Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Quotable Harper

Hail, Fellow Stand-On-Guardians!

I've always been adamantly opposed to the concept of Steven Joseph Harper as our Prime Minister primarily because my memory extends back further then ten years. I still remember when Harper was a card-carrying member of the ultra-right-wing Reform Party, which gave him the political solidarity to say the following idiotic things regarding:
  • The Unemployed - "I don't feel particularly bad for many of these people."
  • Human Rights Commissions - "An attack o­n our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society."
  • Social Assistance for Child Poverty - "I was sought out as a rare public figure to oppose such projects" and “providing for the poor is a provincial, not a federal responsibility."
  • Our Free Universal Health Care - "The best system means having a system where you have as many tiers as possible and you bring in as many health-care dollars into this country as possible." 
  • A Proposal by the Progressive Conservative Party Advocating Spousal Benefits for Same-Sex Couples - "What I hope they learn is not to get into it."

Mercifully, the Reformers never achieved national traction, partly because it was led by walking punchline and Howdy Doody impersonator Preston Manning but mainly because most Canadians found their ideals to be completely and utterly repugnant. On January 14'th 1997 Harper jumped off this sinking ship and landed in a comfy Vice Presidential lifeboat provided by the National Citizen's Coalition, an ultra-conservative think tank. Within a year he was the organization's President.

During this time, Harper revealed even more of his Objectivist / Neo-Con / Ayn Randian leanings. In June of 1997 he was invited by the the American equivalent of the N.C.C., the Council for National Policy, to give a presentation in Montreal. Here are just a few choice tidbits from that notorious screed:
  • "Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it."
  • The United States and the growing Neo-Con movement "is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world."
  • "It may not be true, but it's legendary that if you're like all Americans, you know almost nothing except for your own country. Which makes you probably knowledgeable about one more country than most Canadians."
  • "The Liberal party is a moderate Democrat, a type of Clinton-pragmatic Democrat. It's moved in the last few years very much to the right on fiscal and economic concerns, but still believes in government intrusion in the economy where possible, and does, in its majority, believe in fairly liberal social values.
    In the last Parliament, [the Liberal Party] enacted comprehensive gun control. There is an important caveat to its liberal social values. For historic reasons that I won't get into, the Liberal party gets the votes of most Catholics in the country, including many practicing Catholics."
  • "The NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men."
But it's what Harper had to say about the Progressive Conservative party that's the most telling:

"Then there is the Progressive Conservative party, the PC party, which won only 20 seats. Now, the term Progressive Conservative will immediately raise suspicions in all of your minds. It should. It's obviously kind of an oxymoron. But the Progressive Conservative is very definitely liberal Republican. These are people who are moderately conservative on economic matters, and in the past have been moderately liberal, even sometimes quite liberal on social policy matters. They were in favour of gay rights officially, officially for abortion on demand. This explains one of the reasons why the Reform party has become such a power."

Nothing better illustrates the differences between the original PC party and the current "Harper-ized" version of it. In other words, if you've been voting for Harper's "Conservatives" just because yer Daddy and yer Daddy's Daddy voted PC, then STAHP already! They have nothing to do with one another.

During this time, Harper had a really prolific period of running on at the mouth. Here are just a few more verbal droppings:
  • "I, too, am one of these angry westerners. We may love Canada but Canada does not love us. Let's make (Alberta) strong enough that the rest of the country is afraid to threaten us."
  • "You've got to remember that west of Winnipeg the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada: people who live in ghettoes and who are not integrated into western Canadian society."
  • "Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status."
With their national brand permanently damaged, the Reform Party was rebooted in 2000 as the Alliance Party. But within one short year, these wannabe Republicans were already in trouble. Under the volatile leadership of grinning mannequin / creationist blockhead / outspoken loose cannon Stockwell Day, the fledgeling party quickly stumbled out of the gate.

These Alliance goons probably would have gone the same way as their predecessors if it hadn't been for the intervention of former Reform MP Ian McClelland who initiated what amounts to a leadership coup in June of 2001. In order to get things back on track, McClelland needed to install the perfect candidate: someone so completely and boringly milquetoast, someone so incredibly dull that he provoked absolutely no emotional response from anyone who looked at him. Someone who was a veritable black hole of banality. 

"My cat's breath smells like cat food."

Ergo, Stephen Harper was lured back onto the political spotlight in August of 2001. Despite the fact that he was perceived as a measured moderate when compared to Stockwell Day, he floated some pretty nutbar  ideas at the time:
  • Even though, just a few short years earlier, he expressed concern that Stockwell Day was alienating voters due to his ultra-right-wing position on social issues, in March of 2002 Harper hoped to drum up a support base "similar to what George Bush tapped".
  • On May 29, 2002 Harper famously uttered: "I think in Atlantic Canada, because of what happened in the decades following Confederation, there is a culture of defeat that we have to overcome. Atlantic Canada's culture of defeat will be hard to overcome as long as Atlantic Canada is actually physically trailing the rest of the country."
  • Also from 2002: “I'm not ashamed to say that, in caucus, I have more pro-life M.P.s supporting me than supporting Stockwell Day.”
  • He also kept hammering away at his distaste for our non-corporate health care system: “The private provision of publicly insured (health care) services should be permitted. The monopoly of provision of services is not a value that, in and of itself, is worth preserving.” He also continued to attack the Canada Health Act by saying that it “rules out private, public-delivery options. It rules out co-payment, pre-payment and all kinds of options that are frankly going to have to be looked at if we're going to deal with the challenges that the system faces.”
As we all well know, McClelland's gambit hoodwinked everyone and in May of 2002 Harper became the official Leader of the Opposition.

