11.28.2011 08:24 AM

From today’s Hill Times: wither goest the Reformatories

Weird, weird, weird. I don’t understand many things, at my advanced age. Stephen Harper’s government is one of them.

When you watch them, as some of us are sometimes compelled to do—in the way that we watch car crashes in slow motion, over and over—it is difficult to discern a method in the midst of the madness. It is just messy, some days, with no purpose.

So, as some pundits have observed, the Harper regime sometimes look like they have forgotten they are no longer a minority. They have a majority, and they can make decisions—like scrapping the long-gun registry—in the way that a majority government makes decisions. Fine.

But then they do weird things. Such as declaring that they will destroy all of the long-gun registrations made over the years. Despite the opposition of the police, and crime victims, and assorted Parliamentary officers—who have correctly pointed out that, with the destruction of government records, the Cons are breaking the law.



  1. bigcitylib says:

    I think you mean a dog chasing the object of their desire. A teenage boy typically knows what they want to do.

  2. Bruce from Etobicoke says:

    Good piece but undermined somewhat by that chestnut about the Clinton staff taking the W’s off the computers at the White House before leaving. That story was supplied by the incoming Bushies to a lazy press corps, ballooned to include vandalism charges, and then was completely debunked by Salon as well as others shortly thereafter. It can be found quite easily using “The Google”.

    I’m surprised someone writing in the Hill Times would be unaware that this story was a complete hoax which the US Press dutifully jumped right on for Mr. Rove. One bad example doesn’t change the story line though.

  3. JStanton says:

    It’s important, I think, not to fall into the trap of assuming Mr. Harper has a “government”. That would suggest a unified group of like-minded men and women of achievement, all acting together towards a common purpose for the benefit of the nation.

    Instead, what we have seen is a “government” of one. Mr. Harper acts unilaterally, dictating the actions of his coterie, all of whom are hired specifically because they will do as they are told, and, furthermore, are unencumbered by an intellect that that would necessitate original thought, curiosity, or conscience.

    Mr. Harper follows no discernible plan of action towards the public good. Rather, he acts on whatever whim takes him, based on existing prejudices, with no regard for facts, opposing views, or the good of the country.

    As a consequence, Canada continues to falter, it’s real problems and challenges swept under the rug, while Mr. Harper distracts us by giving permission to man-children to have secret rifles.


    • Windsurfer says:

      So, what you’re saying is a CON is a CON is a CON.

      Once you get past knee-jerk, opposition to virtually anything progressive, sheep-like obeying, ad hominem, abuse of process……… what you have are lonely introverts.

      Oh, and did I say exploding heads?

      • JStanton says:

        … that’s the spirit!

        Actually, my observation was party-agnostic. Mr. Harper is not in fact a Conservative; he simply uses the party as a convenient host for from which to act out his megalomania.

        As for being “lonely introverts”… I suspect that is a fitting description of Mr. Harper. His coterie, however, I don’t believe have the imagination. I’m sure that when he is not in the same room as them, they probably spend a lot of time sitting still, staring at the wall.


        • Pat says:

          I’ve been saying that for years. The Conservative Party in Canada is not actually particularly conservative, in that they don’t conserve anything. They are more of a corporate party, or anti-tax party, which is different.

  4. Harper’s Neoconservatism: This entire “hard right” movement is a crock.

    It is not a religious evangelist movement, **OR a moral movement. It is a corporate movement.


    FB pic Franenstein neocon kool-aid


    I think Galbraith’s old adage fits here: “Conservatism is the search for superior moral justification for selfishness.”

  5. W.B. says:

    Harper must think he is building a lasting legacy for the history books. Winning is his top priority, so perhaps he sees length of service as a higher goal than achievements. Or, as many have said, perhaps the destruction of the Liberal Party is all he really cares about.

