Stephen Harper originally came to prominence as a reformer. In 2006 he ran on a platform of renewed democracy, openness and transparency but since taking office he has conducted a continuous assault on democracy, transparency, debate and dissent.
Even members of Harper's own caucus are barely allowed to have their own opinions and are even more rarely allowed to voice those opinions. He has made it clear, repeatedly, that caucus members are there at his whim and may be dismissed if they become inconvenient for him.
Conservative supporters may be forgiven for supporting Harper originally. His platform, though too conservative for me, wasn't terrible. I even thought at the time that a short run with a conservative government might be worth it, if they brought about the kinds of Democratic reforms proposed by Harper. However, the fact that there has been no revolt against Harper means that the assault on democracy isn't a Stephen Harper pet project, it is a core value of the Conservative party.
Harper supporters have stood idly by while Harper:
- Placed gag orders on his own MPs.
- Slashed public campaign financing, making it easier for large, private donors to influence Canadian politics.
- Silenced federal bureaucrats, and diplomats and has instituted lifetime gag orders to keep them from talking, ever.
- Muzzled scientists whose findings did not support government policy.
- Has attempted to silence charities and non-profits.
- Repeatedly broke election rules including the "In and Out Scandal" and the "Robocall Scandal"
- Made it more difficult for the public and the press to access government information.
- Was found in contempt of Parliament for failing to disclose adequate information to MPs.
- Lied to the Canadian public about the legality of coalition governments and then prorogued Parliament to prevent legitimate, democratic action.
And those are just a few things - off the top of my head.
The fact that there hasn't been a revolt within the party, or from the party's base of supporters means that the assault on Canadian democracy is not a Stephen Harper problem, it is a unwritten Conservative party platform and something that resonates with conservative voters.
So, yes, the "Fair elections act" is a travesty. Among other things it makes it more difficult for people to vote, makes it more difficult to find or investigate election law violations, places gag orders on election officials, allows the ruling party to appoint election officials, and loosens restrictions on election spending.
Sadly, I have little confidence that any amount of backlash in public opinion is going to sway Stephen Harper or the Conservative Party of Canada. The party and their base do not like democracy, they can not win in a fair democratic election and without the ongoing assault on democracy they would not have been in power as long as they have.
I just hope that the next Prime Minister, whoever that may be, has the moral fibre to overturn the act and all of Harper's anti-democratic laws. It will be very tempting, as the new ruling party, to simply keep the laws that entrench their hold on power.
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