Mr. Harper, I would like to congratulate you on winning the majority government you have wanted so badly. I commend you without a hint of irony or facetiousness. This is an achievement you have been working towards for a very long time. You have helped build a small regional party into a truly national coalition — yes, coalition — that includes seats in every region, and a majority of voters from Ontario westward. You have done what would have been thought impossible a decade ago: reduced the grand Liberal Party and its century-long claim to being Canada’s “natural governing party” to a smouldering pile of rubble. And so, on your first day as leader of a majority government, I write you with best wishes, but also a request: handle us with care.
You have your majority; you can work unimpeded by these annoying elections. Your power has proliferated, and now has four years to manifest itself however you choose. Please choose wisely. The country you still lead is a deeply divided nation today. Your party may have won support from coast to coast to coast, but it did so with only 40 percent of the vote. That other 60 percent includes a lot of people who voted ABC — Anything But Conservative — and awoke this morning feeling angry, afraid, and defeated.
In your victory speech last night, you seemed to extend an olive branch to the 60 percent, saying several times that your government would be a government for all Canadians, not just your party’s supporters. Yet, like the real and genuine concerns of Western Canadians that your party has long represented (and which the other parties, particularly the Liberals, have more or less ignored), the fears and concerns of the 60 percent are real and genuine. Mr. Harper, there is only one person who can ease them: you. (more…)
Hi, my name is Sally, and I’ll be leading our Political Pilates class today.
I know you’re all busy drumming up those last-minute votes this weekend, so I appreciate all the party leaders showing up today. Is anyone here new to Pilates? Mr. Harper? Welcome! You might want to take off your hat, though. Oh, sorry, I thought you were wearing a hat. Mr. Ignatieff, we’re going to start in a sitting position. Yes, rise up, please. Mr. Duceppe, I can see you need to work on your core strength. And Mr. Layton, I know you’re recovering from surgery, so please respect your limits. Yes, that’s a very impressive handstand, but the others need to work up to that level, okay? And you might find that hockey jerseys aren’t ideal for Pilates.
Before we begin, make sure you have your styrofoam noodle, your rubber exercise band, and some light weights. Mr. Ignatieff, please stop hitting Mr. Harper with your noodle. The Parliamentary Pilates class is down the hall. The rubber bands are for streeetching the truth… Mr. Harper, you might want to use two… and the weights are for bulking up the military, especially our fighter planes. Everybody set? Mr. Layton, please, no harmonica playing in class.
First, let’s cover some basics. Political Pilates focuses on developing the core values of your party, without sacrificing flexibility. We’ll also be paying close attention to how you breathe — and in Mr. Harper’s case, to whether you breathe. Just kidding! Hey, you’re giving me those icy eyes now. Everyone, look at Mr. Harper’s eyes — see the focus there? I want that kind of focus in your lower abdominals. (more…)
On behalf of all Canadians, sir, I would like to thank you. You have done it! You have really done it. You’ve managed to get us interested in federal politics.
This campaign season began several weeks ago with you standing solemnly in an empty Parliament to dismiss a supposedly unwanted election — triggered, of course, by your government being held in contempt of Parliament — as something sure to disappoint Canadians. You didn’t pull this dismissal out of thin air: after all, the last election, held just a couple of years ago, had the lowest turnout in Canadian history; young people between eighteen and twenty-four stayed home in droves, with less than 40 percent bothering to vote. Your party subsequently wrote off the electorate, especially its youngest constituents, and your rivals seemed to agree — in this month’s televised debates, there was very little mention of any issues of interest to young people. It seems like you all assumed that young Canadians won’t vote because they don’t care, so why waste your breaths?
