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The Crooked Tories

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Allan Woods

Ottawa Bureau

SYDNEY, N.S.—The Conservative Party is standing by its candidate in Scarborough Southwest after a senior Tory cabinet minister pulled his support for him for referring to the Tamil Tigers as heroes.

Gavan Paranchothy made the comments in a celebratory video about Heroes Day last Nov. 27, an annual celebration of fighters who have died in the fight for a Tamil homeland.

When presented with the video, Environment Minister Peter Kent told The Globe and Mail that Paranchothy’s words were “unacceptable” and that the party had “obviously dropped the ball” when conducting background checks on candidates.

“It was a tribute and it’s unacceptable, even if he didn’t write it, even if he didn’t believe it,” Kent said.

Kent, who is in a tough re-election fight in the riding of Thornhill, said he would be pulling his written endorsement of his fellow Tory.

Previous reports have noted that Paranchothy was involved in a massive Toronto rally in 2009 to protest civilian casualties as the civil war between Tamil fighters and the Sri Lankan government was drawing to a close. Paranchothy maintains he took part in the event only as a reporter.

After questions were first raised about his support for the Tamil Tigers, which the Conservative government outlawed in 2006, Paranchothy issued a statement saying that his reporting on issues of concern to the Tamil community doesn’t imply support for the guerrilla group. The Tamils have engaged in suicide bombings and have employed child soldiers in their fight for an ethnic homeland.

“I absolutely condemn terrorists and terrorism. I believe in the rule of law and the democratic process,” he wrote on April 14.

On Thursday, the Conservative campaign said it was standing by its candidate, even if one of its most visible ministers was not.

“Mr. Paranchothy’s statement of last week speaks for itself,” party spokesman Chris Day wrote in a statement.

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The Harpercrite hypocrisy never ends:

If Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and the NDP's Jack Layton are searching for a route to power in an electorally divided nation dominated by a seat-rich rival party — one positioned on the far side of the political spectrum — they might look to a road map produced in 1996 by none other than future Conservative leader and prime minister Stephen Harper.

And what was the best solution for overcoming the "benign dictatorship" of what Harper, at the time, called the "one-party-plus" rule of the Jean Chretien-led Liberals? It was a "coalition" or working alliance of opposition parties — possibly backed by the Bloc Quebecois.

Harper's detailed and visionary plan to end the crippling effect of vote-splitting among centre-right parties — a grim reality now faced by Canada's centre-left — was published in the now-defunct Next City Magazine.

And many of the ideas being tossed around today by frustrated supporters of the Liberal, NDP and Green parties are all there under Harper's byline: party amalgamations, co-operative election strategies, parliamentary alliances and — yes — coalition governments propped up by Quebec separatists.

The essay was penned 15 years ago by Harper and his frequent collaborator on political writings at the time, University of Calgary historian and political scientist Tom Flanagan. Flanagan went on to become a key strategist in Harper's rise to power as his chief of staff and Conservative campaign manager, later writing about the experience in his 2007 book Harper's Team.

But in 1996, the national political landscape looked rather bleak to Harper and Flanagan as they surveyed a weak and fragmented conservative movement with little hope of stopping a second Liberal majority in the 1997 election.

Harper, in fact, who served as a Reform MP from 1993 to 1997, was on the verge of leaving elected politics to become head of the National Citizens' Coalition lobby group.

And when he and Flanagan contemplated conservatism's long-range prospects in their essay — titled "Our Benign Dictatorship" — they saw in recent Canadian history not the operation of the commonly understood two-party-plus system (Liberal and Conservative, with NDP as the "plus"), but a "one-party-plus" system in which Liberals almost always govern, except for brief interruptions when Conservatives manage to cobble together a fragile coalition of western populists, the traditional Tories of central and Eastern Canada and Quebec nationalists.

At the time, with Reform and the former Progressive Conservative party dividing the centre-right vote and allowing Chretien's Liberals the easy election victories of a virtual "hegemony," Harper and Flanagan predicted an ongoing "war of attrition" between conservative parties with no real hope of unification — a prediction that was proven wrong in 2004 when Harper took charge of a united right as leader of the new Conservative Party of Canada.

