In our lifetimes prime ministers Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark, John Turner, Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell, Jean Chrétien, and Paul Martin all failed in some ways but I think they had one thing that Harper seems to lack . . . they cherished this country and the institutions that have made it unique.
No prime minister has raised the disrespect of Parliament to the level that this one has. He cares little for the House of Commons, and Question Period has become an exercise in evasion and finger pointing. Legislative announcements are made before a staged audience, seldom in the House where they should be.
The PM’s office has become a presidential bunker. Ministers are treated as puppets; members of Parliament must join the chorus of the party line, yet loyalty does not exist. Those who stray or disappoint or question are often thrown under the prime minister’s bus.
Pearson enhanced Canada’s reputation for fairness and balance in peacekeeping around the world. Harper has diminished our foreign service, our reputation at the United Nations, and continues to pick rhetorical fights for shortsighted political gain.
This prime minister has never stopped campaigning. His advertising is negative, personal, cheap, and incessant. He callously basks in celebrating our armed forces while ironically our soldiers and veterans still remain underfunded.
Pierre Trudeau had a vision for this country. He energized the young. It was exciting to be Canadian. He championed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Harper seeks to undo the Charter. He distrusts judges who apply it. He is eroding the rule of law, as we know it, and building rigidity into the system. Discretion is his nightmare.
Historically, when Canadians travelled around the world, our flag was stitched into our knapsacks and clothing. It was a symbol of balance, happiness, and acceptance. Under this prime minister, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of our flag was muted, no, actually it was all but non-existent.
Brian Mulroney’s sometimes-boisterous blarney promoted our friendship and business connections with the United States. This prime minister wagged his finger at Barack Obama using a pipeline as a weapon of arrogance. It got our nation nowhere.
The entire world is awakening to an environment in peril. The future of the planet is the responsibility of every citizen, every nation, and every leader. Harper does not talk about the environment. Each year he photo-ops in the North, with blinders that block climate change around him. He continues to miss opportunities to lead, to speak up, and to protect our planet for future generations.
Every prime minister in the aforementioned list had a vision of a better country, a hopeful future. This prime minister seems to have no vision for this country. He does not lead; he manages for his base every day every moment.
Most leaders face, some even embrace the media. They, elected by the public, allow themselves to be questioned, scrutinized, and sometimes even answer. Not Harper.
Media scrums are as foreign as the non-existent press conference. His engagement with the media and hence the public, is staged, managed, and always scripted.
Jean Chrétien was a charming scrapper, engaging, smart, and quotable. He, like other prime minsters, had a message to explain, perhaps to sell his policies and often faced the media. Harper seldom engages. His occasional singing of Beatles songs seems to be as much engagement as can be expected.
We are a comparatively young country, which has slowly come to embrace our First Nations and a rich aboriginal heritage, too long ignored. Harper should be commended for his apology in the House of Commons but other than that, does he embrace that heritage?
I think if we canvas the world about ourselves, most would say Canadians are friendly and accepting and for the most part we like each other and attempt to honour cultural differences. Recently the prime minister’s comments seem to be anti-Muslim and unfortunately promote intolerance.
We expect our leaders to promote hope and a better future based on mutual respect and hard work. Harper on the other hand is the harbinger of fear. Paradoxically while he campaigns against violent crime he embraces gun ownership. His law-and-order campaign featuring safe streets, safer communities, mandatory minimums, erosion of parole, and discretion are all political, cynical, unnecessary, and are changing the face of this nation from within.
Our courts and justice system are the envy of the world and have always been the source of pride and balance. This prime minister is destroying them.
He is in conflict with the judiciary. Make no mistake that what he sees as proactive judges are currently and will be targets in the next election. His messages are disappointingly mimicked by many who should know better. In early March, RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson commenting on anti-terrorism and bill C-51 is quoted (in The Globe and Mail) as saying: “a recent request for a peace bond was put off for a month” arguing the court disregarded the urgency of the request. “It doesn’t seem consistent with what we are trying to advance. While the legislation and proposed legislation is adequate and the proposed legislation would be helpful, I think we need to rethink in this country how we manage the courts.”
Neither the prime minister, Minister of Justice Peter MacKay, nor it seems anyone else, called him out on such improper comments.
Bill C-51, the anti-terrorist bill is a demonstration of omnibus-like legislation too frequently rolled out by this government. Once the layers are peeled back, there is much more than simply anti-terrorism provisions. There are many issues essentially already covered by existing legislation. We find a lack of clarity, vague definitions, expanded information sharing, new police powers, and of course no suggestion of meaningful independent oversight.
It is notable that the weekend of March 15 found public demonstrations across the country by ordinary citizens who see signs of 1984 in bill C-51.
In a similar vein, the proposed and totally unnecessary “life means life” legislation replaces judicial and parole board discretion and shockingly introduces cabinet review of parole eligibility of person’s deemed to fall into a certain category of murder.
The legal profession in this country has an obligation to protect the justice system from political interference.
There is a way to accomplish this. Our profession must ensure that this election is about Prime Minister Stephen Harper.