Prime Minister Harper has not ever seemed to grasp what minority governing is all about. Of course this is because, for him, it is merely an inconvenient stepping stone – a little slippier than others – to a legislative majority.
Mr. Harper had no intention of governing under a minority regime. This is his worst nightmare: to be stuck in the polls at a number – thirty-some percent – that only guarantees another minority, and not necessarily a conservative one. So, he has tried to ram through, via communiqués and emails, directives to foreign affairs staff about what is a priority and what isn’t.
The Globe and Mail reports, today, that the Harper government has directed civil servants in foreign affairs to “toe the party line”, to use an old phrase. Seems foreign affairs people have the idea that the country has long term goals that supercede short term party goals. Thank God for that. In a quote from the Globe and Mail article, “The alignment exercise was aimed at delivering on the government’s foreign policy and trade priorities and [that] had been under way for several months.” “Alignment exercise”? Couldn’t that phrase be used to describe how a minority government, less interested in democracy than in decree, may “govern”? The phrase is right out of George Orwell’s “1984”.
Prime Minister Steven Harper (Image courtesy http://lflaconservative.ca/national.htm)
Being the cunning operator and backroom dealer he is, Harper has managed other alignment exercises: prolonging Canada’s troop commitment in Afghanistan; it’s an alignment exercise! Renege on the Kelowna Accord for Native people; an alignment exercise! Tighten our embrace of North American union and the American missile defense plan; an alignment exercise! The whole Kyoto disaster; an alignment exercise! Some day PR schools will have whole semesters devoted to how a government managed to both support AND not support an important accord at the same time. If the Harper government doesn’t get what it wants and they can’t go to the polls to get legitimized, well, they will simply “align” things a certain way.
Canada’s electoral system is in a deadlock. No one is prepared to be responsible to call an election right now because there is no way to predict the outcome. Polls show, basically, the Liberals and Conservatives in a tie, with the Bloc holding the balance of power and the NDP stuck in the high teens. Canadians are stymied, while important issues that will have a direct negative impact on our children and grandchildren are left unattended: environmental degradation, war, poverty and unsustainability, i.e. consumerism.
Canadians should be outraged. Jack Layton should be outraged. They are not and that scares me. Perhaps this country needs a fast lesson on what Fascism looks like.