Friday, December 05, 2008

Harpers Putsch

Since winning power in 2006, albeit as a minority government, Stephen Harper has been set on gaining a majority to keep HIM in power as PM. That first summer his reading included a biography of Stalin, the Man of Steel.

And like Stalin his recent political machinations reminded me of the intriques in the Bolshevik Party as Stalin played off alliances of Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Radek, Bukharin, and other central committee and politburo members, against each other to maintain power.

In porouging parliment he saved his job and his government...for the moment.

And despite his protestations about saving demoracy, his actions are the opposite. Which is typical of the right wing, who use language to mean its opposite. For instance Freedom of Information acts passed by right wing governments are anything but that, they actually limit freedom of informantion and access. Just as the Harperocrites transperancy and accountability act is anything but.
And right wing parties manufacture political crisises in order to create the conditions to either take power or stay in power.

So when Harper talks about democracy he means something other than parlimentary democracy. Rather he looks south and want to create a PMO with the power of the U.S. Presidency.

"The Canadian government has always been chosen by the people," the prime minister declared in his mid-week televised address to the country.
But now, he told viewers, a coalition of opposition parties is trying to oust him through a backroom deal "without your say, without your consent and without your vote."
Just how valid is Harper's claim that changing governments without a new election would be undemocratic?
"It's politics, it's pure rhetoric," said Ned Franks, a retired Queen's University expert on parliamentary affairs. "Everything that's been happening is both legal and constitutional."
Other scholars are virtually unanimous in their agreement. They say Harper's populist theory of democracy is more suited to a U.S.-style presidential system, in which voters cast ballots directly for a national leader, than it is to Canadian parliamentary democracy.
"He's appealing to people who learned their civics from American television," said Henry Jacek, a political scientist at McMaster University.
In Canada, there's no national vote for prime minister. People elect MPs in 308 ridings, and a government holds power only as long as it has the support of a majority of those MPs.
"We have a rule that the licence to govern is having the confidence of the House of Commons," said Peter Russell, a former University of Toronto professor and adviser to past governors general.
"I'm sorry, that's the rule. If they want to change it to having a public opinion poll, we'd have to reform and rewrite our Constitution."

If we are to understand the current political situation and how we got here we have to review Harpers rise to power. Firstly he left the Reform Party as a short lived MP, having been a former assistant to its first MP Deborah Grey. He had an ego that would not let him work with Preston Manning then Reform Party leader who is a prairie populist. Harper however comes from the Calgary School, a modern neo-con politick influenced by Reagan/Gingrich Republicanism, and the authoritarian ideology of Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss. Several members of the Calgary School being ex-pat Americans.

The new conservative movement sled by Harper shed its populist appeal, and its base, while maintaining the language of reform to appeal to that base. Under the tutelage of Calgary School mandrin Tom Flanagan. the object was not Preston's agenda to reform Canadian politics, but to gain power and destroy their main opponent the Liberal Party. It was to hold power at all costs, first and foremost, democratic reform was abandoned for the politics of right wing political economic social engineering, to transform the state in Canada into a Republican lite government. In order to do this it was required to Unite the Right.

With the failure of the Reform Party and Canadian Alliance to do this, it was clear that a strong man, a man of steel, would be needed to bind the disparte right wing base together into a party capable of winning an election and begin the process of defeating and destroying the Liberal Party, Canada's Natural Governing Party, andultimately what these ex-American politicos hate most the liberal social democratic Canadian State.

This was the same agenda of the Gingrich Republicans and their Contract With America, to defeat forever the Democrats, who had been the Natural Governing Party in the United States.

With Harpers win of the leadership of the newly minted Conservative Party, which intigrated the Canadian Alliance with the old Progressive Conservative Party, purging the progressives and populist Reformers, the Republican Revolution model of politics was adapted to Canada.

The arrogance of the Liberals was finally met with an arrogant Conservative leader set with and agenda to seize power and destroy them once and for all. No other Canadian politician had ever been elected to parliment like Harper. None of the previous Conservative PM's had ever viewed taking power to mean destroying their political opposition.

This should have been clear to the Liberals, but in their arrogance as the Natural Ruling Party they chaose instead to view their defeat in 2006 as the fault of the internal clash between Paul Martin and Jean Chretien. A clash that had led to Martin gaining a minority government bequethed with a Chretien era scandal. Even after Martin's defeat the party failed to realize how serious Harper was about his mission and political agenda to destroy them.

In their arrogance they held a six month leadership race complete with supposed party revitalization discussions. The latter ended up on the cutting room floor. The former was hotly contested, and included a front runner, Michael Ignatieff, brought from Harvard to battle the Calgary School boys. Unfortunately the race which got nasty ended in a lame duck choice; Stephane Dion, whom nobody really wanted, but appeared at th moment to unite the party as the best of a bad lot. Again the failures and foibles of all the leadership candidates were exposed for all Canadians to see, and their words used in the leadership debates would come back to haunt them.

In choosing Dion, they thought they would naturally regain power, they were unprepared for the total war that Harper was about to unleash on them.
With a minority government and buckets of money available the Harper government wasted no time in perparing for another election. And it began the day that the Liberals elected Dion as their leader.