But back in 1996, still stuck on the outside of power looking in, the authors of "Our Benign Dictatorship" saw a reformed electoral system — perhaps proportional representation — as one possible solution, so that a relatively strong popular vote for the two main conservative parties could at least translate into a greater seat total in Parliament.

The other potential solution, they argued, was an "effective coalition on the right" in which the Reform and PC parties worked co-operatively to minimize vote-splitting at election time. The parties might agree on "a territorial split at the national level, with Reform running in the West and the PCs in the East, or Reform in rural areas and the PCs in the cities."

The parties could also consider running only one candidate in certain ridings, the authors advised, to maximize the chance of defeating their common archrival: the Liberals.

"The parties might also agree to common platform items and limited co-operation in Parliament," Harper and Flanagan wrote. "The machinery is not a problem if the will to co-operate exists."

Finally, they assert, the "alliance" of centre-right parties might require — to finally surmount the Liberal seat count in the House of Commons — an arrangement to be negotiated with the Bloc Quebecois to secure that party's support in Parliament.

"Philosophically, it is logical for liberals to offer Quebec money and privileged treatment, while conservatives find it easier to offer autonomy and enhanced jurisdiction," Harper and Flanagan stated. "On that basis, a strategic alliance of Quebec nationalists with conservatives outside Quebec might become possible, and it might be enough to sustain a government."

The two thinkers concluded with a call for "an explicit coalition of conservative sister parties" to advocate "electoral reform as part of a common platform." The aim would be to end the distorting effect of Canada's first-past-the-post voting system and ensure fairer representation in Parliament.

"Many of Canada's problems stem from a winner-take-all style of politics that allows governments in Ottawa to impose measures abhorred by large areas of the country," Harper and Flanagan wrote. "Modernizing Canadian politics would not only be good for conservatism, it might be the key to Canada's survival as a nation."

But Harper's inadvertent advice for today's opposition parties, all crowded on the centre-left side of the Canadian political spectrum, didn't end there.

In 1997, during an interview broadcast by TVOntario, Harper elaborated on a potential strategy in the House of Commons that could see separate but allied conservative parties eventually displacing the Liberal government in a minority Parliament — even if the Liberals continued to have more seats than any other single party.

"The way the Liberals, I think, are eventually going to lose office, whether it's in this election or the next one, is they're going to fail to win a majority," Harper said in the 1997 interview. "They've basically lost Quebec, and without Quebec the Liberal party has never been a majority party in this country. . . . And that's where I think you're going to face, someday, a minority Parliament, with the Liberals maybe having the largest number of seats.

"But what will be the test is whether there is then any party in opposition that's able to form a coalition or working alliance with the others. And I think we have a political system that's going to continue to have three or four different parties or five different parties, and so I think parties that want to form a government are eventually going to have to learn to work together.''

It's an option that, during this election, Harper has bluntly described as "illegitimate" — part of his unrelenting attack on the idea of a Liberal-NDP "coalition" government backed by the Bloc Quebecois.

But now he's on the inside of power looking out.


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Even as he became an influential management scholar, Mintzberg has been free with acerbic criticisms of business education as it’s practised in North America. A couple of years ago, The Economist listed him as one of the world’s management “gurus” but described him as “a consistently contrary Canadian academic who sometimes seems to be undermining the very industry that he works in.”

Mintzberg’s critique of the Harper government has less to do with specific policy positions than with an attitude that he sees as embodying the same unhealthy values that dominated the presidency of George W. Bush. Some key elements are the glorification of overpaid corporate leaders and short-term profits. That’s tied to the denigration of government’s role in providing a regulatory and socially conscious counterweight to business.

The U.S. financial crash and its devastating recession were directly related to this skewed view of the world, Mintzberg believes. As a result of Canada’s having followed a different path, with more willingness to let government regulate financial institutions, “we’re doing better than the Americans,” with an economy that suffered far less and unemployment that’s lower.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/dec ... z1KKajj4OG

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http://translate.google.com/translate?h ... rmd%3Divns

Refusing to be "arm twisting", the former CEO of the Port of Montreal Dominic Taddeo slammed the door of the selection committee for his successor after the famous dinner at which the right hand of Stephen Harper, Dimitri Soudas, came to encourage committee members to appoint Robert Abdallah, told La Presse.

