An opinion piece surfaced in the Sunday Review of the New York Times. This op-ed was written by Stephen Marche on August 14/2015. In this article, titled “The Closing of the Canadian Mind”, Marche is critical of the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper. Marche makes several and rather serious accusations. However, his article is filled with gross exaggerations, half-truths and outright lies.
As you probably already are aware, Canada has entered its 42nd General Election. And as you also already know, there is an inherent left-wing bias underlining in the majority of Canadian media, dubbed the “Mainstream Media” or “MSM” (an example of that bias can be found in Canada’s Broadcasting Corporation). And you’re probably already aware that this is the longest federal election in Canadian history.
Prime Minister Harper and his Conservatives now face opposition from two serious contenders; Thomas Mulcair of the New Democratic Party and Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party of Canada. But there is a third ‘party’ against the Harper Conservatives, and that is the MSM or ‘media party’ (not to mention the big labour unions and the Ontario Government). That being said, when Marche writes, “He has chosen not to participate in the traditional series of debates on national television […]”, he misses the true rational behind that claim. Marche goes on to claim, “[Harper] has called an election for Oct. 19, but he doesn’t want anyone to talk about it.” This is an unfounded and baseless accusation. The Maclean’s Debate on August 6th is a perfect example of Harper’s willingness to discuss and engage in the electoral process. It should be noted that Mulcair has declared that even he will not participate in any debate unless Harper is present. Why would Harper want to subject himself to a bias moderator from one of the major media conglomerates?
Moving on, Marche writes “[Harper] has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing […]”. After almost a decade of Conservative governance, Access to Information requests (a tool widely used by journalists and bloggers) is still accessible and exercised. Even the general public is still completely free to file an Access to Information request. The accusation that Harper is “[…] cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy and the country in ignorance” is baseless.
Marche writes, “At [Harper’s] notoriously brief news conferences, his handlers vet every journalist, picking and choosing who can ask questions.” When seeking an audience with the Prime Minister of Canada, there are obvious security issues that must be addressed. To that end, it is necessary to ‘vet’ individuals who seek that audience. And to Marche’s point “picking and choosing who can ask questions”, the P.M. is a busy individual. There is not sufficient time in a press scrum or any other media event to ask everything a reporter or journalist would have liked to ask. That’s an issue of practicality and logistics, not an attack on democracy.
Another frequent accusation made by Harper’s critics is that “Harper muzzles scientists”. And Marche included in his article a reference that reads, “Mr. Harper’s war against science has been even more damaging to the capacity of Canadians to know what their government is doing.”
The Conservative Government is not “muzzling” scientists. What the government is saying is that the scientist can’t just go out and release information on their own; it must be sent through the proper channels. One could only imagine the outcry if a government scientist released a finding that caused wide spread panic, only to be proven wrong shortly after. The ensuing public outrage would be enough to destroy any regime, regardless of political stripe. Take for example, if you work for a private company, would that company allow you to speak on their behalf to media? Many companies, both private and public, have policies in place that disallow the employee to speak directly to media; scientists are federal employees.
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have increased spending in many areas of research and development. In just fisheries and oceanic alone, here is a good example. That being said, Marche’s claim that Harper is defunding arctic R&D funds proves to be false when one considers that in 2014, “Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced today that the Government of Canada is continuing to play a leadership role on the international stage by making a significant funding contribution to the Green Climate Fund. Canada will provide $300 million to the Green Climate Fund, which is aimed at supporting projects, programs, policies and other activities to address climate change in developing countries.
This funding announcement builds on Canada’s previous significant investment under the Fast-Start Financing Initiative. The Government of Canada has fully delivered on this investment of $1.2 billion in funding which supports a range of projects focused on climate change adaptation and increasing renewable energy in more than 60 developing countries.
In addition, Canada is a founding member and major financial contributor to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition that is focused on marshalling global efforts to tackle short-lived climate pollutants. Canada is also advancing the development of action to address short-lived climate pollutants under its Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.” (More available here).
Marche notes, “The union that represents federal scientists and other professionals has, for the first time in its history, abandoned neutrality to campaign against Mr. Harper.” So they become one of the many unions attempting to interfere in this election. When a union chooses to become involved with politics, disaster strikes. Look no further than the province of Ontario and the last election held by that province; unions using lies, myths and gross misrepresentation of the facts destroyed Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PCPO).
Thus, the notion that Harper is muzzling scientists and cutting their budgets is false. Perhaps Marche is picking up on exaggerated hype from so-called ‘eco-activist’ groups. If many of these groups bothered to look at the facts, this element of the discussion may have not been necessary.
Moving on, Marche writes, “[Harper’s] active promotion of ignorance extends into the functions of government itself. Most shockingly, he ended the mandatory long-form census […]”. This was yet another example of Harper streamlining government spending. The old form was wasteful and cost the taxpayers a small fortune to run the program. Statistics Canada still tracks the stats on Canadians, that information is freely available on the StatCan website and freely accessible through an Access Information request. There are also numerous provincial government bodies that track statistics of their provinces’ residents.
