Monday, January 30, 2006

The Harper majority

Fed up with Liberal Party scandals and with the bickering of a minority Parliament, Canadians awoke on January 24 to find they had voted 172 Conservatives into office – enough to give Prime Minister Stephen Harper a comfortable majority and a solid mandate. Change was not long in coming. After the House repealed same-sex marriage and substituted civil unions, and after the Senate bowed before the will of the elected representatives, the Supreme Court surprised many by upholding the legislation in a 5-to-4 decision. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice McLachlin noted that “While equality demands that all citizens be entitled to the same rights and responsibilities, no one has a right that the O.E.D. redefine any of the words of our language.” (The apoplexy of Jack Layton, leader of an obscure socialist group called the N.D.P., led one wag to comment that the letters stood for New Dictionary Party.)

Although Harper had promised not to initiate legislation on abortion, a number of Tory backbenchers were eager to introduce a private member’s bill to outlaw abortion except where the mother’s life was at risk. The Prime Minister, fearing a public backlash that might threaten his legislative agenda, scrambled to persuade his members to postpone such a bill until a more opportune time. Hardly had abortion been put on the back-burner before bills surfaced to bring back the death penalty, to ban contraception, and to introduce flogging for petty theft. (“I would have had an easier time running the country with a minority”, Harper is reported as saying.) Again the Prime Minister succeeded in postponing consideration of these issues, but he threw his increasingly restless crew a bone: the Accountability in Broadcasting Act dismantled and privatized the CBC, the majority of the assets becoming the core of what is today Fox North.

The election of a separatist government in Quebec in 2007, and its announced intention to hold a referendum on independence in January 2010, on the eve of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, opened a chasm between Ottawa’s right-wing and socially conservative policies, and the left-wing and socially liberal policies of Quebec – a chasm exacerbated by the deepening North American economic recession. By early 2009, after the inauguration of President Jeb Bush and with depleted U.S. forces in Iraq increasingly hard-pressed by the Insurgency, Harper accepted Washington’s offer to repay 75% of the softwood-lumber duties owed Canada in exchange for the deployment of 10,000 Canadian troops to southern Iraq, to replace the departed British forces. (“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”, the P.M., quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, told Parliament in reference to the pledge he had made during the 2006 election campaign.)

The separatists’ triumph in the 2010 referendum and the federal government’s refusal to negotiate had momentous consequences. Riots and the breakdown of civil order in Quebec called for urgent measures. Canadian troops in the streets of Canadian cities? “Just watch me”, said the Prime Minster. But with Canada’s best units in Iraq, the situation in Quebec was growing unmanageable. Ottawa called on Washington. The 10th Mountain Division, whose home base is Fort Drum, in upstate New York, was now invited to fulfill what had been its prime mission all along: to restore stability in the U.S.A.’s northern backyard.

The rest, as they say, is history – or, rather, Manifest Destiny. Our glorious nation now stretches from the Rio Grande to the North Pole. Stephen Harper, who always wanted an elected Senate, was twice elected to the Senate himself – from the great state of Alberta – only to be threatened with assassination by fanatics of the so-called Canadian Liberation Front. These terrorists and their ilk are looked upon with well-deserved revulsion by the vast majority of citizens in our northern states. What little support they have comes from abroad, from the enemies of America and their propaganda mouthpieces, including one Don Cherry, who lives in self-imposed exile in Sweden, from where he delivers his scurrilous monologues by satellite radio, urging the “Canucks” and “Maple Leafs” to “hit ’em hard”. The Bill to Outlaw Ice Hockey and Other Un-American Pastimes, currently before Congress, will make it easier to send the likes of Mr. Cherry to the penalty box for a long time.

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