This new information would support the fact that there was political interference from the Prime Minister's entourage, especially Dimitri Soudas, but also two influential businessmen, Tony Accurso and Bernard Poulin, as suggested by recordings of conversations released yesterday morning on YouTube .

The Port of Montreal is an independent federal agency. When Dominic Taddeo has announced his retirement in 2007, three members of the board of directors were appointed to consider nominations to the estate: lawyer Jeremy Bolger, accountant and lawyer Marc Bruneau Diane Provost. There was also Dominic Taddeo. The law provides that the selection committee make this choice freely.

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http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/pol ... m=sec13571

With two weeks left in the campaign, which of these political talking points is most likely to influence your vote?

Unnecessary nature of an election The Conservatives' ethics Potential Liberal-NDP coalition Government spending on jets, prisons, etc. Who will best manage the economy and job creation


284 votes

Unnecessary nature of an election


13845 votes

The Conservatives' ethics


491 votes

Potential Liberal-NDP coalition


1889 votes

Government spending on jets, prisons, etc.


1185 votes

Who will best manage the economy and job creation

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No matter what one's political affiliations are, there is reason to be seriously concerned when someone like Mr. Accurso has the ability to reach out, and bring influence to bear, at the highest levels of the PMO.

What I heard on those tapes is very disturbing.

Not good. Not good at all.

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http://thestar.blogs.com/davidolive/201 ... paign.html


Best quote of the 2011 campaign.

And likely to remain so, even with 10 days to go till May 2. It's from Kinsella, captioning a YouTube of Harper in 1997 arguing the merits of governments formed by a coalition of opposition parties. Yes, the very thing Harper's trying to scare voters with now:

Stephen Harper: hook him up to a lie detector, and he’d knock the power out from here to Mexico.

It's the campaign's best quote because it best captures the unease many Canadians feel about the PM, including many people who ultimately will vote Tory.

That said, it's fair game - indeed, it's incumbent on the PM - to depict a scenario in which the party winning the most seats ends up not forming the government. And to ask voters to think about how they feel about that. A scenario in which the second- or even third-ranked winner of seats ends up leading the next government. A coalition government made possible only by the inclusion of a party, the BQ, dedicated to breaking up the country.

These are fair questions. The PM should be raising them and Canadians should be discussing them.

The intellectual dishonesty of Harper on this point - a point which is coming to be his chief message in the waning days of this campaign - is obvious when the PM makes out as though his own ouster by such means after May 2 is something, at least by inference, he has never contemplated doing himself to someone in his position.

That is plainly untrue. Most voters by now are well-informed about Harper's heavy petting with coalitions among his party and others in opposition to topple a minority Liberal government. Coalitions that of necessity would have included the dread BQ, no less separatist in the past than now.

This Kinsella-captioned video simply reminds us of the Harper hypocrisy on this point for the umpteeth time. If Harper had only owned up to his erstwhile commitment to this perfectly legitimate parliamentary gambit, instead of having us believe it was some kind of "Dallas"-like "dream sequence" that never happened, than he might not have slipped into the Lyin' Brian regard so many Canadians have for him

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Here's what Stephen Harper's sputtering, purplefaced opponents can't understand: nothing sticks.

Contempt of Parliament, Bev Oda, intolerance of dissent, the Senate flipflop, campaign spending violations, ordering that the government of Canada be called "the Harper government" -all this and much, much more has been flying around on social media sites popular among young people who are outraged to discover deeply guarded secrets known only to the Conservatives and, um, anyone who actually reads a newspaper.

What really drives critics crazy is that the more they holler, the less voters listen. The Ottawa Citizen called it "scandal fatigue," the idea that each fresh example of ethical scumbaggery only adds to the pile, making Canadians less angry than weary and disaffected.

Few seem bothered that Harper runs a campaign torn from the pages of Orwell, with a security screen that is accused of using Facebook to chase a suspected teenage Liberal sympathizer from a campaign rally, yet somehow fails to weed out a senior adviser with five fraud convictions.

