Imagine a leader with George W Bush’s politics, and Tony Blair’s tactical brain.
Meet Stephen Harper.
Quite possibly the most right-wing Western leader still standing, after the US and Australia saw sense
Responsible for Canada being awarded several Fossil of the Day awards at the Copenhagen talks, and walking away with the Colossal Fossil grand prize.
You may remember that I wrote about Harper’s anti-democratic tendencies back in December 2008. Facing almost certain defeat in a no-confidence vote tabled by a (sadly short-lived) coalition of opposition parties, he asked the Governor General to suspend (“prorogue”) parliament. He gambled on the self-interest of the individual party leaders overriding their enthusiasm for the coalition – and he won.
And now, he’s done it again.
This article in The Economist provides a nice summary, especially for non-Canadians. Briefly, facing very difficult questions about the government’s knowledge of the abuse of Afghan detainees captured by Canadian troops, our esteemed Prime Minister has used the Olympics (~4,600km from Ottawa) as an excuse to prorogue parliament until March. Every bill before parliament, no matter what stage it had reached, now goes back to square one, and oh look, Harper gets to appoint senators to the upper house without going through the usual vetting processes.
He’s gambling again.
He’s gambling that the shamefully low voter turnout in the last couple of elections means that Canadians can be distracted from the suspension of their democracy by Olympic hockey.
This time, though, there’s a backlash.
I am angry. Seriously pissed off. So is Mr E Man, and so are many of our friends, who between us vote NDP, Liberal, Green, and the Work Less Party. (I’ve read online that even some Conservative Party supporters are angry and joining the protests; this is bigger than party politics). We’ve been talking about it a lot (yes, in between hockey talk), and it looks like we’ll be taking a decent sized group of people to the rally planned for January 23rd. This will be the first political rally that most us has ever attended. I’ve also signed a petition, joined the Facebook group (>150,000 members and climbing), and (again for the first time in my life), written to my MP and the Governor General.
Astroturfers, this is what a real grassroots movement looks like!
Letter to my MP
Don Davies is from the NDP, the third party, and therefore a) will most likely reply to say “I agree” and b) can’t really do much about it. But if I can add my name to the list of “X people in my constituency have written to me”, and perhaps even help persuade him to attend the rally, then hey, can’t hurt.
Subject: prorogation of parliament
Dear Mr. Davies,
Like many Canadians, I am extremely upset and angry about the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue parliament for the second time in as many years. I am writing to you to ask that you ignore Stephen Harper’s request to prorogue parliament, and join Liberal party MPs in attending anyway. I think that this would make a very powerful statement to Mr. Harper that the Canadian people and their elected representatives will not tolerate his attempts to derail democracy in our country.
My husband and I, and many of our friends, are planning to attend the anti-prorogue rally that is being planned for January 23rd. For many of us, this will be our first ever political rally – a measure of the strength of our feelings about this issue (this is also the first time I have ever been moved to write to my MP). Do you, and other local NDP MPs, plan to attend this event? Again, I think that your attendance would make a very strong statement to Mr. Harper. The details are still being arranged and will be posted at http://citizensfordemocracy.ca/rallies/.
I look forward to your reply
Find your MP’s contact info here.
Letter to the Governor General
Michaëlle Jean is the current representative of the Queen, our nominal head of state. She seems like a very nice, thoughtful lady who took a largely ceremonial role that has not historically held any real power. However, by allowing Harper to prorogue parliament the first time, she set a very dangerous precedent. There’s no doubt that he’s put her in a very difficult position, but she has to take a large share of the blame for our current situation. Long-term, the biggest impact of Harper’s decision may well be the end of the monarchy in Canada. As a Brit, I’m ambivalent to weakly pro-monarchy (for Britain). As a Canadian, I’m quite strongly anti-monarchy (for Canada). Let’s have a Canadian head of state, eh? This is the 21st Century… (join us, Aussie and Kiwi brothers and sisters!)
Anyway, I digress. Here’s what I wrote (following the guidelines of “styles of address for federal dignitaries“, of course. This is a Canadian revolution, there’s no need to be rude):
I am writing to you to express my disappointment and anger that you have agreed to the Prime Minister’s request to prorogue parliament for the second time in as many years. Mr. Harper is placing party politics above his responsibility to democracy and to the people he is supposed to represent. As Governor General, I would wish for you to be a voice of the Canadian people and a defender of our constitution, not simply a stamp of approval on all of the Prime Minister’s requests.
I understand that you did not take this decision without a great deal of thought, but I hope that the growing public reaction to this second prorogation has convinced you that you acted counter to the wishes of millions of Canadians. A lot of us are very upset and angry; this is the first time I have ever been moved to write to my MP, to you, and to attend a political rally. And I know that I am not alone.
As a proud dual citizen of Canada and the United Kingdom, I expect more from the representatives of my monarchy.
I told her, eh? You can write to her yourself at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll keep you posted with any replies, and with photos of the rally.
Let’s keep our land glorious and free!