But something has happened. There has been a ground swell of engagement by Canadians of all ages. The internet is ablaze with political talk, more people watched the debates than the NHL playoffs, and on campuses across the country — during final exams — students are holding vote mobs. Vote mobs, Mr. Harper! The very Canadians you dismissed as apathetic, it turns out, aren’t after all. They are forming mobs, sir, and a mob is the next best thing to a riot. (more…)
Meet John Roby — a writer, musician, composer, and Canadian citizen who says he is sick and tired of Stephen Harper, his big Conservative family, and the political turmoil that the Prime Minister’s leadership has produced. In the wake of Ottawa’s recent wave of political scandals (Bev Oda, Bruce Carson, and Conservative contempt of Parliament, just to name a few), Roby felt himself compelled into action. “In the March  edition of The Walrus I read Erna Paris’s provocative essay, ‘The New Solitudes,’ on Harper and the erosion of democracy in this country during his tenure,” Roby reports. “It made me, usually the most complacent of political souls, want to exchange my usual cocktail for a Molotov and run to the barricades.”
And so he wrote a bodacious little ditty about his feelings (which, it must be noted, neither The Walrus nor The Walrus Blog specifically endorse — we are merely messengers here). Earnest, gutsy, with a Joe Cocker-ish growl and a melody in the vein of Randy Newman’s best tunes, “The Harper Song (Steve, It’s Time to Leave)” was born. We present it here as one voter’s heartfelt take on Canada’s fourth federal election in the past seven years. (more…)
Hot and bothered by Bill C-311′s sudden, extraordinary death on the Senate floor
Bill C-311, the “Climate Change Accountability Act,” was a small but very significant piece of legislation that had been crawling its way through our federal lawmaking apparatus since 2006. It would have enforced on Canada obligations set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: a return to 25 percent below 1990 carbon emissions levels by 2025, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The bill’s success would have signalled a dramatic shift in Canadian policy toward climate change — that is, since we bailed on meeting the standards set by the Kyoto Protocol, which we signed on to — and would have given us something to show the world at the next major climate conference, beginning later this month in Cancun. Liberal, Bloc, and NDP MPs passed the law in the House of Commons in April, sending it on to the Senate. Unfortunately, this past Tuesday, in an almost unheard-of political move, Conservative senators abruptly shot it down — before anything like the normal Senate process of debate and evaluation had taken place, with senators who would otherwise have supported the bill not present.
As I am no authority on Canadian politics, and am often horrified at the gaping partisan divide that splits those of the US, I tend to be cautious about leaping to accuse our ruling party of political treachery. But this episode stinks of cynicism and hypocrisy.
The Senate is designed to be a place of sober second thought, where bills passed by the politically charged House of Commons are debated and committees are formed to closely examine their merits. To make it clear what is so extraordinary about what happened on Tuesday: Claudette Tardif, Deputy Head of the Opposition in the Senate, points out that the Senate has only rejected a bill passed by the House of Commons four times in the last seven decades. Each of those bills was subjected to days of committee hearings and debate before being voted down. In Tardif’s words, “That is the history and tradition of a legislative chamber that respects its unelected nature by defeating legislation adopted by the elected members of the other place only after listening long and hard to a great many Canadians.” But Bill C-311 was killed on its second reading, with no advance notice, before ever being taken to committee. (more…)
An interview with Marci McDonald, author of The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada
In October 2006, The Walrus published “Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons,” an investigative feature by Marci McDonald that examined the presence, practices, and motives of religious organizations operating in Ottawa. That line of reporting has since expanded to become The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, McDonald’s new, much-discussed book about connections between this country’s religious right and Harper’s Conservative administration. Walrusmagazine.com’s Robert Parker recently spoke to the author — a former chief of Maclean’s Washington and Paris bureaus, and the winner of eight gold National Magazine Awards — about the controversies contained therein.
A major focus of your new book is Christian Nationalism. Can you explain that term?
When I use the term Christian Nationalism, I’m not referring to all evangelicals or all Christians who are politically active. There is a very small wing of the evangelical community — most of them Pentecostals, it turns out, but it certainly doesn’t apply to all Pentecostals — who believe firmly not only that the end times are coming, but that Canada has a very specific, pre-ordained role for the end times. This is spelled out in the seventy-second psalm, verse eight: “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” That was written long before Canada was discovered, long before Jesus was born even. [These Christian Nationalists believe] that Canada’s geography was described perfectly, and so God has a plan for Canada in the end times as a refuge among nations.