Oh, and that same now former adviser, Bruce Carson, 66, tries to work a deal that would funnel government money to the company for which his 22-year-old ex-escort girlfriend works. Then one of Carson's exgirlfriends, once convicted of money-laundering in connection with a prostitution ring, turns out to be the aunt of a young woman hired by Gary Lunn's office in 2008.

Lunn bridles at the linkage. The hiring had nothing to do with him and, besides, the sins of the aunt shouldn't be visited on the niece.

Fine. But here's the other part: the job opening was only advertised among Conservative MPs and paid about $54,000 a year despite requiring almost no qualifications.

"If you ask people who live and breathe this stuff, they all say the same thing: It doesn't matter," Rick Mercer ranted last month. "People just don't care. Apparently our opinion of politics and the people who practise the art is now so low that no matter what the behaviour, we're no longer surprised."

Perhaps, but there are limits to this notion of scandal fatigue, cautions veteran Victoria political scientist Norman Ruff.

Not all scandals are created equal, he says. "People tend to be more forgiving of personal impropriety."

Even abuse of power, which is essentially what the Harper criticisms are all about, tends to be shrugged off, Ruff says.

But the public still takes notice when the wrongdoing involves conflicts of interest or money going in pockets. The federal Liberals were thrown out because of the sponsorship scandal in which they stuffed their friends' pockets with taxpayers' money.

"That one stuck," Ruff says.

Low expectations can actually be an advantage. "The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a live boy or a dead girl," Edwin Edwards, the four-term Louisiana governor, boasted before indeed being voted back into power in 1983. Edwards was widely acknowledged to be corrupt (and, indeed, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on racketeering charges in 2001) but won anyway, because people knew what to expect.

Harper is no Edwin Edwards. For all the wounded spluttering of his opponents, none of the criticisms of the prime minister involve having his hand in the cookie jar, which is apparently where the scandal bar now rests.

In 1974, Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" was a departing declaration of defiance.

Today, in Canada, it's a campaign slogan.

Jack Knox is a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. jknox@timescolonist.com

© Copyright © The Calgary Herald

Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/decis ... z1KT4HhTQk

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Here's a summary list of the "great" things Harpercrite and his reformartorts have done for Canada:

Breached his own fixed election laws

Taxed income trusts despite a pre-election promise to never tax them

Answer the allegations he bribed Cadman to vote with the harper party

Produced a guide to disrupting parliamentary committees

Has ministers misleading parliament (Clements, MacKay and Oda)

Prorogued parliament twice

Found in contempt of parliament 3 times

Muzzled his ministers and mps

Leads the most secretive government in Canadian history

Created the largest deficit in our country`s history

Spent $1.2 billion on a weekend fest

spending $10 billion on prisons for unreported criminals, when crime is declining

spending $30 billion on planes that have yet to be built, and no case made for why we need them

Sacked any watchdog that does not do his bidding

Cancelled the longform census to get unreliable data and spending more of our money doing so

Spent $100 million advertising to us how wonderful a leader he is, and thereby `bought`` the support of the media

Earned Canada more fossil fuel awards than any prior Prime Minister

Being the only Canadian PM to fail to win a seat on the UN Security Council

For hiding information about the abuse of Afghan detainees

For losing the rights to use Camp Mirage only months before the withdrawl of troops from Afganistan, endangering our troops and costing us $300 million more?

Bribed two provinces to bring in the Harper Sales Tax, but won`t offer the same deal to Quebec.

Gave a standing ovation to a minister who mislead parliament and forged a document

Appointed two senators who had 67 forged invoices falsely claiming tax rebates for election expenses.

Found guilty by the Appeal court of Canada for breaching the Election Act spending limits for political parties in 2006 and thereby stealing an election.

Changed the Government of Canada to the Harper Government

Spending $6 billion on further ineffectual tax cuts for the largest corporations.

Has staff being investigated by police about 3 separate incidents.

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Stephen Harper can't say why Canadian voters should trust him

SAANICH, B.C. - Conservative leader Stephen Harper strayed away Sunday from explaining why voters should trust him personally with the power of a majority government, preferring instead to put the focus on the success of his Tory party.