    If you distill his years in power, the legacy boils down to only a few items:
    Increased militarism as shown by last weeks ‘mission accomplished’ TV show,
    Centralization of power in the executive branch,
    Use of sophisticated high tech media manipulation techniques,
    Reduction of political campaigns to talking points and personal destruction of opponents, with no civil debate or discourse of policy or issues.
    The elimination of Parliament and the MP as a significant institution in Canadian life.

    A lot of the so called policy: crime, gun registry, war and threats of war,economic action plan, and anti science and learning on climate, have no meaning at all, being ploys for continuous reelection, based on polling, and other techniques you know all about Warren.

    Maybe someday he will come up with something meaningful to leave for the ages, but I can’t see it yet. You can’t leave talking points and vote getting strategies for use a hundred years down the road can you?

    • Ted B says:

      Don’t underestimate the power and importance of length of service.

      Just look at the country before King and after King. Look closely and try to find any single moment where he brought in a broad radical agenda. And of the significant things he brought in, that were not introduced out of desperation by Bennett in the throes of the Depression, how late into his tenure were they brought in, after the country itself had shifted and was (made) ready for that change? If you had stopped King in 1940, what would his legacy have been?

      Paul Wells has noted this as well. Just be staying in government, Harper is (or according to Wells thinks he is) at least keeping the government from moving even further “left”. Maybe get rid of a few Liberal/liberal things here and there when he thinks he can get away with it. And by staying longer he can maybe shift it bit by bit to the right.

      By the next election, he will have already appointed half of the Supreme Court, hundreds and hundreds of judges, and made more bureaucratic appointments than Chretien. Think about that for a minute.

      I say this not out of praise but as a call to arms. These kinds of posts (sorry, Warren) are correct but drive me batty because they miss what is happening in the corners and out of the spotlight, and where the bigger tides are already moving without any/much resistance. They tend to make people complacent because we wonder how anyone could vote for him, even his supporters, when he’s not doing much. And that leads to people thinking that no one could vote for him. And then just enough do.

      I can’t figure this government out. But I think I’ve figured this Prime Minister out. He’s not a brilliant strategist as many claim – if he was, he would have had a majority a long time ago and his overall support would be high instead of the lowest ever for a majority government – but he is a brilliant or at least a very smart tactician.

      Like King, he probably has a general sense or a specific sense of where he wants the country to go. Like King, he knows you can’t move the whole country there right now right away and to even try risks losing everything. And like King, he’s patient and smart enough to just jump on opportunities, let his puppets do what they can here and there on odd things and if something resonates ramp that up and if it doesn’t drop it altogether like it never was. And very much like King, know that longetivity is the key to transformative change.

      Unless he is stopped.

      • Pat says:

        King was PM during WWII – of course significant changes were going to take place during his time in office!

        • Ted B says:

          What part of WWII necessitated the Canadian welfare state?

          • Pat says:

            You’ve never made the connection between a gigantic number of now-unemployed young men returning from the war and the need for a social support system?

          • Ted B says:

            Social welfare/social safety net doesn’t have anything or much to do with that. It didn’t after WWI.

            It does however have a lot to do with the younger adults and older kids who grew up in the Depression and came of age in the 1940s and 1950s. So there is overlap.

            The fact that King had to bring in the social safety net incrementally, just as Harper can only dismantle it incrementally, shows what I am trying to demonstrate. The termperment of the time was for government to not help those in need. Had King tried to do it all at once, his minority government in 1945 might have been a Conservative government.

            Same thing in reverse right now.

            The point is though

        • Ted B says:

          Or a modernizing of the bureaucracy and government?

          • Pat says:

            Or a modernizing of the bureaucracy and government?

          • Ted B says:

            King was a bureaucrat before he was a politician and one of the things he did in government was to modernize the Canadian bureaucracy and a lot of the workings of government. He saw the need for this, saw the way it should be done, and saw how it could be done from his own experiences and the many studies he conducted and papers he wrote.

            WWII had some impact, for sure. Running the bureaucracy of a war effort couldn’t help but do so.

