Articles Tagged ‘Stephen Harper’

POLITICS CHATTER: Blaming the G-8 for the Prime Minister’s delusions of grandeur

By Mark Bourrie 

We all make mistakes. That first cigarette. Wearing Speedos when we’re overweight and over 40. Sending 50,000 smutty e-mails from military laptops to married women whose computers are being monitored by the FBI and hoping our wives don’t find out.

But when the world powers make a mistake, it can be a dandy. Take, for instance, the decision by Britain, Germany, Italy, and Japan in 1976 to cave into American and French pressure to accept Canada as a member of what was then the G-6 group of economic powers. (It took another 21 years for the Russians to join the club and make it the G-8.)

Since then, the idea that Canadian prime ministers somehow rank with the president of the United States, the chancellor of Germany and the president of France has become a real problem in Ottawa.

We should face a few facts about Canada. It’s a great country to live in, mainly because we’re a small number of people sitting on a whole lot of gold, oil, natural gas, diamonds, silver, copper, trees and fresh water. Most of our country is rocks, swamps and arctic desert, but we still have enough farm land to pretty much support ourselves.

You’d have to be pretty thick not to be able to make a go as a nation with just 33 million people and half of a continent, even if it’s not the best half.

Our politicians like to take credit for our prosperity. The rest of us can live with that as long as they don’t screw things up too badly or get an over-developed sense of their own importance.

That’s where this G-8 silliness comes in.

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POLITICS CHATTER: Taking bets on Stephen Harper’s “Margaret Thatcher moment”

The Spitting Image puppet of Margaret Thatcher was used to satirize both her personality and her policies

Contributing editor Mark Bourrie takes bets on what Stephen Harper has planned for his “legacy” move.

In 1985, Margaret Thatcher broke the coal miners’ union in the U.K. For years, the National Union of Mineworkers had been the country’s most powerful trade union. It had toppled Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath’s government in 1974. Now was time for payback. Thatcher had already won the Falklands War. She had beaten a foreign enemy, she said, and now she would “destroy the enemy within”. Six strikers died in the 1984-1985 coal strike. Many more were tear-gassed and beaten with truncheons. Thatcher used mounted police, armed strike-breakers, and turned M15 against the union’s leaders.

When the coal miners’ union collapsed, the rest of Britain’s trade union movement fell apart. Breaking the strike was Thatcher’s greatest domestic success, one that has re-made the British workplace into the delightful place it is today.

My friends and I have a pool going about Stephen Harper’s coal mine strike moment. To get into the $5 pool, you have to come up with something batshit crazy that the Harper government will do this year. Corporate tax reductions aren’t crazy enough to meet that threshold, but prediction of a flat tax does. With the level of paranoia in Ottawa, some of the predictions have been, um, somewhat extreme.

  • Bring back the Red Ensign flag? That’s one bet, but it’s not mine.
  • I chose to predict the government will eliminate at least two out of three of these federal departments: Transport, Canadian Heritage, and the National Capital Commission.
  • One of my co-workers suggested the Harper regime will grab the Civic Holiday in August and rename it Freedom Day. (I’d make a side bet that they’d rename Labour Day.)
  • Then there’s the possibility of bringing back capital punishment. Or the return of the lash in prisons to maintain discipline. The latter would probably be knocked down by the courts, though there are supporters of the idea among the old Reformers.

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POLITICS CHATTER: When you’re short of enemies, there’s always the press to kick around

POLITICS CHATTER: Contributing editor Mark Bourrie reports that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has decided to declare war on the press. Will the party faithful buy in?

When you’re short of enemies, there’s always the press to kick around.

On August 13, 1941, Canada’s chief press censor sat down at his desk and typed a memo to the head of military intelligence.

The two men had just come from a rancorous meeting. The military wanted a tougher censorship system. The censors, backed by the federal government of William Lyon Mackenzie King, were opposed.

This was a time of total war.

France had fallen. The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Yugoslavia, Albania, and Greece were under the Nazi jackboot. Most of the rest of mainland Europe was in the hands of Nazi puppet rulers. The Panzers were fighting on the plains of the Ukraine, encircling entire Soviet armies.

The United States was still sitting out the war, smug in its isolation.

Any betting person would have put their money on the Nazis.

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POLITICS CHATTER: History suggests that predictions of the Liberals’ demise may be a tad premature

POLITICS CHATTER: Ottawa Magazine contributing editor Mark Bourrie takes a historical approach to predicting the Liberals’ future fortunes. (And history would suggest that they’re not quite dead yet.)

During the recent election campaign, this blog led the way in identifying and trying to rectify this country’s burgeoning zombie problem.

Many people in the mainstream media tried to ignore the problem of the walking undead. This, even though at least one party leader, a self-admitted eastern European count, was literally coming apart before our eyes.