Gone now were the catcalls about you had ten yearsto fix things, and accusations about the Quebec Ad Scam and being entitled to their entitlements. No the Liberals played into Harpers
hands, his strong leadership, his furherprinzpal, versus their milqutoast soft leader Dion.

They prepared for a spring election, spending on attack ads against Dion that left the broke Liberal party reeling. When that election did not happen they porogued parliment for the summer to return in the fall, blaming the Liberals for their failure to pass law and order legislation that was their stock in trade appeal to their right wing base.

By the end of 2007 they had wasted the surplus the Liberals had left them with GST cuts, tax cuts for big business and bloated military budgets for their war in Afghanistan. This was always a key element of the neo-con agenda, spend government money so that they had no alternative but to cut politically objectionable services and programs.

"I'm hopeful there will be some ideologically-driven, neo-conservative cuts to government," political scientist Tom Flanagan, a former chief of staff to Harper, said in an interview.
Such cuts, he added, would be consistent with Harper's long-term goal of reducing the size and scope of government.
"I think that's always been sort of the long-term plan, the way that Stephen was going about it of first depriving the government of surpluses through cutting taxes . . . You get rid of the surpluses and then it makes it easier to make some expenditure reductions."
At a minimum, Flanagan said: "I think there's certainly room for some incremental cuts to useless programs."
The government has already used the economic crisis to put off plans for a national portrait gallery, citing the need for fiscal restraint in uncertain times.
From Flanagan's perspective, the government would do well to scupper a host of grants, contracts and business subsidies and to pare a lot of what he considers wasteful spending on cultural and aboriginal programs.

Despite passing legislation for fixed date federal election, with the next one being the fall of 2009, Harper kept up the election style attacks on Dion and the Liberals. It was always about Harper versus the other guy, who was a wimp, not a leader, etc. etc. Canada was kept on election footing, the Conservatives showed off their new war room for the election, and then quietly closed shop six months later.

Durng the Fall of 2007 through the spring of this year the rudderless Liberals prop up the Harper government, unable and unwanting to bring down the government, unprepared to go to the polls, Dion allows his MP's to bow out of critical votes, including confidence votes, with only token opposition to Harper.

Come the summer of 2008 and again government is porugued for the summer to resume in the fall. Everyone is busy watching the U.S. Presidential race, and watching house prices drop as oil prices rise, and the loonie gains on the U.S. dollar. Then everything begins to fall apart. The recession comes, a recession that George Bush spends a year denying, saying the fundamentals of American Capitalism are strong. John McCain his replacement says the same thing on the campaign trail. Heck even our Economist In Chief, our PM Stephen Harper assures Canadians that our economic fundamentals are strong, and a recession and credit melt down won't hurt our financial system and the government surpluses.

But Harper see's the writing on the wall, a recession would bring down his minority government, so being the opportunist he is he gambled on an early election, before the meltdown got to bad. Despite fix election dates he threw that aside like his promise not to tax Income Trusts. Two years of election style campaigning had left the Liberals and Dion weakened, and the polls showed that in the early days of the recession he was risisng in the polls, Canadians were looking for secure leadership in this time of unease and uncertainty.

So he called an election in September for October. The Man of Steelwas now transformed into Uncle Steve, the sweater wearing, father of two, a serious listner at the kitchen tables of immigrant and ethnic Canadians as nmumerous TV ads showed us.

And then the sweater came off. Harper announced political cuts to Arts and Culture programs, and denounced artists and cultural workers as effette elitists (read Liberals) who criticise the government that feeds them. And he introduced tough Law and Order promises to put teenagers in adult prisons. Appealing to his right wing base in Western Canada. But it bombed in Quebec and we were to discover that the Conservatives had contracted out their campaign in Quebec leaving them with no one to effectively counter the BQ attacks on these policies.

All along our esteemed Economist and PM insisted like his counterparts to the south that Canada's economic fundamentals were strong. And then the market crashed. And despite that crash Harper lied to the Canadian people saying that he would not have a deficit and that his government would still have a surplus. He insisted our financial market place could weather the storm, while promising $75 billion to bail out the banks.

An all the while the Liberals floundered about with a lacklustre leader whose complex Green Plan was obtuse except for one fact, it was a tax increase. Harper leaped on this from the earliest days of the Green Shift even before the election to call it a deficit plan and a tax grab. And the Liberals could not convince Canadians otherwise. The Natural Governing Party entered the election as the Natural Bumbling Party.

Jack Layton on the other hand finally abandoned the politcs of being the Opposition and ran for the PM's job. While Elizabeth May and the Green Party finally got into the leaders debates.
Still we all watched the U.S. election campaign between Obama and McCain.
And despite the pre-election polling, the defeat of the Liberals and their leader, Harper won a pyrichic victory, he ended up with more seats, as did Jack Layton and the NDP, but Harper remained with a minority government, in the midst of the biggest crisis capitalism has faced since the Great Depression.

