Girls, Guergis, Guns & Armageddon

UPDATED BELOW

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.

 

UPDATE:

HarperCON whines

“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.

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The Harper Agenda

Murray Dobbin points out that the Harper Agenda on the economic front is likely even more important than the prorogation:

It is gratifying to see such widespread opposition to Harper’s assault on Parliament and democracy — from almost every major political columnist, newspaper editorials, over a hundred political scientists, and constitutional experts — including a significant number of unusual suspects. It is a clear sign that Harper has overreached yet again — a character flaw that has saved the country from disaster more than once. Harper now sits at 33 percent in the latest Ekos poll, and if the movement continues to grow, Harper’s plan to force an election over his March budget will have to be put on hold. That might have the effect of postponing the worst cuts.

But the sudden support for democracy by parts of the Canadian elite will not extend to defending the legacy of public services, wealth redistribution and government intervention in the economy. Those are the things that are in Stephen Harper’s crosshairs, and progressives will have to fight the campaign to stop him on their own.  [more of this must read]

Amidst the excitement of the movement against Harper’s prorogation of Parliament, it’s not only important to keep this in mind, it’s important to strategize about effective responses.  Progressives will likely be back on their own at that point.

More Anti-Rogueness

Constitutional law professor Errol Mendes at The Star:

This behaviour [the prorogation] by the Prime Minister is another piece of evidence of a major shift in Canadian constitutional democracy taking shape. First, there is the unconstitutional behaviour of the Harper government to deny the committee uncensored documents despite a motion of the House of Commons. Second, there is the boycott of the committee by the Conservative MPs at the committee. Third, we have seen the sandbagging of the Military Police Complaints Commission and the “yanking” of its chair, Peter Tinsley. This commission, a quasi-judicial tribunal has been stymied in its attempt to determine the truth over the detainee transfer issue. Finally, there is the unprecedented slamming of Richard Colvin for just doing his job of speaking truth to power and then accusing anybody who supports him of either being Taliban dupes or undermining our brave Canadian military heroes.

These are serious examples of abuse of executive power over Parliament, the Governor General, the public service and ultimately the Canadian voters who elected MPs to make Parliament work.

. . .

Some Canadians may not pay much attention to archaic constitutional terms such as prorogation of Parliament or even to the fate of Afghan detainees transferred to torture. Other Canadians will care greatly about both these issues. But all Canadians must care about a minority government that undermines the fundamental democratic institutions of this country while also manipulating quasi-judicial tribunals and intimidating the public service from speaking truth to power. This abuse of executive power is tilting toward totalitarian government and away from the foundations of democracy and the rule of law on which this country was founded.  [you can have more]

A bit more at The Star:

“What this is is a continuation of a very authoritarian approach to government by the current prime minister … this particular prime minister does not want to govern in an accountable democratic manner. It is extremely dangerous,” [constitutional law professor Peter] Russell told the Star.  [there is more]

[links via impolitical]

Dawg on Michael Ignatieff’s less than rousing response to the prorogation:

Leaders are supposed to lead, dammit. This empty suit has been asking for input almost since his coronation. Doesn’t he have any ideas of his own by now? Any gut reactions? Any strategy? Any vision? Any passion, for crying out loud?

I’m not even a Liberal, and I’m yearning to hear something real, just for once, come from this man’s mouth.  [always more and always worth it!]

ANTI-ROGUE UPPIDY DATE:

From Rick Mercer’s blog:

It is ironic that while our parliament has been suspended we are a nation at war. On New Year’s Eve we greeted the news that five Canadians were killed in a single day with sadness but not surprise. We are at war because ostensibly we are helping bring democracy to Afghanistan. How the mission is progressing is open for debate but this much is certain – at present there is a parliament in Afghanistan that it is very much open for business. Canada has no such institution.

In Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s government faces fierce opposition at every turn; many of his cabinet choices have been rejected in a secret ballot by the more than 200 parliamentarians that sit in the legislature. Simply closing parliament down and operating without their consent is not an option for Hamid Karzai; to do so would be blatantly undemocratic or at the very least downright Canadian. If Hamid Karzai suspended parliament on a whim we might be forced to ask why Canadians are dying to bring democracy to that country.

Stephen Harper doesn’t have that problem. The Parliament of Canada has been suspended for no other reason than the prime minister simply can’t be bothered with the relentless checks and balances that democracy affords us. He doesn’t want to have to stand in the House of Commons and hear anyone question him on any subject. I don’t blame him. Parliament is filled with jackals, opportunists and boors. The problem is, like it or not, they were elected.  [the whole thing]

Anti-Rogue Update

James Travers at The Star:

Systematically, and without explanation, the Prime Minister is testing every limit on his power. Along with successfully shuttering Parliament for the second time, he’s neutering committees charged with the primary democratic responsibilities of safeguarding the treasury and forcing the government to explain its actions. He’s challenging independent rulings against how Conservatives funded their 2006 election and how this government treats Canadians in trouble abroad.

Politics is an uncompromising blood sport played to win within loose rules. By learning Liberal dirty tricks, adapting to changing circumstances and reinterpreting every regulation in his favour, Harper is proving to be a shrewd and accomplished contestant.