The leader of what was then the third party was a cyborg, a man who had received at least one mechanical joint. This piece of hardware was so powerful that it overwhelmed Jack Layton’s natural method of mobility, thus forcing him to walk with a cane to compensate for the extra power.

And the Prime Minister was, and is, an obvious robot devised by Boeing engineers and manufactured in a Right-to-Work state.

And yet I find myself defending the Liberal Party against rumours that it’s dead. The same gut that told me Stephen Harper was a good bet in 2006 now says to go long on the Grits.

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The Verdict: In which Ottawa Magazine contributing editor Mark Bourrie calls out Stephen Harper for winning a majority by crafting an unwieldy coalition that will pose huge challenges in the months ahead

One of the great regrets of my life is that I have no artistic talent.

If I did, there would be a cartoon here instead of a blog. It would show Stephen Harper and Jack Layton riding side-by-side on tigers. There’d be some kind of witty caption, but right now I’m too tired to come up with one.

It’s funny that Harper used fear of a coalition to scare people into giving him a majority. All governments are won by cobbling together coalitions. So are all national parties.

Harper has crafted a coalition that poses huge challenges for him.

It consists of a core of western seats run by the old Reform party that tapped into Alberta anger over the National Energy Program, the Canadian Wheat Board, and being shut out of the federal bureaucracy by bilingualism rules.

It was, like most western populist movements, anti-urban. Its natural enemies were educated, young, white-collar downtown urbanites. The Reformers and Harper Tories ran against Kitsilano Beach, the Beaches, the Glebe, and the Plateau.

That was not enough to win government. The minority Harper government set out to win the votes of new Canadians. That took considerable audacity. The party that shelters people who seek to tear down equity rules and human rights commissions sought to convince people from Asia that they were not racist.

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ELECTION CHATTER (DAY 35): How the game has changed

Day 35: In which contributing editor Mark Bourrie tells it like it is — and urges you to give some serious thought to Monday’s vote.

So, it’s all over but the tears and balloons.

And my days as an election blogger have come to an end.

This election went from being a tedious gambit by Stephen Harper to make a bid for a majority government to become the most important election since 1917. In that election, English Canadians supported the military draft while Québécois opposed it. The Union Government, primarily Conservative, of Sir Robert Borden, was elected, and Conservatives were subsequently shut out of Quebec for 40 years.

Some people might argue this election has been even more of an earth-mover. No matter whether the NDP support in the polls translates into real votes and House of Commons seats on election day, the people of Canada have made it very clear that they are not happy.

They’re not thrilled with the Harper Government and its contempt for Parliament, the media, and other institutions that act as the eyes and ears, and sometimes the voices, of Canadians.

Nor are they happy with packaged politicians who pitch “Family Packs” of vacuous promises that sound like deals at fast food restaurants — probably because the same wizards who do the ads for chicken joints also sell politicians as commodities.

In Quebec, people seem to like their social programs, but are sick of sending 50 obstructionists to Ottawa in every election. While it’s fun at first, throwing rocks at windows turns into work after a while.

So a lot of people — not a majority, probably not even a parliamentary minority — have settled on Jack Layton and the NDP.

I could tell people dozens of reasons why this is a bad idea. Unfortunately, I can’t give them any reasons why they should vote for Stephen Harper or Michael Ignatieff.

Harper is a strange man, and not in the “fun at parties” kind of way. He’s a narcissist, someone with not the slightest bit of embarrassment for rebranding the government after himself or hanging walls of photographs of himself in the Government lobby of the House of Commons.

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ELECTION CHATTER (DAY 34): Putting it all into context

Day 34: In which Ottawa Magazine contributing editor Mark Bourrie puts this election into context, explaining why it went from being a sleeper to the most important election in more than 100

On March 25, the three opposition parties in Canada’s House of Commons voted no-confidence in the government of Stephen Harper, and Canada was plunged into its fourth federal election in seven years.

All of the national parties — the Conservatives, the New Democrats, and the Liberals — went into the campaign hoping to break a deadlock in Canadian politics that began in 2004, when support for the Liberals collapsed in the wake of the Sponsorship Scandal.

We’ve had seven years of minority government. Usually, that means fairly good government. For people like Stephen Harper, who don’t respect the views or intelligence of their political rivals, this has meant frustration.

For more than a century, the Liberals had been Canada’s “natural governing party”. The Liberals are, in fact, one of the most successful political parties in the world. From 1887 until 2004, every leader of the federal Liberal Party had served at least one term as Prime Minister.

The Conservatives have been Canada’s minority party since they imposed the military draft in World War I. The New Democratic Party, a social democratic movement that was loosely based on the British Labour Party, never placed better than third. In recent years, all it could hope for was to play “kingmaker” in a hung parliament.

