What would a Stephen Harper majority government look like?
It’s not an idle question. We’re now in the second half of the 2011 national election campaign, and the Conservative Party remains comfortably ahead of the Liberal Party — and, according to some pollsters, is in (or very near) majority government territory.
Harper’s campaign team has done surprisingly poorly, while Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals have turned in a more solid performance. But poll after poll have shown that Team Harper’s many missteps haven’t really affected voter intention.
That’s why, perhaps, the Conservative leader is doing something in this campaign something he would never have dreamt of doing in 2004, 2006 or 2008 — he’s openly appealing for a majority.
Harper, while strategic, has never really been very secretive about what he would like to do with unfettered power. All of it is on the public record.
This, then, is what a Conservative majority government’s policies should look like.
— No abortion. In May of last year, Harper’s government was alone among G8 nations in opposing abortion as part of family-planning projects in poor nations. He stuck to his decision, even when facing criticism from Barack Obama. If put to a vote — and Tory MPs periodically push for one — abortion would be gone. Since Harper assumed control of the party in 2004, more than 80% of his caucus favour banning abortion.
— No gun control. More than other issue of its type, Harper has been clear about gun-safety laws — he detests them. In 2009, a Conservative backbencher’s bill to gut the centre of Canada’s gun control laws was defeated in Parliament. But Harper is undeterred. Throughout the campaign, he has said his party will go back to the issue and “scrap the long-gun registry.” Shootings generally account for a third of all murders in Canada; after tougher gun controls were introduced in 1995, shooting-related deaths dropped dramatically. But, despite the pleas of police officers and victims’ families, gun control will be history under a Harper majority.
— No equal marriage. In 2005, Harper and a majority of his party voted for the proposition that marriage can only happen between heterosexuals. During the debate on Bill C-38 — the equal marriage bill — Harper appeared at rallies where anti-gay rhetoric flourished. The Tory leader does not regard the issue as one of human rights. In Parliament in September 2003, he dismissed it as a discussion about “sexual behaviour.” It’ll be gone, too.
— The death penalty. Since 2004, Harper has said he favours a free vote on a return of the death penalty. He wrote the Reform Party platform that called for a binding referendum on it. Most of his caucus are onside, with a majority of Conservative MPs — including Harper’s current justice minister — voting for it the last time it was before the House in 1987. More recently, in an interview with CBC in January, Harper stated: “There are times where capital punishment is appropriate.” While Harper hastened to add that he then had “no plans” to bring back the ultimate sentence.
There many other issues where Stephen Harper has been clear about what he favours — such as more jails, more government advertising, more baubles for the generals — and what he does not.
He isn’t shy. It’s all there, on the record, for those who want to look.
What is also there is this truth: For good or bad, by the time Harper is done with it, you won’t recognize Canada.
— Kinsella is a lawyer, blogs at warrenkinsella.com and will appear regularly on Sun News Network