At a campaign stop here, Harper was asked for a direct answer on why Canadians should trust him when he asks for a majority mandate that would give him greater power than he has now as prime minister.

"We always say in all these elections, in a democratic ethos, voters are never supposed to give absolute trust to anybody," Harper replied.

"They are supposed to constantly question, and that is part of the process."

Then, Harper launched into a pitch on behalf of his own government and party as the reason why Canadian voters should support the Tories on May 2.

"Obviously, what we say to voters — and what I say to voters — is under the leadership of this government Canada has been focused on what matters to people. On the economy, on the creation of jobs, on delivering affordable benefits."

In this campaign, Harper's opponents are declaring that he cannot be trusted with the increased power of a majority government.

The Liberals have run TV ads that attack Harper's character and suggest he has a hidden agenda to weaken programs such as medicare. The ads urge voters to support the Liberals to prevent a Tory victory, saying the "stakes are too high."

In past campaigns, pollsters say Harper's drive for a majority has been held back by underlying concerns by some voters about his personal character.

In this campaign, the results could hinge on the extent to which voters now have less anxiety about Harper, and whether they have come to trust him.

But for his part, Harper was reluctant Sunday to directly answer questions about himself.

"Canada is coming out of this recession with a record to prove it," he said.

"The other guys forced an election nobody wanted for reasons they still have not given a satisfactory answer for."

"And I think to avoid this again, the choice is obvious: To trust the government that is leading Canada on the right track."

When reminded that the question focused on why voters should trust him personally, Harper altered his answer, but only slightly.

He said Canadians should "trust the government that I'm leading" because it is on the right track on issues related to the economy and national unity.

He said the Tories have the "record" to prove their successes and have put forward a platform in this campaign that speaks to the needs of Canadians.

"Ultimately it is about which party is actually addressing what Canadians care about. And I believe it is our party under my leadership."



Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/dec ... z1KWbkhXO7

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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Stephen Harper's most controversial quotes compiled — by Tories

By: Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Posted: 04/25/2011 4:07 PM | Comments: 0 | Last Modified: 04/25/2011 4:26 PM

Print E–mail 13 ShareReport Error OTTAWA - A 500-page dossier of potentially damaging remarks by Stephen Harper has hit the election campaign, but don't blame the opposition parties — it was prepared by the Conservatives.

The thick binder of material, obtained by the Liberals, is a treasure trove of controversial Harper quotes, listed alphabetically by subject matter. It covers everything from abortion to western alienation and dates as far back as the 1980s.

The fact that the Tories felt compelled to research their own leader suggests they believed Harper's past penchant for blunt, uncompromising talk could pose a problem on the campaign trail.

The files include this 2002 boast from Harper, then a leadership contestant: "I'm not ashamed to say that, in caucus, I have more pro-life MPs supporting me than supporting Stockwell Day."

There's also his 1995 assertion that "providing for the poor is a provincial, not a federal responsibility."

And the 1999 argument that Quebec's language law was designed by the Parti Quebecois "to suppress the basic freedoms of English-speaking Quebecers and to ghettoize the French-speaking majority into an ethnic state."

All parties' go to enormous effort digging up damaging comments by rival leaders and candidates, which they take great glee in exposing at the most inopportune moments. But it's unusual to see a party collect its own leader's questionable quotes.

The research was begun in 2003 by Harper's former chief of staff, Tom Flanagan, who appears to have believed the old adage that forewarned is forearmed.

"When I became chief of staff in 2003, one of the first things I did was organize a 'Harper research' program to collect everything he had ever written or said in public," Flanagan wrote in his 2007 book "Harper's Team."

Flanagan declined to comment Monday on the binder of material obtained by the Liberals.

However, a Tory source who was familiar with the research project said the binder appears to be genuine. It includes an initial 359 pages of quotes, which were supplemented by about 100 more pages in two instalments in July 2003 and January 2004.

A cover note on the 2004 instalment says the quotes "that have the potential to be the most problematic are the quotations dealing with health care."

Some of those comments have already been mined by opposition parties to cast doubt on Harper's commitment to maintaining Canada's universal, publicly funded health-care system. Other quotes, in which Harper extols the virtues of allowing private, for-profit health delivery and a parallel private health-care system, seem to have gone largely unnoticed.

