programme hurts not only the children of Canada but also women who are still their primary caretakers, we were probably less aware that, as McDonald points out, Harper “was also pandering to social conservatives who don’t believe that the government should have any role in child-rearing, who believe that mothers should be at home bringing up their children or who send their children to religious daycares and schools.”
Speaking for myself, I got the “women at home” aspect but missed the part about the children of working mothers placed in religious daycares and schools and the concomitant threat to public education. As McDonald concludes:
It was one of those policies that cut across both of his constituencies, economic and social. That would characterize most of his policies.
But McDonald misses something – that the struggle for a national daycare programme is something that not even Liberals will take to the wall – making it much too easy for Harper to hand out gifts to his social conservative base. Maybe libs and lefties will take daycare if they can get it but it’s certainly nothing to bring down a minority government over. Few issues that are perceived to be or actually are those that effect primarily teh girls are that important. Or none. In fact, when these issues are raised what I hear most often from the libs and even the left, such as it is, is that these issues are “distractions”, diversions from primary purposes, that they might be worth a few jabs in question period and an opportunistic media punchline here or there, but they are really window-dressing issues, dog bones thrown out or removed with little political, social or economic meaning beyond the moment.
For instance. When the cabal reconvened after prorogation, Harper threw one of his bright shiny things into the Throne Speech, promising to make our national anthem “gender neutral”. Quite apart from the discussions about what that would take and the general hue and cry about history and national treasures, what interested me was the response from the centre and the left along the lines that language doesn’t matter, sons are “generic” and Harper is just trying to trick you stupid broads into accepting this bright shiny thing as if it’s something real. Down the toilet went the respectable and now historical feminist argument that yes, language does matter and under the bus, ground into the ruts, went teh girls. Of course Harper had no trouble dumping the proposal and looked like he was responding to the outrage from social conservatives and liberals all in one fell swoop. How nice for him.
I’m beginning to see a similar modus in operation with respect to Helena Guergis. She’s a young, childless woman married to a brown man in political difficulty (even though he’s no longer in office) who “managed” a portfolio that men, conservative and otherwise, don’t care much about. She wasn’t and isn’t worth much to anybody it seems. Any attempt to point out the rampant sexism of the attack on Guergis result in shouts from the left that Guergis is a loose cannon, mythically and powerfully destructive and possibly a blondly stupid disaster with whom we should not concern ourselves one teensy bit. STFU girls.
I was never a Guergis supporter. But did she ever have any supporters? And is there a liberal or left dude that gives an elderberry fart about what happens to women in politics?
It’s also been clear in the past that the abolition of Canada’s long-gun registry is an issue used as a political football by left, right and centre in attempts to prevent the alienation of “rural voters”, all of whom are assumed to be men. Both Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton failed to whip their parties before the vote on the abolition bill in the last session of Parliament, resulting in an easy “yea” result for the legislation. It remains mighty unclear that anything has changed this time ’round, despite Ignatieff’s attempts to revise the legislation. Will Jack Layton whip? Who the hell knows. So it’s not only girls under the bus on this one, it’s dead girls under the bus.
As for the progressive defunding of women’s equality-seeking groups and NGOs, Ignatieff is perfectly content to use this issue as a political chip – but where the f**k has he been for the last four years while it was happening? Where was he in December 2009 and early 2010 when a Liberal/NDP coalition would have brought down this anti-democratic, anti-woman, homophobic, pro-Israel and the Rapture government and, for instance, its attempted assault on pay equity? As for the Libs failed attempt to underscore the reproductive rights of women with their Parliamentary motion? I actually will stfu on that one.
Women have allowed themselves to be used thus for too long, hoping to get bigger prizes in the end. Or perhaps any prize at all. I’m beginning to hear heartening rumbles from girlfriend-land that none of these hopeless pols ought to rest comfortably in the beds their wives and girlfriends have made for so long, and so patiently.
The Theocons so well described by Marci McDonald are the focus of renewed realizations, discussions and organizing among awakening and already fully conscious women – and a few pro-feminist men. Take care liberal and left doodz. Move out of the crosshairs of that metaphorical but very well-aimed long-gun.
“Last night’s dominant CBC story … featured an attack on the religious affiliation of some government members and supporters,” the Tory missive says. “Apparently, the CBC thinks it newsworthy that some Conservative Ministers and MPs practice their faith. Even more scandalous, some members of the Prime Minister’s Office go to church!”
Pale is peeved.
And on the Helena Guergis story, there’s this from the PI who started it all:
“I have nothing — I have no evidence, or no information, with respect to the conduct of Ms. Guergis in my possession or knowledge,” he stated.
Instead, he said the mere threat of bad optics, coming after a string of embarrassing gaffes by Guergis, may have been enough to force Harper’s hand.
“This is an issue of optics,” Snowdy said.