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September 23, 2009

For Canada's sake, Harper must go

The Canadian Charger

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If an election were held today, a majority of Canadians would not want Stephen Harper to continue as prime minister. Here are 10 reasons why.

1. Military overspending—Harper pours billions into the military and keeps sending young Canadians to die in Afghanistan. In fiscal 2008–2009, defence spending estimates amounted to $19.5 billion. By comparison, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs received $7.3 billion. In August, the Department of National Defence announced it would spend $5 billion over 20 years for 15 helicopters. This year, $5 billion was also pledged for new armoured vehicles. At the end of the Cold War, Canadians were dreaming of a peace dividend.

2.Foreign” Policy—Harper has an unbalanced approach to the Middle East. Ottawa now votes heavily in a pro-Israel direction, thus reversing previous Canadian policy on resolutions related to Israel–Palestine. When Israel invaded Lebanon and carried out a massive bombing campaign across the country, Harper termed the Israeli response “measured.” He has been uncritical of the massive destruction of Gaza.

3. Citizen betrayal—The Harper government has taken the position that it has no obligation to come to the aid of Canadian citizens overseas. The Harper government cannot do the right thing for its citizens abroad without court orders. Abousfian Abdelrazik was only allowed to return to Canada after a court ordered it. Harper refuses to seek Omar Khadr’s return to Canada even though a court ordered it and even though international treaty obligations on the rights of children in war demand special treatment for children. Instead, Harper is appealing that decision to the Supreme Court.

4. National betrayal— Harper was elected by Canadians, but his primary allegiance is pro-U.S. interest groups. This is why he is keen to sell out Canada’s sovereignty in a continentalist pact called the “Security and Prosperity Partnership.” This supranational organization that includes Canada, the U.S. and Mexico would do away with national currencies and national legislatures and make Canada even more a vassal of the U.S. empire.

5. Punitive justice—Harper wants to get tough on crime by putting more people in jail for longer periods, but that means we will need to build more correctional facilities and employ more staff to run them. Again, we’re talking major expenditures. However, the evidence is in: the threat of prison is an ineffective deterrent. As well, it fails to prevent recidivism. Our neighbors to the south have crippled their state budgets by just the kind of tough-guy approach Harper favours. The government needs to be “smart on crime,” not “tough on crime,” with programs such as restorative justice and sentencing circles. (Restorative justice is a shame-based approach that involves such things as victim-offender confrontation and reconciliation. Sentencing circles are used in some First Nations communities.)

6. Underfunding social programs—Harper believes that all taxes are bad. He has said as much, and his Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said that the tax cuts in place to fight the recession will not be reversed. Yet, the Conservatives say they will pay down the debt and eliminate the deficit as soon as possible. As a result, Canada’s ability to fund social programs will be crippled. On top of greatly increased spending for the military and a massive counterproductive “tough on crime” agenda, tax cuts will leave little or nothing for any social spending.

7. Native Rights—Harper has eliminated important programs such as smoking cessation programs for First Nations people, in spite of high levels of tobacco use among them. Also, he has repudiated the Kelowna Accord, depriving First Nations of resources to help get them out of poverty and misery.

8. Environmental doubletalk—Harper’s policies on global warming are too little, too late. He rejected the Kyoto Accord, claiming it was “essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.” However, while Kyoto calls for reductions based on 1990 rates of greenhouse gas production, Harper’s policy calls for a reduction of 20% by 2020 based on 2006 emissions. Of course, his government does not highlight the base year in its publicity.

9. Contempt of Parliament—Harper disregarded his own legislation on fixed election dates when he felt that his government faced defeat by of an opposition coalition. Sneaky, sneaky! Fortunately, he miscalculated.

10. Subversion of Parliament—Harper provides antidemocratic leadership within his own party. In caucus, Conservative MPs may not even speak unless they have permission, according to former caucus member Garth Turner. Harper surrounds himself with a clique of unelected right-wing advisors and tacticians, who come up with such gimmicks as a booklet on how to disrupt Commons committees to prevent them from doing their work.

It will be a great day for Canada when Canadians see the back of Stephen Harper. That day will come.

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