There's his 2002 assertion that "the private provision of publicly insured services should be permitted. The monopoly of provision of services is not a value that, in and of itself, is worth preserving."

Or his lament, also in 2002, that the Canada Health Act "rules out private, public-delivery options, It rules out co-payment, pre-payment and all kinds of options that are frankly going to have to be looked at if we're going to deal with the challenges that the system faces."

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Posted on Fri, Apr 29, 2011, 2:34 pm by Lawrence Martin Has Canadian politics ever seen anything like it?

The highest office in the land, the prime minister’s office, has taken on the look of a rogues’ gallery.

Charges against those in the Stephen Harper’s inner sanctum, past and present, range from influence peddling, to political sabotage, to breaking electoral laws to assorted other scams.

The latest to get the tag of dirty trickster is Patrick Muttart, the brainiac who served as the prime minister’s deputy chief of staff and more recently as a senior political operative. This week, he was singled out for leaking information in an apparent attempt to incriminate Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff as an Iraq war planner. A photo purporting to be of the Liberal leader was found to be bogus. Mr. Muttart, credited by many as a key player in Harper election victories in the past, was summarily dropped from the campaign team.

Preceding the Muttart revelation, Dimitri Soudas, the prime minister’s director of communications, was hit with allegations of political interference in a senior appointment to the Montreal Port Authority. Port-linked audio recordings have come to play in the story as well as talk of kickbacks. Mr. Soudas denies any untoward activity.

Before Mr. Soudas, it was Bruce Carson, a former senior adviser to Mr. Harper. He was revealed to have a criminal past and is now under investigation by the RCMP for possible influence peddling. The case involves alleged attempts by an Ottawa-based company which employed Mr. Carson’s fiancée, a former escort girl, to land water filtration contracts at native reserves.

Before the Carson revelations, charges of wrongdoing were brought against Doug Finley who served as Mr. Harper’s campaign manager and long-time top political operative. He faces charges in the so-called in and out affair of violating election finance laws. Former national party director Michael Donison is also charged as well as Senator Irving Gerstein, the party’s chief fundraiser.

In the current campaign, Conservatives have been caught up in alleged document tampering. The auditor general was found to have issued a reprimand to them for changing a document to make it appear the Tories demonstrated prudent fiscal management when in fact it was the previous Liberal government which was being commended.

Another embarrassment came in the campaign’s first week when Conservative operatives were called on the carpet for frogmarching citizens out of Tory rallies for no other reason than possible ties to other political parties.

On the eve of the campaign, Mr. Harper became the first prime minister in history to be found in contempt of Parliament. The decision followed an investigation by the Speaker of the Commons.

Mr. Harper’s former chief of staff, Ian Brodie, left the prime minister’s office in 2008 after being caught up in the so-called Naftagate affair which involved a diplomatic leak embarrassing to the Barack Obama election campaign. Mr. Brodie denied being behind the leak, the source of which has not been determined.

A review of history shows that no other prime minister has had so many top officials or former top officials from his office caught up in what opposition critics call political sleaze. The galaxy of alleged wrongdoing has called to question the moral character of the PMO.

Brian Mulroney and Lester Pearson’s stewardships saw many cabinet ministers resign over conflict of interest allegations or other transgressions. But their respective PMOs were not mired in muck. In Jean Chrétien’s term, senior public servants, most notably Chuck Guite, were caught up in the sponsorship scandal as were lower level Liberal officials in Quebec. Jean Carle, a top aide to the prime minister, was involved in several controversies and there were some cabinet resignations owing to ethical violations.

As for the Harper cabinet, former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier had to resign after leaving classified documents at the home of a girlfriend with ties to biker gangs. But while his cabinet members have run into some ethical difficulties, Bev Oda being a recent example, there have not been as many embarrassments as in several other governments. Instead it’s the prime minister’s own inner sanctum of advisers who have set this government apart.

The revelations concerning his team members may be a factor in the declining support levels the Conservatives are experiencing in the campaign. Mr. Harper’s personal leadership ratings are also declining, falling behind those of NDP leader Jack Layton.

