Little by little, step by step, slowly the country is turned. Safely ensconced in a "majority" third mandate in the Canadian Parliament, The Conservatives of Mr. Harper some critics foretell, will lead the country along a corrosive path of divisive political polarization.
In Canada, just as with our neighbours south, what passes for national discourse and debate is a new emerging culture of gladiator politics where nothing less than the annihilation of the opposition by any means is an acceptable outcome. Techniques skillfully used by the minority H1 and H2 Governments to destroy two national party leaders (Dion & Ignatieff) and decimate the Liberal Party of Canada. Lest I digress pundits argue the very same methods honed and tested by Mr. Harper's western based Reform/Alliance supporters in eliminating the Progressive-Conservatives a decade ago.
With a comfortable 166 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, the Conservatives' long simmering right of centre agenda which includes abolishing the long-gun registry; sweeping reforms to crime and punishment; harsher prosecutions and longer jail terms; and a muscular foreign policy supported by increased militarization will unfold by Parliament's return in the fall.
For the most part those measures formed the base of the Conservative Party platform leading into the May 2nd Federal Election, and they were reiterated by the Governor General in the "Speech From The Throne" a couple or three weeks back. But in a recent and subsequent national convention held here in Ottawa the Party also reaffirmed its position that marriage is "the union of one man and one woman," as well as its opposition to euthanasia. Fringe elements within the party's core of supporters have never been shy about also adding the return of Capital Punishment and ending abortions to that list.
Very recent developments including intervention into, and the threat of forcing striking employees of Canada Post and at Air Canada to go back to work, have set clear precedents for this Federal Government. Particularly alarming for the future of the country's labour relations is Mr. Harper's swift reaction to the walkout of 3,800 service staff employees at Air Canada, a private corporation in a competitive environment. At first glance the government action seems to send an unequivocal message about the nation's collective bargaining process, one which in fact could void, well at least emasculate, elements of the Canada Labour Code.
Alas; conspiracy theorists could be forgiven if they believe the threat of bringing the labour movement to its knees is just one element of a coordinated plan of post election strategies rolling-out as the Parliamentary Session breaks for the summer. The centre-moderate Liberal Party of Canada having now been obliterated, the way is sufficiently cleared to set sight on another bastion of a Parliamentary democracy: The pesky journalists of the Ottawa based national press gallery. Veterans of the country's press corps have been both targeted and alarmed by recent attacks akin to Richard Nixon's rants about the "nattering nabobs of negativism" circa 1972.
Just before the Conservative National Convention in Ottawa held starting on June 10, the Party President John Walsh sent-out a letter to the faithful soliciting funds to fight against what he called..."the hailstorm of negative attacks from the media elite." His letter was subsequently followed-up with an outburst from the podium at the said convention by former Reform/Alliance Leader and past Treasury Board Chair Stockwell Day who blasted the country's media for engaging in personal attacks. Even more recently the Conservative Leader in the Senate, Senator Marjorie LeBreton, blasted the national media for spending too much time criticizing Stephen Harper during the election campaign. Her opinions were published in a national daily newspaper.
Along with the obligatory respect for, and the trust in, those we elect to represent us; our confidence in the elements and institutions of a vibrant healthy democracy are eroding at a steady, methodical and alarming pace. Canada's political culture has been stressed and its discourse is increasingly ignorant,cheap and coarse. That's our fault. And, unless Canadians demand change, "real" political leadership will continue to elude us. Pity!