During this time, war-mongering chickenhawks like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and Colin Powell were tub-thumping for an illegal war in Iraq. Pretty soon both Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day were united in their mutual appreciation for American-flavored backside. Here are a few particularly scary quotes from those chaotic days:
  • From January 2003: "This party will not take its position based on public opinion polls. We will not take a stand based o­n focus groups. We will not take a stand based o­n phone-in shows or householder surveys or any other vagaries of public opinion. In my judgment Canada will eventually join with the allied coalition if war on Iraq comes to pass. The government will join, notwithstanding its failure to prepare, its neglect in co-operating with its allies, or its inability to contribute. In the end it will join out of the necessity created by a pattern of uncertainty and indecision. It will not join as a leader but unnoticed at the back of the parade."
  • From April 2003: "We support the war effort and believe we should be supporting our troops and our allies and be there with them doing everything necessary to win." 
  • Later that same month: "We should have been there shoulder to shoulder with our allies. Our concern is the instability of our government as an ally. We are playing again with national and global security matters."
  • Also that same month: "(referring to a fellow M.P. as an 'Idiot') was probably not an appropriate term, but we support the war effort and believe we should be supporting our troops and our allies and be there with them doing everything necessary to win."
  • In May of 2003: "The world is now unipolar and contains o­nly o­ne superpower. Canada shares a continent with that superpower. In this context, given our common values and the political, economic and security interests that we share with the United States, there is now no more important foreign policy interest for Canada than maintaining the ability to exercise effective influence in Washington so as to advance unique Canadian policy objectives."
  • Even after some perspective on the issue had been gleaned by August of 2003, Harper remained adamantly pro-war: "On the justification for the war, it wasn't related to finding any particular weapon of mass destruction. In our judgment, it was much more fundamental. It was the removing of a regime that was hostile, that clearly had the intention of constructing weapons systems. I think, frankly, that everybody knew the post-war situation was probably going to be more difficult than the war itself. Canada remains alienated from its allies, shut out of the reconstruction process to some degree, unable to influence events. There is no upside to the position Canada took."
No upside, huh? How 'bout preserving our international reputation as humanitarians and peacemakers? How 'bout making sure that our sons and daughters didn't needlessly perish in a completely illegal war of occupation? How 'bout not contributing to an economy based on war profiteering?

Sorry, but this wahoo is so far removed from my definition traditional Canadian values, it makes my friggin' head spin.

Harper soon realized that the Alliance Party held very limited appeal for most rational-thinking Canadians and vote-splitting between two right-leaning parties would certainly jeopardize his chances. As such, a Frankensteinian marriage was proposed between the Alliance and the nigh-comatose Progressive Conservative party, which had been devastated under the arrogant watch of Brian Mulrooney.

So, on January 12, 2004, Harper stepped down as Leader of the Opposition and two months later he became the inaugural chief of the newly re-christened Conservative Party of Canada. And just like that, the PC party of yore was gone, replaced by the political equivalent of a pod person from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Despite the fact that Finance Minister Paul Martin had inherited a Liberal Party fractured by internal conflict, Harper couldn't quite seal the deal in the federal election of June 2004.

Around this time he also served up the following tasty soundbites:
  • In March of 2004 he described himself as a "libertarian", which is how most Tea Party members in the U.S. self-identify. Even though I agree with Harper in that government shouldn't impose its values upon its citizenry, I do think that the federal government has a pivotal role to play in safeguarding people from the creeping abuses of crony capitalism. For example, if a single working mom who can't afford privatized health insurance gets plowed down in the street by Stephen Harper's campaign tour bus only a greedy, cruel asshole would deny her free emergency medical treatment. And so long as there's even one unethical corporation out there making harmful products, poisoning the environment or screwing over their employees for a few extra profit points then we need a higher authority in the form of government to step in, investigate, punish and legislate some ethics if need be. Harper's desire to remove corporate regulations is like getting rid of all parole officers.
  • To qualify his position, one month later Harper stated that "We must aim to make [Canada] a lower tax jurisdiction than the United States". Of course, in more recent years we've painfully familiar with his strategy to enact this madness: by completely gutting the sort of critically helpful social programs that improve our quality of life and keep us all safe. 
  • In February of 2005 he publicly stated: "Same sex marriage is not a human right. (Undermining) the traditional definition of marriage is an assault on multiculturalism and the practices in those communities." Wow, hyperbole much?
Ol' Stevie Boy finally got his big break when the Sponsorship Scandal broke wide open. Now, keep in mind this was back in 2006, when the media still had fangs and people were engaged in reality and apparently gave a shit. Harper manged to parlay this into his very own Reichstag Fire and pretty soon the once-mighty Liberal Party was in shambles.

So it came to pass that on January 24th Paul Martin conceded defeat to Harper in the 2006 Federal Election and two weeks later he was sworn in as the twenty-second Prime Minister of Canada. His first address to Parliament in April was a major sneak preview of coming attractions:

"I would like to acknowledge and thank a number of people. First, I would like to pay tribute to our head of state, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, whose lifelong dedication to duty and self-sacrifice have been a source of inspiration and encouragement to the many countries that make up the Commonwealth and to the people of Canada."

This prompted Toronto Star journalist Graham Fraser to observe that Harper's presentation was "one of the most monarchist speeches a Canadian prime minister has given since John Diefenbaker."

The message was crystal clear: Canada is intrinsically British and y'all better be ready for some olde-skool Margaret Thatcher-style Conservatism.   

EPIC SHOWDOWN  Can you image the shape we'd be in if Harper was in power back then? Just thinking about it terrifies me...

A FAILURE OF CON-MUNICATION   In 2011 a legion of Conservative drones were tasked to assemble all of Harper's most controversial quotes in one five-hundred page document. This was then used to formulate rebuttal strategies, a catch-all contingency plan if the press or political rivals tried to expose his true colors.  

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