Dion having blown it,by leading the Liberals to their worst historic defeat ever, mopped around Stornmount, spending several days before announcing his retirement as leader of the Liberals. Dion was always his own worst advisor. And his shock at losing as well as his hubris and arrogance that he could be defeated so badly, would siber him up.

Despite bailing out the banks Harper insisted that he would not run a deficit, that he could balance the budget, that his government would have a surplus, as the loonie crashed, the Big 3 Automakers called for bailouts, and the market crash created a recession in Canada.

And so we come to the last two weeks as Parliment resumed. Promising a fiscal update to address the economic crisis facing the country and the world Harper produced a political document that was aimed at his long range plan all along, to finally destroy the Liberal Party once and for all. There was no investment strategy, no bail out for the Big Three, no economic plan perser. Hower there was further cuts to government spending, the only thing neo-cons know how to do, wage controls and the end of the right to strike for federal public sector workers, and the end of public financing of political parties. It was this that was the final straw that broke the camels back.

The path to Conservative political dominance is to financially bankrupt your opponents.
So wrote Tom Flanagan, one of the deep thinkers of the conservative movement in Canada and a mentor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Flanagan's prescient op-ed piece from August appeared to come to fruition in Thursday's fiscal update when Harper's Conservatives moved to end public financing of federal political parties under the guise of austerity. "There will be no free ride for political parties," Flaherty told the House of Commons in his speech on the update. "Even during the best of economic times, parties should count primarily on the financial support of their own members and their own donors."

The irony is that public financing of political parties was a longstanding Reform Party demand, along with fixed election dates and Senate Reform. Even though it was introduced by Jean Chretien in his final days as PM, a legacy project, it passed the house unanimously. The Canadian Alliance, the former Reform Party, supported it becaue they saw it as a way of leveling the playing field, the Liberals had long benefited from Corporate and Union donations. For Harper now to eliminate it, without even having bothering to raise the matter during the election was simply another example that his agenda was to destroy the weakened Liberals. Finally Dion the doormouse woke up to the fact that the Harper agenda was not just power for its own sake, but the destruction of the Liberal Party. Indeed the entire Liberal cacus finally read the writing on the wall, which had been Conservative graffiti for a decade.

And the little professor saw a chance to be PM, in a coalition government playing right into the hands of Harper. The NDP and Bloc had begun coalition discussions and invited the Liberals in, as they fumed over the betrayl and attack by Harper. Their mistake was to allow Dion to remain in charge, thus playing into Harpers hands. Jack Layton had gotten more popular votes than Dion and indeed the NDP won more seats, and came in second in many regions including Alberta. The Liberals were decimated, and the little professor who would be PM was not seen by Canadians as worthy of the job. Even as leader of a coalition.

Harper played on that to his advantage, while lying about the whole way we had gotten into this mess. We had seen what was supposed to be a fiscal update, changed into a attack on other political parties, wage controls on the public sector, and cuts to government spending. No fiscal stimulaus, other than bailing out the banks, was proposed. No fiscal plan was offered, and still Harper and his ministers claimed they would have a surplus and would not go into deficit.

He could not help himself, he was true to his long term goal of destroying the Liberals, and he saw them severly weakened and he took advantage. He did not expect that the opposition would coalesce into a united front coalition that could offer an alternative to his government.

Which they did.

He quickly backtracked, withdrawing the offending proposals to remove public financing and the right to strike, though wage controls were not off the table. However the damage was done.

And he insisted the next election would be fought over public financing which he couched in the old language of the 2006 election, that the opposition wanted their entitlements.

Faced with a united opposition, a coalition prepared to govern in his stead, who had already let the Govenor General know that, he began another election campaign. With coffers full of donations, he launched his so called defense of democracy, note well not defense of Parliment, but of that American abstract notion of democracy, one person one vote.

Not willing to face the wrath of the house he approached the GG to porouge parliment, to live to fight another day. While he accused the opposition of courting a coup with their coalition, he in fact conducted a parlimentary putsch yesterday to stay in power for another seven weeks.And he did so not for the good of Canada, or the Canadian people, nor even for the good of his own party. He has no plan to deal with the recession and its spiral into depression, rather he will use the seven weeks to run yet another election campaign against the Liberals.

The Liberals mistake and the cracks are showing now with dissident MP's denoucning Dion, was to not have demanded Dion step down and appoint an interm leader to be the PM in a coalition government.

That option remains open. Or they could make Jack PM. Not likely.

So let us recap the Harper government is a minority, the majority of Canadians voted for the opposition. They don't want another election, only Harper does because he has the money to run one. He wants an election not to govern but to finally kill the Liberal party, to run a stake thrrough its heart so it will not rise again.

And that is all his political agenda was ever about. So lets not hear anymore about defending democracy, or being best suited to solve the economic crisis, which he denied we were in and still has not offered any solutions for.Or that he is fighting for Canadian unity against nasty seperatists that he was willing to join with to defeat the Liberal minority government of Paul Martin.

Let us understand that Harper and his cronies seek power for its own sake, to mold Canada in their neo-con image. He has pulled off a parlimentary putsch to stay in power. We need a strong coalition to defeat him and replace him in January.


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