More trouble could be in store for the Harper coterie. Three reports involving questions of controversy that could well have come out before voting day have been delayed for various reasons until afterward. They are the auditor general’s report addressing spending at the G8 summit, an independent study of the work of former Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet, and the release of documents pertaining to the Afghan detainees’ affair.

© 2011 iPolitics Inc.

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By Haroon Siddiqui

Editorial Page


The Star's Politics Page

Who says elections are a nuisance? Stephen Harper and the media. The latter also parroted his pronouncement that this campaign was “unnecessary,” being the fifth since 2000. It’s a waste of money. It’s boring, to boot.

Canadians have proven them wrong, being fully engaged from the first week to the last, turning up in record numbers to the advance polls and dragging Harper onto a knife’s edge for Monday night.

Pooh-poohing politicians used to be the staple of hotline radio. But now it’s most media’s. Stripped of the resources for in-depth coverage and analysis, they feed off the contemporary culture of trivialization and Oprah-ization of democracy.

Thus we are told that it must be Jack Layton’s moustache or his cane that brushed aside Harper’s and Michael Ignatieff’s best laid plans. Or perhaps it was Harper not deigning to look the three opposition leaders in the eye in the televised leaders’ debate.

Speaking of which, how did you feel watching it? About 1,000 Canadians told a pollster that they were irritated, annoyed. Conclusion: “Canadians find politics ‘off-putting.’” Well, we all find all sorts of things “off-putting” every day. But that doesn’t make us infantile and incapable of sober second thought, especially about elections.

Stoking cynicism was Harper’s strategy. The more disengaged the voters and the smaller the turnout, the higher the chances of his hard-core constituency catapulting him into a majority. He was going to consolidate his base and sprinkle it with sectoral politics — Jewish Canadians here, Sikhs there and some Chinese in a handful of ridings.The tactics worked for a while. It let him separate himself from the other three “bickering politicians.” They were getting in the way of his forming a “stable” government. Democracy equalled instability. That’s what Hosni Mubarak used to say as well.

Harper also delegitimized possible post-election arrangements between political parties in case no party won a majority and the one with the most MPs failed to get the confidence of the House of Commons.

Standard parliamentary practice, that. But Harper made it sound like a coup being hatched by the opposition.

Including even the Bloc Québécois in a parliamentary partnership would not be all that scandalous, says eminent historian Desmond Morton of McGill University. “The separatists are Canadian citizens and Canadian voters. They have a right to have their voice heard in Parliament. We hear it in Quebec all the time, so it had better be heard in Ottawa and English Canada.”

But the “Harper-ization of our minds” (in the memorable phrase of John Meisel of Queen’s University) has been such that it tripped up even Ignatieff, as he tried to run as far as he could from the very notion of a coalition.

However, Canadians quickly caught on to Harper’s politics of division, his contempt of Parliament, his bully tactics (symbolized by students being thrown out of Tory rallies), abuse of power and misuse of the treasury in showering tens of millions of dollars on ridings and groups with the sole purpose of advancing the partisan Conservative cause.

Ordinary citizens have turned the election into a referendum on Harper — specifically, on a Harper majority. Their answer to his fanning the fears of “reckless coalition” post-election was to forge one at the grassroots level, now.

Thus such groups as Project Democracy and Catch 22 are advocating strategic voting for the two-thirds of voters who do not support Harper. On their websites (projectdemocracy.ca and catch22campaign.ca), both identify candidates in ridings most likely to beat the Conservative standard-bearer. (Catch 22 is named after the number of days lost in 2008-09 when Harper prorogued Parliament).

There have been Vote Mobs on university campuses and social media activists tweeting and making videos, such as Go Ethnics Go!?!?, on YouTube, mocking the Harper strategy of wooing “ethnic” and “very ethnic” ridings.

Also taking to YouTube is a revered senior citizen, Peter Russell, constitutional expert at the University of Toronto. In his video and in a statement to Project Democracy, he says he has “never been more worried in my lifetime” than at the “scary” prospect of a Conservative majority. “I really tremble” that if Harper were to win a majority, “it’d be an indication that parliamentary crime pays.”

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