This next quote from Marche’s article is a stretch and arguably laughable. Marche goes on to say this, “The darkness has resulted, organically, in one of the most scandal-plagued administrations in Canadian history. Mr. Harper’s tenure coincided with the scandal of Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto who admitted to smoking crack while in office and whose secret life came to light only when Gawker, an American website, broke the story.” It is ironic and extremely misguided to associate a relationship between Harper and Rob Ford. Ford and Harper are not part of the same political party. Granted, they are both Conservative in their approach to government, but to suggest that Harper is to blame for Ford’s troubles is inaccurate and deceitful. “Praise” at a barbeque from Harper to Ford had nothing to do with Ford’s troubles; it was a praise of how well Ford had been running the city of Toronto. On this point, Marche sounds more like Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne; who typically blames everyone but herself or her predecessor for Ontario’s woes.
The only arguable ‘scandal’ that has been plaguing the Harper Conservatives is the celebrity trial show of the year surrounding Mike Duffy. Which really isn’t a scandal as the taxpayers weren’t screwed; the taxpayer was actually reimbursed $90,000 dollars; which further illustrates the bias in the ‘media party’.
Marche goes on to talk about the Senate and “Mr. Harper’s appointments to the Senate”. It must be noted that Harper ran on a campaign to reform the senate last election. Harper wished to see elected Senators, rather than appointed ones. It was the provinces, save one, that did not co-operate with that goal.
Marche sites the “robocall scandal” of 2011. Ezra Levant already covered that point and showed that this is a false accusation. (source available here).
Marche plows ahead and next attacks the Conservatives “Fair Elections Act” calling it “a law with a classically Orwellian title”. Ask yourself, is showing Identification really so unfair? One must show ID before purchasing a case of beer or a bottle of wine and for a litany of other reasons. What is the problem with showing your face and proving your identity before you may cast a ballot? It is, after all, the civic duty of all Canadians to participate in the democratic process; it is not a stretch to suggest that the identity of the individual be proven.
“[Harper] is “tough on crime,” and so he has built more prisons at great expense at the exact moment when even American conservatives have realized that over-incarceration causes more problems than it solves.” writes Marche. When in actual fact, the monies allocated to prison facilities has increased, but not for building new prisons; rather for building and structural improvements of existing penal systems and compensating for the rising costs of maintaining and operation.
Marche also writes, “Then there is a new law that allows the government to revoke citizenship for dual citizens convicted of terrorism or high treason”. And he would be correct. The question that now begs to be asked is ‘how is this a bad thing for Canadians’? If one is convicted of terrorist activities and/or high treason against Canada, it seems a logical move to protect Canadians.
Marche must be a telepath because he claims to know what Harper is thinking, “The argument for all this secrecy was a technocratic impulse — [Harper] imagined Canada as a kind of Singapore, only more polite and rule abiding.” This is a subjective argument. There is no logical reason to believe what Marche said; in fact, it is rather presumptuous to infer that one knows what another is thinking.
Marche writes, “The major foreign policy goal of his tenure was the Keystone Pipeline, which Mr. Harper ultimately failed to deliver.” The Keystone XL Pipeline would have been a joint venture between the United States of America and the Dominion of Canada. It would have created many jobs and would have been a welcome boon to our oil exports. Canada is ready, willing and able to proceed with building the line, but because it is an international issue, the USA must approve it. President Barrack Obama and his Democrats have consistently said no to Keystone XL. If one wishes to place blame as to who is responsible for getting Keystone XL through the government process, then look no further to our neighbours to the south; don’t blame Harper.
And finally, Marche writes “Despite being left in a luxurious position of strength after the global recession, he coasted on what he knew: oil. In the run-up to the election, the Bank of Canada has announced that Canada just had two straight quarters of contraction — the technical definition of a recession. He has been a poor manager by any metric.”
During the Macleans’ debate, Harper mentioned the fact that only 20% of the economy is currently in technical recession and that is the energy sector. That leaves 80% of the economy still not in recession.
A Canadian Prime Minister, regardless of political stripe, does not hold a magic wand over the economy. Canada is also not solely dependent on our Oil Sands; we have a diversified economy, tough banking regulations, a balanced Federal budget and tough resiliency inherently built into the financial sector. There are more complex factors to analyze as well. Marche uses the current state of economic affairs in an attempt to convince his audience that it’s all Harper’s fault. Marche must realize that we live in a global community and Canada always seems to fair reasonably well.
Sensationalists like Marche would have one believe that Harper is destroying the country. The facts and actions of the Harper Government prove otherwise.
There’s an old adage, “Actions speak louder than words”.
And that is Kevin’s Common Sense.