Recovering our moral compass

I don’t know which is more alarming – the continued contemptuous attitude towards democracy shown by Stephen Harper or the fact that none of these offenses seems to have any impact on Canadians’ assessment of the man’s leadership qualities – trust, competence and vision – or his polling numbers. It’s as if half the country has lost its moral compass. Part of it, of course, was accomplished by the ruthless attack ads that Harper spent millions on before the election. They have had such a negative impact on people’s view of Michael Ignatieff that he seems to have no hope to making much headway on leadership numbers in the short period of the election. But this does not explain the Nanos figures for Jack Layton.

We should perhaps take the Nanos numbers with a grain of salt. An Angus Reid poll at the end of January had Layton ahead of everyone else by a considerable margin and based on nine leadership qualities not just three.

Nonetheless, Harper is still within striking distance of a majority and only if enough people realize who the man is – either for the first time or by being reminded – will Harper be denied. Elections, the experts say, are lost, not won. Unless citizens can be convinced that the incumbent government is inept, untrustworthy or has generally proven itself undeserving of another term, it is very likely to win another one. That is how the Chretien government won three terms in a row. The opposition was ineffective and divided and a plurality of voters saw no reason to make a change.

For those fighting in this election to prevent a Harper majority it is still critical to remind anyone who will listen what this man has done to the country and to democracy. The media – who have largely created this monster – will not do it.

Below is an excerpt from a study I did of Harper’s assault on democracy and democratic institutions – called Harper’s Hit List. It is dated – there have been several more – but many people have forgotten the legacy. It is critical to engage people in this conversation. In a tight race it might make a difference.

Thwarting Democracy

In contempt of Parliament: Refusing to hand over documents on Afghan torture

Just before Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament for the second time, on December 30, 2009, he had already demonstrated his contempt for Parliament by ignoring a direct majority vote in the House of Commons demanding that the government produce uncensored documents relevant to the allegations made by diplomat Richard Colvin. Colvin’s testimony about the government’s complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees prompted a storm of protest and subsequent stonewalling from the government.

In January this year, University of Ottawa constitutional law professor Errol Mendes told an informal hearing of the parliamentary committee looking into the Afghanistan detainee issue that “The executive is really placing itself above Parliament. For the first time that I know in Canadian history, the executive is saying we are superior to Parliament. This is… an open defiance of Parliament. Nothing more, nothing less.” Mendes left little doubt about how serious this defiance of Parliament was: “The refusal to release the uncensored documents is a violation of the Canadian Constitution. This is the equivalent to a defiance of a judicial subpoena. The Harper government, if it does not respect its constitutional obligations, will be in contempt of Parliament.”

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