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Sunday, January 29, 2012

The post-partisan plea: it's now or never | #lpc #ndp #cdnpoli

Some weeks ago, I urged Canada's two main opposition parties to set aside their differences and work together for the greater good.

Perhaps "urged" isn't the right word.

But I'm moved to reiterate by recent events, including the internal machinations of both the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party in the wake of last year's electoral disaster. Yes, I'm using the word disaster deliberately. Not just because of the collapse of the Liberal Party, although I'm not too broken up over that. And notwithstanding the gains of the NDP and its ascent to Official Opposition status. You can guess why, because all you have to do is look at the composition of Parliament, coupled with its increasing irrelevance to the governance of our country.

It seems that almost every week, Stephen Harper is ready to inflict fresh indignities upon the Canadian narrative -- culturally, economically, and historically. The latest salvo is aimed at Canada's seniors, who are being told to prepare for a major revamp of the support systems they've paid into all their lives. Sorry, did we say 65? We meant 67.

Cue the supporting tsk-tsk chorus from the think tanks and their transmitters in the corporate and tabloid media. It's just not sustainable. Aging citizens are a drag on the system. Never mind the tax breaks to corporations or the expensive military shiny shiny. Demographic realities leave us with no choice. It's the same crap they're using to sell their austerity snake oil, and it's no more valid in this context than it is in that.

And if that doesn't take fast enough, we all know what's coming next: demonizing, accusations of greed and indolence, astroturfing, all manner of divisive and misleading messages designed to atomize us and set us against each other.

This isn't about that, however. Seniors are just the latest in a long list of targets drawn up by the most dangerous government in Canadian history. I remember reading somewhere recently that Stephen Harper has the potential to become the most transformational Prime Minister in generations; it's incumbent upon all of us to realize just how transformational he wants to be, and to take a long hard look at what he wants to transform Canada into.

For this, it's instructive to consider the observations of Dr. Dawg, which I'm citing at some length:

Employment in Canada is down, job quality is decreasing, and profits have taken a downturn as well. Prime Minister Stephen Harper declares his critics to be “enemies of the people of Canada.” His Minister of the Environment warns of dangerous “foreign influences.” Opposition MPs are called traitors. Public service workers are accused of sabotage ... 
Canada will continue to export cancer-causing asbestos, while banning it at home ...
The Ministry of Science and Technology is a creationist. The Minister of Justice avows that policy will not be determined by statistics. The Minister of Industry announces that statistics will not be gathered. The Prime Minister declares that statistics will not be kept ...
Crime continues to decrease. Corrections Canada will increase its staffing levels to cope with an expected influx of new prisoners. The RCMP shields the Prime Minister from questions and throws opponents out of Conservative Party political rallies ...
Full parliamentary debate is no longer permitted. Committees are increasingly closed to journalists. Independent watchdogs are fired or hobbled. Appointees to sensitive positions are found to bully their staff and prevent their agencies from functioning ... 

Warrantless internet surveillance. Reckless demonization of opponents. Silencing of critics.

We are rapidly approaching the point where we have little more than the form of democracy left. Indeed, there's a persuasive argument that we're already there. All the while, the Harper regime has worked stealthily, and then openly, to undermine its substance, as the Dawg soberingly details.

Not that any of this is unexpected. The toxic Harper effect was the subject of a post last spring:

... it's then that you realize just what a toxic, enervating and corrupting effect Stephen Harper's had upon our public sphere, our national conversation, our civil society, our body politic. Look at how he's lowered our standards for integrity, transparency and effective public policy. Look at how he's pissed away our international standing and embarrassed us before the entire world. A record of scandal, disdain and ineptitude like this should have us out in the streets with torches and pitchforks. Instead we futz around with the PVR and complain about the inconvenience of having to vote.
Ultimately, this is the overarching message we need to hammer on. Stephen Harper and his minions have poisoned us so thoroughly and profoundly that we've measurably reduced our expectations of our government, and by extension, of ourselves. Our sense of ourselves as citizens and as a community has been stripped of honour, of aspiration, of a social conscience, and of any notion that it's something worth working for.

Well, we're seeing the results of that now, without the constraints of functioning parliamentary accountability.

It's in this context that my plea to the opposition parties becomes more urgent than ever. I don't care about brands. I never have. I'm begging you: put your country before your party and work to defeat this agenda before it's too late. Talk openly about coalitions. Make no apologies for a commitment to the public sphere and the public good. Don't split the vote in winnable ridings. Don't let your historical enmities pave the way for the greater evil.

Stop triangulating, stop pussyfooting around, stop looking for ways to soften the message. It's not like the other side cares whether we like their brand or not. Only by confronting and exposing Harper's bullshit for what it is can we remove its power to obfuscate and mislead.


I've been told that I'm dreaming, that the Liberals and New Democrats are two very different parties, and there's no way they or their people will ever work together. I really hope that's wrong, because if they and we can't move past partisan party bullshit, we won't have a country left.

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  1. LPC and NDP officials both have repeatedly said that they aren't interested in anything to do with one another.

    They prefer Harper.

  2. Actually Nathan Cullen has given some form of cooperation thought although that hasn't been met favourably by rank and file NDP members.

    I caught the last 45 minutes of Cross Country Check-up and it really seems like Canadians are very fed up with Harper. Many definitely want a way to get him out but there is so much frustration. Of course Rex was sure to have some neoliberal/neoconservative "guests" who were trying to sound reasoned as they drooled over Harper's performance in Davos.

  3. Yes, pols put pols above country. Layton took out Martin, knowing it would lead to Harper, but hoping a liberal loss would lead to future NDP gains.