            But the transformative changes King brought in to the way government works, like the social safety net, was not brought in because of the war.

          • Pat says:

            Did you just carry your response over two different comments? Respect.

      • Ted B says:

        Here’s something that is pretty eerie and should be frightening.

        This is an exceprt of King’s Wiki entry. Sound familiar at all?!?!

        “He lacked charisma, a commanding presence or oratorical skills; he did not shine on radio or in newsreels. His best writing was academic. Cold and tactless in human relations, he had allies but very few close personal friends; he never married and lacked a hostess whose charm could substitute for his chill. His allies were annoyed by his constant intrigues. He kept secret his beliefs in spiritualism and use of mediums to stay in contact with departed associates and particularly with his mother, and allowed his intense spirituality to distort his understanding of Adolf Hitler.[3]

        Historians conclude that Mackenzie King remained so long in power because he had developed wide-ranging, remarkable skills that were exactly appropriate to Canada’s needs. He was keenly sensitive to the nuances of public policy; he was a workaholic with a shrewd and penetrating intelligence and a profound understanding of how society and the economy worked. He understood labour and capital. He had a pitch-perfect ear for the Canadian temperament and mentality, and was a master of timing. A modernizing technocrat who regarded managerial mediation as essential to an industrial society, he wanted his Liberal party to represent liberal corporatism to create social harmony. Mackenzie King worked tirelessly to bring compromise and harmony to many competing and feuding elements, using politics and government action as his great instrument. He led the Liberal party for 29 years, and established Canada’s international reputation as a middle power fully committed to world order.

      • W.B. says:

        I agree King is the best comparison, but I wonder if what’s left after you take away WWII. I like Well’s ideas but where are we going incrementally??

        There was a little Item last week about the PMO monitoring, screening, and I guess controlling communication for the RCMP. Then we have the ‘mission accomplished’ circus last week which I hesitate to compare to spectacles mounted by governments wanting to become less democratic and under more central control in years past.

        As a legacy item I forgot: reducing Canada’s stature in the world!

        • Ted B says:

          Look at everything Harper wrote and said before 2006 if you want to know where he would like to take us. He’s just smart enough to know that Canadians would reject him if they knew him.

          You can also look at the kinds of things he’s doing in the international sphere like with aid and NGOs.

          Ultimately, like King he is a tactician and, above all, an opportunist. He dragged out approvals for CIDA funding to Planned Parenthood for over 2 years hoping no one would notice, as we didn’t notice or raise a stink on about a dozen similar de-funding efforts by him. When the pressure didn’t disappear and seemed to be rising, he allowed a torqued version of their historical funding. When the pressure disappears in the future (again: the importance of longevity – no one can stay pissed off and focused for very long, look at the media and look at environment as an issue, so he just has to wait them out), so too will the funding. Guaranteed.

  6. Anne Peterson says:

    I think everything everyone said here is true. Has he been analized by a good shrink. I have thought for a long time that his problem must have a name.

  7. Neil says:

    You guys still don’t get it. You still can’t help but dismiss Harper. That is why we got here in the first place. I remember arguing at a Liberal convention in Ottawa that Harper was going to destroy the Liberal Party and being looked at like a nut. These are people that within 30 years have destroyed the 2 main parties that built Canada. the PC and Liberal parties. 130 years of history wiped away!!!
    I would think that is a pretty damm significant legacy for someone lie Harper who thinks about politics all the time. He has completly reframed the debate between in Canada to make it between the damm socialists and the Conservatives. Who is gonna win from now on? Who is the new natural governong party? If that happens and we are now into a Conservative Century as much as the last was the Liberal Century in 100 years Harper will be Laurier, the country will be right wing and the Liberal party will be a historical footnote. We will of had 100 years of right wing supreme courts, 100 years of conservative civil servants, 100 years of military triumphalism, (Which is hard for some of us Liberals who felt that lack of respect for the military dishonoured the Liberal Party) and 100 years of a right wing mindset. What will Canada look like and the end of all that? Well Harper will be consistently listed as one of our greatest PMs.
    When oh when will Liberals and progressives stop being so dismissive of this guy??!?!!?!?!?!