Far less clear is what he accepts as legitimate constraint, the line in the democratic sand not to be crossed.  [more]

NJN Network provides us with a list of bills that hit the skids when Stephen prorogued.

From Heroes in Rehab:

The idea is that it is fundamental to our notions of responsible government in a parliamentary democracy that the government of the day must “meet the House”; though majority governments may (by virtue of the number of elected members of the party sitting in the House) possess the ability to ram through legislation and seemingly act at will, even they must answer questions about the government’s actions and agenda in the House, questions asked by the Opposition.  This requirement that the government of the day must meet the House is supposed to (through the mechanisms of moral suasion and public debate) keep it honest.  Of course, this Harper government does not even have the luxury of a majority, or the democratic mandate that would go along with it.  Minority governments are supposed to be more, not less, responsive to the concerns of the elected members of the House.  [and more]

From Bow. James Bow.:

Here, now, we have a prime minister who seeks to suspend the work of parliament — not, as it could have been argued last year, to establish a seven week cooling period before facing the prospect of changing a government in the middle of an economic crisis, but to thwart the work of various committees asking questions in the name of accountability. This is a prime minister who has defied the principle of parliamentary supremacy, ignoring a direct order by vote of parliament to turn over uncensored documents to a parliamentary committee for investigation, in order to save his own political skin. Whatever high ideals the move to suspend parliament last year might have had, they’re not present here. The move is nakedly political, and shames our democracy.  [James has the goods]

Susan Delacourt at The Star:

… none of us know what Michaelle Jean told Harper during that longer-than-expected chat in December 2008. Who knows? Maybe she said that the Prime Minister should try to make Parliament work, unless the Olympics were on, and then all bets were off.In the end, of course, it’s not Michaelle Jean who has to approve this move. It’s Canadians — including you folks out there reading this — who have to decide whether Harper has a legitimate reason to suspend the work of Parliament. Personally, I haven’t heard one good reason yet.   [not much more]

But really, I think it’s going to be difficult to keep this issue alive.  There’s so little to talk about.  Stephen Harper’s actions are cynical and wrong for fairly obvious reasons and there seems to be fairly general agreement on that.  Now on to the Olympics?

I hope not.  If  Harper’s prorogue move wakes Canadians up and presages the end of this government I’ll be glad he did it.  That is all.  For now.  For the next few days I’ll be reading Arundhati Roy’s Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.  A few words from Roy:

… what have we done to democracy? What have we turned it into? What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasized into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the free market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximizing profit?  [a lot more]

BIG FAT UPPIDTY DATE:

How could I forget James Laxer?

A year ago, the Prime Minister was prepared to mislead his fellow citizens about the essence of our system of government—the requirement that the ministers of the crown must enjoy the backing of the majority of the members of the House of Commons—to retain power. To stay at the helm, he was quite happy to delude Canadians into believing that the PM is directly elected and that the members of parliament from Quebec aren’t quite equal to the others.

When the history of this era is written years from now, the story is likely to be that of a not very talented gang with values distant from those of the Canadian mainstream, holding onto office longer than they should have because the opposition couldn’t figure out how to unite to deal with them. Some will bear more responsibility for this sorry state of affairs than others.  [Read the rest – that’s an order!] 

Anti-Rogue

From Pushed to the Left and Loving It:

In what other democracy is it permissible for the government of the day to hide from the legislature for months at a time? To ignore explicit parliamentary votes demanding the production of documents? To stonewall independent inquiries? Perhaps the rules allow it elsewhere, but is it the practice? Does convention not still forbid it? Is it not viewed in other countries as dictatorial behaviour, and therefore, you know … not done?  [more]

Dawg:

[Stephen Harper’s] contempt for democratic process is never far below the surface. And now, once again, Parliament–Canada’s supreme elected body–is about to be flicked away like a mosquito.

We’re watching political accountability and responsible government melt away before our unbelieving eyes.  As one commentator noted not long ago, “The Prime Minister is now in such command that he can get away with pretty much anything. And he is lauded for his conquests.”

But even Harper’s fiercest supporters might want to take a sober second look about now, and put Canada before their party for once. At this point there should be no partisans–only outraged Canadians, of all political hues, who want their country back.  [more]

From Prorogue 2: The Resurrection:

Citing “national party security” and national pride, PM Stephen (“I’ll be back”) Harper is seeking emergency measures from Canada’s Governor-General to protect and enhance his power, his perks and his reputation. It’s Prorogue 2: 2010 Edition.

With the winter Olympics around the corner and all eyes on Canada, Harper is conducting a pre-emptive war against transparency and accountability (two of the early promises that helped squeak him into power in 2006) to minimize the potential embarrassment of those pesky little issues. Like living conditions in 1st Nations communities. Like Afghan prisoner treatment. Like carbon emissions. Like silencing whistle-blowers.  [more]

From Murray Dobbin’s Blog:

The second prorogation of Parliament in a year demonstrates an absolute contempt for democracy. It is, even to the compliant and conservative media pundits, a transparent effort to cool off the Afghan torture issue which threatened to regain momentum, lost when Parliament recessed for Christmas.  The arrogance of the government was further demonstrated in its half-hearted effort to even come up with an excuse – saying that a new Parliament is needed now that the economic crisis has moved to the recovery stage.