Over the years we have slipped, in their estimation, from this prophetic role, or from the preparedness for this prophetic role. We’ve gotten rid of laws against abortion; we’ve brought in same-sex marriage. We are not able to fulfil our destiny as a Christian nation, so God sent us a wake-up call. It was on May 24th, 2006, when the clock on the Peace Tower stopped where the verse is written [at 7:28]. They often pray unto the Peace Tower, unto that verse, and they felt it was a clear sign that God had said, “You better get this Christian nation thing going before it’s too late.” That may sound ridiculous, but these are not uneducated people. They have very strong ties to elements of the government: they’ve been hosted by Stephen Harper; they have had a letter from him at their rallies; they have met over 300 parliamentarians; they’ve been at VIP receptions; they’ve been used in campaign spots. (more…)
We visited Kimmirut yesterday, a tiny community on southern Baffin Island, where we were given a warm welcome by what seemed like every one of the hamlet’s 400-odd residents. We were the first large vessel to visit this year. Kids mobbed us as we entered the harbour. An elder shared a seal that was caught that day, carving it up and dividing it in front of us. My verdict? The same as the Governor General’s: seal’s pretty great, a tender red meat with a subtle seafoody flavour. Like surf ‘n’ turf, but all within a single delicious animal. You could make a killing selling it as “Inuit Sashimi” at trendy Manhattan restaurants. (more…)
With the departure of Maxime Bernier, Cabinet Draft 2008 appears to be getting underway. Prognosticators are busy speculating on who will fill which seats, and even whether any seats other than Bernier’s are up for grabs. (Google News result 2 for the query ‘harper cabinet shuffle’: “Bernier affair unlikely to prompt major cabinet shuffle, source says”*Translation: Harper’s office wishes to quell speculation, but isn’t willing to commit strongly enough to a small shuffle to say on the record that that’s what it will do. In the absence of a Daily Show up here, someone really needs to start a blog to sift through all the “unsourced” crap that is clearly coming from the PMO.; result 3: “Major cabinet shuffle expected in coming weeks.”)
Alongside this speculation has come a rash of banal tsk-tsking to the effect that Maxime Bernier’s departure illustrates why Cabinet posts should emphasize talent over regional concerns. This wisdom has emanated from The National’s At Issue panel,*Whose video podcast I am addicted to. Why must you tease me so with your sensibly furrowed brow, Andrew Coyne?*Also worth two minutes of every day: The Hour‘s Cold Openings. the Globe and Mail’s editorial pages, and practically everyone capable of formulating a reasonably intelligent opinion on politics.*Everyone who fits this description, step forward. Not so fast, robotic vacuum cleaner! (Sadly, nothing yet from Maclean’s generally excellent Blog Central.*Which, near as I can tell, operates as a sort of potlatch economy, granting bloggers status only if they lead with a gift of praise for a fellow Maclean’s writer.*Not so over here. FYI, Christopher Flavelle (walrusmagazine.com‘s Bright Lights blogger) still thinks practical jokes involving laser pointers are funny, and Jared Bland (The Shelf) cheats at beach volleyball. You should only read their blogs if the rest of the Internet is down.)
Clearly, none of these people watch enough sports. Or if they do, they aren’t giving them enough thought. I’m talking levels of thought that, properly applied, could resolve questions that have plagued human existence for centuries.*Such as: Why are we here? And: Why are we really here? And: Who do I have to kill to find out why we’re really here? And: What do you mean by yourself? Fortunately, my friends and I are up to the task. We’ve argued out the talent vs. regional representation thing many times before, in the form of the age-old debate between the Best Player Available (BPA) and Fill A Need (FAN) theories of drafting for major league sports teams. This argument predates politics, going right back to the dawn of human life, when God had to decide between creating Adam or a left-handed pitcher with great upside from Bayonne, New Jersey.*His choice is only the first of many reasons why Darwin eventually turfed Him.