    • Pat says:

      The LPC isn’t gone yet, buddy.

      And I don’t think anyone is necessarily saying that Harper isn’t a significant threat – the majority seem to be saying that he is insane/not a conservative. There is a difference.

    • JStanton says:

      I think you may misunderstand the nature of this “dismissiveness”. It is the veracity of Mr. Harper’s ideas, his world-view, and the value of his actions that are being dismissed, not the fact that he is a destructive, destabilizing force in our society.

      Yes, he is dangerous, because our political system, stemming from a monarchy, assumes goodwill on the part of the executive branch, and has thus historically given it wider powers than, say, an executive branch restrained by a republican constitution, allowing Mr. Harper to manipulate and abuse government toward his own, entirely selfish pursuits.

      Our form of government assumes that leaders, in the Platonic sense, are “men of gold” – “philosopher kings”. Without adequate checks and balances, it has allowed the palace to be over-run and sacked by paper cut-out figures – light-weight, insubstantial and without depth.


      • Ted B says:

        130% with Neil on this.

        We content ourselves in listing off all of his faults as though to say, ‘see, nothing to worry about here, no way he’s going to become leader/unify the Conservatives/win government/get a majority/get a repeat majority/etc’.

        Your analysis may be entirely correct.

        But that is not what the voters right now are caring about.

        Until we couple much more focused and consistent and storytelling and harsher attacks on Harper with much more focused and consistent and storytelling and connected policy directions from the Liberals, Harper will continue to have his day.

        And we’re failing on both counts.

        • Pat says:

          The LPC needs a focused message that is in line with where it has traditionally been – in the centre. For some reason the term “in the centre” has meant SOCIAL SPENDING in the last two elections, as though the LPC forgot what the difference between a Liberal and a Dipper is.

          The Tories and NDP have left a gigantic hole in the centre of the spectrum that everyone seems to think isn’t there. But there are still two significant truths: NO ONE trusts the Tories with social policy, and NO ONE trusts the NDP with fiscal policy. The Liberals need to find the compromise.

          • Ted B says:

            I’d say that the Conservatives and the Dippers have been successful at the expense of the Liberals precisely because they at least recognize that the centre is important. Both have gone to great lengths to paint themselves as moderate and to try to get to the middle.

            Harper has created a huge deficit, argued for the importance of government stimulus, promoted corporate welfare, expanded the size of government, promised not to even allow any abortion legislation, etc.

            Under Layton, the Dippers modified their anti-Israel position, talked about some tax cuts, supported parts of the Afghanistan War, etc.

            Without a strong leader with political experience and a unified party around core principles and policies, the Liberals have been completely squeezed.

          • Pat says:

            Which means Harper has abandoned the fiscal right, not that he has moved to the centre. The LPC – particularly now that the Tories are spending like drunken sailors – should have no problem arguing that they can be more fiscally responsible than the tories, but not so abrasive socially.

            I realize that the others have worked to look like they are in the centre, but old habits and perceptions die hard. People still SEE the same old Tories and Dippers. The problem is, they don’t see the LPC that they elected for most of the last 100 years…

          • The Doctor says:

            “Under Layton, the Dippers modified their anti-Israel position”

            Apparently Libby Davies never got the memo.

  8. Mandos says:

    It makes *perfect* sense to me. Think “Tea Party North”. It’s how you make the base continue to feel the necessary persecution complex, even when a majority is achieved.

  9. barry says:

    Notwithstanding all the whining from near-defunct Liberals and Dipper crazies, I suspect all will be forgotten by 2015, and the Cons will again have a good shot at winning another majority government. Harper is getting all the castor oil stuff done early in his mandate so that 4 years hence it will all be smooth sailing. The only real opposition to Harper’s government is the Liberal-leftist entrenched media, and they are rather irrelevant now because they cannot get their message across to the uninterested masses. Canada is now turned off politics and now it’s nothing but background noise, a white noise hum, irritating static. Yawn.