When this campaign began, little change was expected. The Conservatives hoped to win a majority the House of Commons. The Liberals believed they had a serious chance to win the most seats and form a minority government. Another scenario saw them combining with the opposition parties to form a coalition government — either a formal one, with cabinet ministers from both the Liberal and New Democratic parties, or an informal one in which all of the ministries were in Liberal hands but the party kept NDP support by adopting some of their policies.

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ELECTION CHATTER (DAY 32): Jack Layton plays with fire in Quebec — and the whole country could get burned

Day 32: In which Ottawa Magazine contributing editor Mark Bourrie takes Jack Layton to task for messing with the Quebec nationalism

Bring on the ducks.

I’m ready. I’ll take off my glasses and let them get to work. Because I would rather have my eyes pecked out by ducks than live through another round of constitutional bickering.

Yet that’s what Happy Jack Layton is promising. Anything to get votes in Quebec. We’ve already seen lots of talk from Layton and his candidates of “Quebec and Canada.” That’s the way the Bloc talks, yet NDP candidate Nycole Turmel, former head of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, used that loaded phrase last weekend at a Dipper rally in Gatineau.

What is an NDP breakthrough in Quebec worth? Mind-numbing rounds of constitutional debates, discussions, and referenda, with all of the uncertainty they’d bring? The badly-handled Meech Lake-Charlottetown negotiations directly engendered the Bloc Québécois and a referendum that almost cost us the country. Yeah, Jack, let’s do that again.

Jack may be popular with the press and with voters who don’t know him, but with Layton, it’s always about Jack. Even when he’s celebrating the Canadian men’s hockey team’s Olympic gold.

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ELECTION CHATTER (DAY 31): On the campaign trail with the living dead

Day 31: In which Ottawa Magazine contributing editor Mark Bourrie paints a disturbing picture of the federal party leaders as various incarnations of the living dead

I know I am the first member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery to raise the issue of the living dead being a potent force in the campaign. Now, it seems, the political parties have latched on to the problem, but in ways I have never expected.

Take Stephen Harper. The Prime Minister is a known Cyborg, composed of spare parts from various autopsies gone terribly wrong, some 1990s-era nanotechnology, and programming by the Republican National Committee. The hairpiece should have been a give-away, yet Canadians refuse to believe.

Then there’s John Baird. Mr. Baird is a known werewolf. The press downplays this fact, calling him an “attack dog,” when, in fact, it is quite obvious that Mike Harris went back to North Bay with Baird’s soul.

Now, I do not suggest anyone go after Baird with a silver bullet. Simply waving a cross in Baird’s face should cause an immediate and very obvious flinch. You should be able to back him into a corner and keep him cowering harmlessly until the small children make their escape. (Leaving raw meat nearby will not provoke a serious reaction. Baird caught on to that trick in his Queen’s Park days. Back then, he lived in the tunnel that connects the legislature building to the University Avenue subway line, and people used to amuse themselves tossing him pieces of hot dog.)

As far as I know, there are no other undead minions of Satan campaigning for the Tories, although Krista Erickson of the new Sun News Network looks rather unearthly. Strange moonlight rites could not revive Brian Mulroney, and poor Joe Clark had a stake driven through his heart some 31 years ago, and is thus unavailable.

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ELECTION CHATTER (DAY 27): Comparing the election campaign to quality television (in this case, an episode of Jerry Springer

Day 27: In which Ottawa Magazine contributing editor Mark Bourrie compares the election campaign to quality television (in this case, an episode of Jerry Springer)

Well, it’s Easter. The buds are on the trees, the tulips are bursting forth, the potholes beckon.

It is the time of celebrating the raising of a dead man. To those who believe, enjoy the weekend, and thanks for sharing it with hockey fans, golfers, and trilobite collectors.

This election has generated much talk of the Living Dead, especially from me. Time for a break.

Meanwhile, in the real world, life goes on. Today on Springer, we have the story of some poor fella in Louisiana, minding his own business, just cooking some alligator in his shack, when a neighbour woman came over to say that the guy’s girlfriend was stepping out.

Alligator boy promptly put his crockpot on simmer and proceeded to breed with the messenger. But it turned out that Gator Guy was conned, leading to tears, brawling, and remorse.

Life imitates quality television. Many of us feel screwed under false pretences. There we are, just cookin’ up some cold-blooded wildlife when the phone rings and a computer imitating a politician tells us to vote.

We usually end up feeling like we should have just stayed with the gator meat until it was ready. I have eaten alligator and, while it’s more tender than snake, not as stringy as beaver, and not as dry as moose, I doubt it will ever catch on in Quebec. But then, I would have bet against French fries, canned gravy, and cheese curds, so there ya go.

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