By RALPH SURETTE
Sat. Oct 4 - 5:41 AM
IN THE DEBATES, with a couple of brief exceptions, whenever Stephen Harper spoke, the sound level dropped a couple of octaves – the attacking voices of the opposition leaders brought down to a calm and measured tone. In tenor and body language, he was the reasonable one as he fended off the assaults.
To what extent did this cool image, this projected air of everything being under control (and he's good at it, in French as in English – he reminds me a bit of Pierre Trudeau in that sense) trump the fact that he was mostly defending the indefensible?
In reality, the ground is giving out from under him, which is plain to see for anyone who wants to look – the only question being whether he can drag out the pretense that nothing is happening for another week and a half, and whether a plurality, unimpressed by a fractured opposition, will continue to buy the illusion right into the polling booth.
It's not just the economy, although that's the main thing. Even if the fundamentals of the Canadian economy are strong, as Harper claims, who actually believes they'll still be strong much beyond election day with both the U.S. and Europe melting down?
The broader issue is that pigeons are coming home to roost on the whole policy front, all for the same reasons – as consequences of a failed ideology of free enterprise extremism, militarism, social reactionism and so on.
For example, the question of our failed foreign policy hit the news this week, although it took a weird kink – the now-famous plagiarized speech – to get it out. The point is that Harper was dogmatically certain that our holy duty was to follow George W. Bush into the Iraqi disaster.
Keep in mind that Australia's John Howard, from whom the speech was cribbed, Britain's Tony Blair, Spain's José Maria Aznar, plus the leaders of Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Norway and Hungary have all been given the bum's rush mainly for that one reason: their support of Bush in Iraq. With a victory, Harper will be the lone survivor of this dead-wrong gang, although he finally did admit in the English debate that he indeed had been wrong. And Canada will look even sillier if the Democrats win in the U.S. and change course, which it looks as though they will.
Just as bad, under Harper, Canada's reputation in the world has been trashed, along with that of the U.S. The assault on Kyoto, our unco-operative mood at the UN, our abandonment of peacekeeping in favour of a red-clawed militarism, support for U.S. torture policies (which no other government did), the abandonment of an even-handed approach in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a string of other things have left our erstwhile allies bewildered. This screams out for a reversal.
On domestic policy, the issue of poverty is suddenly up as well, as is the question of day care and childhood development – with the figures showing Canada lagging increasingly behind in literacy and education. And we haven't even mentioned the environment. The Harper Conservatives have basically nothing to say about social policy, except to cut taxes. Give people an extra hundred bucks off their taxes, as the ideology prescribes, and they'll work it out for themselves.
Alas, with deficits looming, perhaps catastrophically so, not to mention other mayhem, the era of tax cuts is over, no matter what the parties promise, either here or in the U.S. Furthermore, the utopian right-wing presumption that private action alone solves everything is also over – the U.S. bailout of the failed money creed putting paid to that. The fact is that we will now need wise government action to guide us through the shoals ahead.
The Harper government doesn't believe in public action, wise or not. That's a problem, but we may not know how much of a problem until after the election when government action is increasingly called for, but the Harper government, virtually alone in the world, is ideologically opposed to it.
P.O. Box 3867
Skype ID : Kayisa66