Stephen Harper – Canada’s CEO
“This political party stands for values that are eternal … this country will either adopt our values or it will fail.”
I voted for Stephen Harper four times. The last time I voted for him, it was because I believed he was best suited to handle Canada’s economy during this period of economic uncertainty but the first time I voted for him it was because I believed that he had a vision for Canada that included preserving the rights and freedoms of all Canadians in all parts of the country.
I was wrong.
For all the rhetoric that gets trotted out at election time, this Prime Minister is about as disengaged from Canadians as it is possible to get without actually moving to another country. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself a question.
When was the last time Mr. Harper sat down in front of the cameras to speak directly to Canadians about a crisis, a scandal or even just a major national issue like health care or pipelines?
The answer is that he has never done it.
He didn’t speak directly to Canadians following his tour of the Alberta floods, didn’t speak directly to Canadians about the Senate expense scandal until he was cornered by the media at a press conference in South America and has never spoken directly to Canadians about any major issue outside of an election campaign.
I don’t count the carefully choreographed photo ops and announcements he makes at partisan events like his current northern tour – those are meaningless. They aren’t about engaging and uniting Canadians, they’re about ‘selling’ the Conservative Party message.
Even the much vaunted Economic Action Plan was unworthy of a direct discussion with Canadians. It has been promoted through unnecessary and overly expensive television ads for which you and I pay.
This is a Prime Minister who has refused to meet with the provincial premiers and then no doubt wonders why he has so much difficulty getting agreement on things like the Northern Gateway pipeline.
Stephen Harper is a world leader who can’t be bothered leading and speaking up for or to the people who elected him. He governs by dictate rather than consensus because he is less a political leader than he is Canada’s CEO.
Nowhere is that more evident than in his complete disregard for the rights of Canadian citizens that are being trampled in Quebec by the minority PQ government.
This past week, the Quebec Government signaled that it was preparing to proceed with legislation to ban the right of Canadian citizens living within the province to wear religious symbols of their faith. This would include things like turbans, kirpans, the hijab, crucifixes and stars of David. It is in direct violation of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section II of the Charter states:
“Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
It is also a violation of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights which states in Section III”
“Every person is the possessor of the fundamental freedoms, including freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.”
This move to strip more rights from Canadian citizens living in Quebec is part of a continuing erosion of many rights including language and educational rights guaranteed under the Charter and yet, this Prime Minister has dismissed the entire issue as “a provincial matter.” Apparently, defending the rights of Canadians citizens is beneath Canada’s CEO.
But it comes as no surprise considering Mr. Harper’s reluctance to trouble himself with issues that effect Canadians in various provinces. Nor is he alone in his reticence when addressing thorny issues like the rights of Canadian minorities in various regions.
Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party has taken it his usual step further and simply stated that there is no issue unless there is a specific piece of legislation on the table. Isn’t that a convenient set of principles? It is no doubt predicated on the fact that fully half of Mr. Muclair’s MPs are from Quebec and he is reluctant to speak out on any issue that might threaten that support unless he is absolutely forced to do so.
Of course, it ignores the fact that language and educational rights have already been restricted but you can’t expect much in the way of principled leadership from a politician who can’t decide whether he is a citizen of Canada or of France and so clings to both.
What I find particularly troubling is that the only political leader to have shown leadership on this issue was Canada’s Peter Pan – Justin Trudeau.
That’s a bitter pill for me to swallow because I continue to believe that Mr. Trudeau, while probably a nice guy, is vain and quite vacuous when it comes to policy but he is connecting with Canadians in a way that neither Stephen Harper nor Thomas Mulcair have been able to achieve.
I believe it is because for all of his fumbling and bumbling around, for all of his shallow pop-star appearances and pronouncements, he actually cares about Canadians and their rights and well-being and Canadians understand that. I doubt he has the political smarts to actually do much about it but he is at least connected to the issues that trouble many Canadians. It is starting to appear that ‘engaging all Canadians” is more than just sloganeering for Mr. Trudeau and the smart money in the PC Party would do well to take note.
Unlike Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau met with Pauline Marois on the issue of religious symbols and after that meeting spoke out against the Quebec Government’s position and in defense of fellow Canadians whose rights were under attack.
“It’s important the state and its institutions be neutral, but the freedom of expression, freedom of religion are freedoms that are accessible to all Canadians regardless of who they work for,” -Justin Trudeau
Was it enough to accomplish anything? Probably not – the PQ Government is quite intransigent and bigoted but it was a damn sight more than either Mr. Harper or Mr. Mulcair were prepared to do.
Here’s a note to the smart kids in the Conservative war room.
The old attacks that worked on Stephen Dion and Michael Ignatieff aren’t going to work against Justin Trudeau. The more he is attacked, the more distant and removed from Canadians Stephen Harper will be made to appear.
And quite frankly, my friends, if as Prime Minister he is unwilling to speak out in defense of the rights of Canadian Citizens in Quebec or anywhere in Canada, the last thing he needs is to be made to appear even less connected.
I am well aware that many of my Conservative friends will dispute this opinion. To them I say this. Conservatives are supposed to be the party of the individual, the party prepared to defend individual rights and freedoms of all citizens. It’s what we claim to believe. Our leader, the guy we voted for isn’t doing that. He dismisses the restricting of the rights of Canadians as a provincial matter with the same disdain as Pontius Pilate washing his hands before Christ.
Surely to God, as Conservatives, we stand for more than just balancing the books!
Canada is more than just an economy. It is the sum total of its people and it is defined by the rights and freedoms to which every single Canadian is entitled; even the ones that make us feel uncomfortable. If its political leadership is not prepared to defend those rights and freedoms with at the very least, the same vigour it brings to managing the economy, it is failed leadership.
Conservatives talk about freedom but support a government that refuses to speak out against the restriction of rights of some Canadians — rights they take for granted in other parts of the country. They would do well to remember that if the rights of some can be restricted, the rights of all are just as easy to suppress.
“…freedom is not an end in itself, how freedom is exercised matters as much as freedom itself,” -Stephen Harper
If part of being a free people doesn’t include defending the rights and freedoms of all, what value does freedom actually hold? There was a time when Stephen Harper understood that but then, that was before he traded being Prime Minister to become Canada’s CEO.
© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
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