    • Ted B says:

      “Liberal-leftist entrenched media”. Yawn.

      You mean the Liberal-leftist entrenched media that for 4 elections in a row has recommended, almost unanimously in the last two elections, that Canadians vote for Harper and the Conservatives over the Liberals and the NDP?

      That Liberal-leftist entrenched media????

  10. Dan says:

    I’d say the conservatives are actually pretty intelligent.

    The big stuff: health care, pensions, abortion… the conservatives would lose their majority if they did what they really wanted.

    So instead they focus on the long game. Campaign finance. Stacking the supreme court. Eliminating the census. Senators and MPs added in conservative districts. A few nibbles here and there to satisfy the base… and in four years they get re-elected, in an environment where it’s easier for them to win.

    The end result: permanent conservative majority. All because they were smart enough not to use their majority too fast too soon.

    • Ted B says:


      And how do you oppose such a soft-edged revolution?

      You become a better story-teller, both about yourself (a reason to vote for) and about him (a reason to vote against).

      • Dan says:

        It’s hard. conservatives are basically running a liberal platform where it counts. doling out investments to the close ridings. promising to protect health care and lower taxes. where people care a lot less — campaign finance, the senate, the supreme court — they are looking out for conservative interests.

        the Liberal party has two options. one is to go for the politics of contrast. but if they do, they’re pretty much New Democrats. see: Afghanistan, retirement benefits, corporate taxes.

        the other option is pretty much wait until one of the other parties screws up, and then seize the opportunity. I think this is what the strategists are hoping to do. It’s very narrow minded and uninspiring. but knowing the other two parties, it just might work.

  11. Lykke Li says:

    Destroying the information is a reasonable thing to do for a party that doesn’t believe it should have existed in the first place. They believe it represented an unnecessary reach into the lives of gun owners, and they’re reversing it. You’re reading too much into it.

    • Pat says:

      I agree… but it is still breaking the law.

      I don’t necessarily agree with getting rid of the registry though.

    • Ted B says:

      The problem is that the long-gun registry didn’t just create an information database and start collecting information that was never collected before.

      It also consolidated information that was being collected by selling gun businesses which have not been collecting that information for a decade and a half.

      Tracking sales to guns and owners is a critical part of policing. That is why cops say it is important for public safety to keep the information and, if the Cons are reckless enough with public safety to get rid of the registry, to at least go back to what we had before.

      But the “dumb on crime” agenda of Harper doesn’t allow for anything but dumb.

  12. steve says:

    Even weirder is our Pirates of Penzance foreign policy. Victory in Libya private rally with flyovers cost $1,000,000, imagining your a soldier priceless.

  13. Patrick Deberg says:

    Much interesting information here and worth reading. Here’s my take. I beilive what we see here more than anything is an age struggle not a class struggle. This country is too rich for a class struggle. But the young is being pitted against the old here. The demograpic is going to change when the too few young see how everything is being consumed by the old. Health care is a perfect example of this polarization. Already the 60 and over crowd are eating a huge share of the health care dollars in the country. There won’t be enough to go around and the old don’t share. So the young will start to vote to save themselves. You can see this in the con punditry in their veiw of the Occupy crowd, the cons dismiss them as hippies and such. But one day the young will look upon the wharehoused old and will vote into being lax laws for end of life. The vote will no longer beneifit the old white angry crowd and then they will be too feeble to demand anything. They will be helped with speed to shuffle off this mortal coil and the justification will be their own libertarian gospel. It is tragic and sad but completly within human nature. The cons are building a nasty brutish world and they will indeed inherit the wind.

  14. frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

    Amazing!…….I didnt know Canada Christian College, Focus on the Family, and Big Oil were grass roots entities……..

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