Perhaps the even greater contempt for Parliament lies in the fact that some 35 pieces of legislation – the true work of the House of Commons – has simply been wiped from the map. Even Harper’s favourite bills, those getting tough on crime, go down the drain in this crass assault on democracy. Nothing is more important than staying in power and by taking the Afghan scandal off the table Harper can introduce a March budget so draconian that the opposition will have to vote against it. Harper will get the election no one wants and for which he will not be blamed.  [more]

I’ll update this post.

Here’s an UPDATE:

It is becoming patently obvious Harper now presides over a minority government that can all-too-readily be characterized as a not-so-benign dictatorship. Harper successfully exploits the first-past-the-post electoral system — which he and Flanagan denounced as immature — and the ideological and political divisions within the opposition parties, to impose his unflinching will on his cabinet, caucus, and what he characterizes as an utterly dysfunctional House of Commons, one made so by the government itself. With his appointment of yet more Conservatives to the Senate, Harper will exercise full and unfettered power over Parliament, a power which he will readily use to cow the judicial branch of government with his so-called tough-on-crime legislation.  [more from Michael Biehels]

Susan Riley at The Ottawa Citizen:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to shut down Parliament for his own partisan convenience — no more nasty questions about Afghan detainees, no more challenges from a “Liberal-dominated Senate” — is shocking, but hardly surprising.

It is an expression of this prime minister’s contempt not just for Parliament, but for government.

So much for those urgent Tory crime measures that will die on the order paper; so much for an adult debate on the deficit, or pension reform, or Afghanistan after 2011. The assumption is that we will be so wrapped up in the Olympics we won’t notice the long silence from Ottawa. We will, in fact, welcome it.

If Harper is right, we deserve the government we aren’t getting. This is a richly-blessed country with a well-educated, relatively prosperous population and a degraded political culture. And until its citizens move from apathy and cynicism to outrage and involvement, nothing will change.  [read the rest]

James Travers at The Star:

… 

the timing could hardly be worse for a dark Parliament.While Canadians struggle with recession’s aftershocks, Harper risks being seen as more interested in maximizing a sporting spectacle Conservatives are doing everything possible to make their own.

Less likely to be noticed but no less important, the Prime Minister is piling on fresh evidence that accountability is a fiction, an election promise easily made and forgotten.

Whatever else it achieves, suspending Parliament first and foremost blinkers oversight. Having tried and failed to blame abuse reports on a bureaucrat just doing his job, Harper is now trying to push it under the carpet for two critical months and perhaps much longer.  [choke on it]

The Fundamental Theology of Politics

Marci McDonald, author of the upcoming The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, says, “Harper has given the religious right a welcome and access in Ottawa and government they’ve never had before – and they’ve become used it.”

They are, she says, “here to stay.”

[…]

But he [Harper] believes in an incremental approach. Author McDonald sees it as the foundation of his thinking: “It fits with his natural personality and tendencies.

“Is he really a fanatic?” she asks in an interview. “I do not believe he is. I think he’s a very wily strategist… I see him as tacking on a sailing course.”

She argues Harper’s social conservatism is “more strategy than a deep impulse of the heart” and doesn’t envision draconian social measures under a Harper majority, but rather bureaucratic tinkering, appointments and staffing changes. Anything he did on, say, abortion, wouldn’t be a sudden reversal but “something that opens the way.”

However, if he were to do something, McDonald concludes, it would be irreversible by the time it was detected and “would change Canada in a profound way… People seem to wake up to what Harper is doing too late.”

More on the Boom Times for PMO’s God Squad at The Star

Ah cha cha:

Confounded Opposition

For four years, the government has successfully deep-sixed its critics and confounded the opposition. Low-key nuclear regulator Linda Keen was fired (and the isotope crisis remains unresolved.) Inquisitive parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, is being starved of funds. The government refused to co-operate with the Military Police Complaints Commission looking into the detainee issue and is not reappointing its chairman, Peter Tinsley. It has taken Elections Canada to court, withheld an RCMP study on the gun registry until after a crucial vote, and ignored a vote ordering it to release documents relating to Colvin’s testimony.

More from Susan Riley at The Ottawa Citizen and from Lawrence Martin at The Star here

UPDATE:  Don’t forget Dawg

And so a four-year assault on Canadian democracy continues on many fronts, from subverting responsible government to the targeting of ordinary citizens and now to the suppression of charitable human rights groups.

About that “suppression of charitable human rights groups”?  He’s talking about KAIROS.  See this and this [pdf] and this.

UPDATE II:  Haroon Siddiqi weighs in —

Stephen Harper is centralizing power in the PMO on an unprecedented scale; defying Parliament (by refusing to comply with a Commons vote demanding the files on Afghan prisoner abuse); derailing public inquiries (by a parliamentary committee and the Military Police Complaints Commission); muzzling/firing civil servants; demonizing critics; and dragging the military into the line of partisan political fire.

Of course, there’s more.

So, lots of people have noticed.  Now what?