So after watching the election Monday night (I stayed up, right to the very end), I realized that I need to know a bit more about this Stephen Harper. If he’s got a majority government, then what does that mean?
Remembering an interview Steve Paikin conducted with author Yann Martel, I ran to the bookstore early Tuesday morning to pick up What is Stephen Harper Reading?. I wasn’t sure what I would get out of it, in fact I was skeptical whether or not I would even get any insight into the mind of Stephen Harper.
Last week, I was discussing Harper with a friend. And it was brought to my attention that I had intuitively begun to judge him as a person, rather his political actions. Over the weekend before the election, I reflected on whether calling Harper an asshole on the basis of his policies was wrong. Should I pass judgement on the nature of a person from what I can deduce from his political life?
But it still got me thinking… the man rubs me the wrong way. And for some reason, if any other celebrity (of sorts) were to do something ridiculous, I wouldn’t care to think twice about it. This is where Martel really hits home.
"Is asking Stephen Harper to account for his reading habits irrelevant? Worse: is it improper and dishonourable, attacking the private man rather than his public policies?
The answer is simple. As long as someone has no power over me, I don’t care what they read, or if they read at all. It’s not for me to judge how people should live their lives. But once someone has power over me, then, yes, their reading does matter to me, because in what they choose to read will be found what they think and what they will do.” What is Stephen Harper Reading? p.10
Interesting, as I started to understand why I felt so strongly against the man. And so, the reading began.
Martel begins with suggesting to Mr. Harper that he should read Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych, a book I have yet heard of. It began to spur my own interests in the literature. In fact, as I continued, I became more interested in the books that Martel suggests to our Prime Minister than the man himself.
Now I read on and got to a very interesting point. Martel suggests Harper to read The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror by Michael Ignatieff. Isn’t that interesting?
I looked online and The Lesser Evil is sold out everywhere. I couldn’t even get a copy from our library. But, I happen to have another book by Mr. Ignatieff already, part of the Massey Lectures: The Rights Revolution.
I began reading that.
Ignatieff states that a defining feature of Canada are our Rights. He continues to discuss the myriad of Rights that Canadians have and the wonderful benefits and responsibilities that come with it. He also notes how, historically, those who obtain rights tend to oppose others who wish to have those rights - a characteristic that Canada has been a leader in overcoming. In fact, the recognition of human rights and systems of democracy have been quite violent. People around the world today are fighting for democracy, and we squander it like the air we breathe.
I feel sad.
Back to Martel’s book - He summarizes every author at the end of his letters to the Prime Minister. And this is what was written for Mr. Ignatieff:
MICHAEL IGNATIEFF (B. 1947) is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Prior to his political career, Ignatieff held several prominent positions in academia and broadcasting. He has been on the faculty of the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Toronto, and was the director from 2000 to 2005 of Harvard’s Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy. During his time in England, he worked as a documentary filmmaker and political commentator with the BBC. Ignatieff is the author of sixteen books, including a biography of Isaiah Berlin and three novels.
I feel more sad.
To my surprise, my sadness was less to do with Harper as Prime Minister, but of Ignatieff’s course in stepping down as the leader of the Liberal party.
I admit, the Liberals are far from perfect. But I truly believe Ignatieff is a man of principle. You can say that he called the election at the wrong strategic time, but it was called on the matter of principle - Harper is found in contempt or parliament. Harper has withheld information that, as a leader of a nation, with the responsibility to the people, we have the right to see and we have the responsibility to review the information. Accountability should be the name of the game, and this new majority government has none. Who will hold the party accountable now?
The NDP have over 50 seats from Quebec who have never set foot in parliament. I think one MP is 19 years old. Thus, the party’s dynamics are completely different than the party that campaigned. If I hear one more promise from Jack Layton, I just might lose it. The NDP have no power to pass any promises they make, especially against a majority conservative government. Maybe the conservatives will go easy on them…. fresh fish… fresh fish….. fresh fish…
But, some would say it’s in the direction of change. “Give the NDP a chance”, you might retort; I say sure. Give them a chance. Hopefully their battle wounds will show the Canadian people just how invasive this conservative government is. But, then again, you Canadians, you people of this nation; you have changed.
We are no longer citizens of a nation. We are as the politicians Rob Ford and Stephen Harper refer to us as: taxpayers. We are the entire reduction from a responsible, contributing, independant persons to a single dollar sign. The sadest part is that Canadians don’t care and we’ve reverted to the belief that a majority conservative government will stop this “bickering” and cycle of “unnecessary elections” just to stay the course of bringing us out of this recession.
The wealth of this nation is not in its fiscal plan. It is far greater than something so ephemeral. I have a voice as an equal, with rights as an equal, I am free like all equals. If you sacrifice even a fraction of our equality, then equality will be the price. What’s it worth to you?
Your precious conservatives have nothing on bringing Canada out of this recession. If the G20 summit report is ever released and the real price of the F35’s are ever confirmed, then hopefully Canadians will open their eyes. The conservatives will not raise taxes. They will cut taxes. But they will also cut funding for research in the humanities and social sciences (not technology). They will bring our tuition up multiple times. This is not the worst extent of this - this damage can be measured in dollars and cents.
Am I an “Ethnic”, or am I a “Very Ethnic”? I don’t know if my actions are “Ethnic” enough to constitute the “Very” prefix. Equal treatment is out the door with Harper. We can use the short form change to the census as proof. What are the bare minimum aspects that this government wants to know about their taxpayers?
I have barely scratched the surface. But I am sad and tired. The next time we hear Harper state this “is the True North”, our heads should sink to the floor in disbelief.