Ed Broadbent for Canada

From the Globe and Mail:

Since first being elected to the House of Commons in 1968, at a time of great national unity, I have never witnessed a Canadian prime minister consciously decide to disunite the nation. Until now.

After failing to bring forth an essential stimulus package last week, Stephen Harper has betrayed the fundamental obligation of a prime minister: to build and strengthen national unity in possibly the world’s most difficult federation to govern.

Beginning last week, Mr. Harper has sought to avoid a legitimate vote of confidence and its unpleasant consequences not by sober or even merely partisan constitutional arguments but, culminating in Wednesday’s television address, by a barrage of deliberately gross distortions. He is turning a serious dispute over the need for immediate economic stimulus into an unrelated and dangerous matter of national unity.

In the 1980s, Pierre Trudeau made a mistake in key elements of the national energy program that negatively affected the attitude of many in Alberta and Saskatchewan not only toward him but to Central Canada in general. Although his policy had that effect, no one, including myself, who was critical of parts of the program accused Mr. Trudeau of deliberately alienating Western Canada.

Now, for the first time in our history, we have a prime minister prepared to set a fire that we may not be able to put out, for the paltry purpose of saving himself from a confidence vote on Monday. In almost every sentence, paragraph and page coming from Mr. Harper, his ministers and Conservative MPs, we’re getting distortions intended to delegitimize a democratically formed coalition, proposed in accordance with normal parliamentary practices, between the Liberals and the NDP.

The Conservatives have tried to link the coalition with a demonized Bloc Québécois and Quebec. Mr. Harper wants to buy time in order to stir up support from a majority in English Canada. He is turning a serious constitutional and legal issue, on which he knows he cannot win a confidence vote, into a political battle of national unity, calculating that the numbers are on his side.   [more]

Don’t Back Down

James Laxer on making the brouhaha something more than just a brouhaha – and the consequences of not doing so:

If the Conservatives manage to salvage their hold on government, the retribution they will inflict on each of the opposition parties will be a terrible one. Stephen Harper does not deal well with what he interprets as public humiliation. Here’s a guy who can’t even attend the annual Press Gallery dinner in Ottawa because he’d have to lampoon himself and people might laugh at him. Lacking a sense of humour, which means a sense of proportion, he is not well-suited to political life in a democracy where give and take is of the essence.
The only thing this man understands is conquest, which is why even the members of his own party don’t really like him.
If the Liberals decide to let Harper wriggle out of this one, they will have exchanged the substance of victory for a Pyrrhic victory.
Making a coalition work will not be easy for either the Liberals or the NDP. What will unite them though is that they are on the same side of the fence when it comes to the need for a serious stimulus package to cope with the economic crisis. Oddly enough, keeping the Bloc onboard may prove to be not so challenging. The Bloc will claim credit for the portion of the stimulus package that goes to Quebec, and they will be rid of Harper’s noxious agenda on culture, crime, and gun control, an agenda that Quebeckers hate with a passion.
The Liberals, NDP and the Bloc can either hang together or they will hang separately.

Read the whole thing here

And see this Laxer post on Harper’s economic mismanagement and why that is the reason to bring this government down.

Ms Brand Speaks Out

From Dionne Brand, blogging at rabble.ca:

God help me I’ve been visiting the Conservative Party web site. Now being an atheist you know when I invoke god I’m truly in trouble, but the web site can generate a Women’s Studies course all on its own. It is a study in patriarchy. First, at the top of the web page there is an image of Stephen Harper, his wife and their two children, read wholesome family with good patriarch, meaning patriarch of good wholesome family makes good political patriarch, eh, I mean, leader.

Next under the tab “leader” are the names Stephen Harper and Laureen Harper, meaning we have a good father and a good mother and they are the mother and father of two children and this party and ultimately the nation; meaning the nation is a patriarchy and Stephen Harper is the father of this patriarchy and his helpmeet is Laureen Harper who, while she does not hold any political position in this party per se, by dint of this party and this nation being a patriarchy she is attached to the patriarch as mothering symbol of the patriarchy and therefore whatever… In case you want to know the web site says Laureen volunteers at an elementary school and ‘offers her home to the Ottawa SPCA as a foster home for kittens.’ My god, why do we need to know this, I ask. Because that is what good mothers do.

We have already seen Harper’s comforting patriarchal sweater, his Mr. Rogers imitation (Veronica Strong-Boag at UBC pointed this similarity out to me); the Mr.Rogers reassurance in his commercials where he sends ‘ordinary’ supporters out to say how reassuring he is. Harper’s replacement of the customary corporate suit with the sweater must be remarked on.  In these shaky economic times perhaps it would have been a terrible reminder of the corporate CEO patriarchy, which is experiencing a crisis in confidence at the moment. He had to pull us back to the hearth, the origin, and the father-knows-best paternalism. And in Harper’s commercial he has even graciously extended the patriarchal ambit to include one or two subjects who are not white – notably, at the conclusion of the commercial, a young woman of Asian descent enthusiastically says how much she is looking forward to voting for the patriarch in her first election. She sites no other political imperative, except her coming of age, so we are certain that it is his paternalism that is attractive.

I am now, it seems, besieged by Mr. Harper and his sweater. Here sitting in the Vancouver airport waiting for a flight to Toronto today, he appears on the front page of the British Columbia section of the Globe and Mail. He is seated at the kitchen table of a young  couple with their two children. In his grey sweater he is feeding the youngest, the baby. He has effectively replaced the father at the table in this family scene. The young father watches on at the left of the picture while Mr. Harper and his sweater occupy the patriarchal center of this tableau.

The words ‘leader’ or ‘leadership’ occur with bludgeon-like regularity on the Conservative Party web site. You cannot come away with any impression other than he is a leader and he stands for leadership. He is definitely a leader, with leadership. Which means he is a patriarch and a man and will lead. And if you are unconvinced, at the bottom of the home page is a picture of Stephane Dion, an obviously thinner man, caught in a gesture made to seem like uncertainty, emblazoned over this image are the words ‘notaleader.ca’. Because leaders are never uncertain, it is un-masculine to be uncertain, un-patriarchal to be caught in a rhetorical shrug. And Canadians need a leader, a man, and a patriarch. And Mr. Dion standing there at the bottom of the page, cutting his slight, studious figure is not a patriarch, the page says.

Elizabeth May notwithstanding, one cannot fail to see the positioning and arranging of masculinity in the efforts to take power in this election. Mr. Layton of the NDP has cut a commercial too, in which shirt sleeved and virile he invokes the ‘new strong’. In an obvious contestation of, I suppose, the ‘old strong’. Now I am far more partial to Mr. Layton ideologically but this bit of patriarchal ideology is bemusing. What on earth?

So I was really charmed during the english debate when prompted by a question about what was the first thing each was going to do when they became prime minister, leader of the country, Gilles Duceppe said, I don’t want to be leader, I don’t want to be prime minister – or words to that effect. Now I did not see his whole performance, riveted by scenes from the southern election, and I know of course that the Bloc only runs in Quebec, but it was refreshing to have someone say they did not want power. It made the others look craven somehow, set back. For about two seconds there was an interesting silence, the leaders round table felt deflated. Solely on the basis of that intervention I too, (like Margaret Atwood whom I also learned, this morning, waiting in the Vancouver airport, is of the same mind,) I too, would like to vote for Monsieur Duceppe. I want people in power who don’t want power; who find it a burden, who are nervous about it, who are scared of making a mistake and who are not offering me leadership.

How many times have I mentioned some variation of the word patriarchy here? Not enough.

And not as many times as it is being invoked in the election.

Come on Canada, stop the Conservatives!