Elizabeth May: A devastating first year of Conservative majority rule in Canada

The mainstream media is marking its report cards for the one-year anniversary under Harper Conservative majority rule. The bromides are calming—the Globe and Mail editorial gives the Conservative majority a positive spin—“more ups than downs”—while its reporter, John Ibbitson, wrote a piece nearly oozing with reverence for the prime minister.

It is clear we all have our biases. I only entered politics back in 2006 because I feared what a Harper minority government would do to decades of environmental law and policy. I have been very critical of the cuts to climate science, retreat from Kyoto commitments, and sabotage of climate negotiations internationally since 2006. But with that bias out in the open, I believe the last year has been the most devastating in Canadian history for parliamentary democracy, for charter rights, to collective bargaining and trade union rights, for evidence-based public policy, and for environmental law and protection. And, of course, the damage to climate policy was accelerated.

Here’s the evidence:

1. Abuse of democracy: Every piece of government legislation introduced since the election has had time allocation applied to limit debate, smashing through historical records. Parliamentary committees have been meeting increasingly in secret. Omnibus legislation, forcing massive legislative changes through one bill, has been used, further depriving Parliament of adequate time to analyze and improve legislation. The auditor general’s report on the F-35 issue makes it clear that Parliament was not given accurate information about the cost of the fighter jets, even after the true cost was known within cabinet. No need to detail here the simmering scandal of electoral fraud and robocalls.

2. Charter rights: The omnibus crime bill included nine separate pieces of legislation. Many sections involving mandatory minimum sentences arguably violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As well, the new refugee law, C-31, will require political refugee claimants arriving by boat (or anything the minister deems as “irregular entry”) to face automatic internment for up to a year without access to judicial review. This will include children between 16 and 18.

3. Collective bargaining: The intervention by the federal Parliament into Air Canada labour disputes (twice) and Canada Post’s lock-out of its workers undermines labour rights. So, too, does the Conservative party-supported private member’s bill to impose more financial transparency on labour unions than on other professional groupings, such as law societies.

4. Control of information: The Harper majority government has been the most closed and non-transparent in history. The number of people working in the Prime Minister’s Office has expanded, with its now over $10 million per year budget. Most of the PMO staff are described as “information officers”. Their job is to block access to information. No public servants or government scientists can speak to the media without permission; neither can they speak to MPs.

5. Evidence-free decision making: Once again the omnibus crime bill must be mentioned. A “tough on crime” agenda was unhinged from the reality of falling crime rates. No amount of evidence from criminologists that mandatory minimums do not reduce crime rates, nor that it was unwise to pass the bill without estimates for the cost of new prisons, made a dent in the Conservative majority mantra that any opposition MP who objected was siding with criminals and showed no concern for victims. The budgetary cuts are now disproportionately targeting Statistics Canada. Who can deny that the Harper brand of Conservatism is an evidence-free zone?

6. Assault on the natural world: The gloves are off. Harper and company have taken aim at environmental groups and First Nations opposed to the Enbridge supertanker scheme calling them “radicals” and labelling MPs who oppose the project as “against Canada”. While selling out our resources to China, without national security checks, Stephen Harper has promised Beijing the Enbridge project will proceed. In order to achieve this goal, come hell or high water, environmental laws are being eviscerated. And the sweeping changes are concealed in C-38, the budget implementation bill. The National Energy Board will now have jurisdiction over endangered species and navigable waters, if they occur in the way of any proposed pipeline. Meanwhile, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act is repealed (under C-38) with an entirely new approach to replace it. The new law will restrict the study of impacts of major projects to areas “under the legislative authority of Parliament”—confined to fish and migratory birds. Where, in the past, an environmental review at the federal level was the most rigorous and comprehensive, new federal reviews would be a joke by Third World standards. The removal of habitat protection under the Fisheries Act is also part of the budget bill. So too, repealing the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act. Meanwhile, $8 million has been freed up to harass environmental charities.

Canadians must not remain silent. It is not only one area of public policy or one ecosystem that is threatened. Canada, our values and our traditions, are at risk.

Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party of Canada and the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Comments (23) Add New Comment
Gillian Scobie
One thing everyone can do: read Democratizing the Constitution: Reforming Responsible Government. This book just won the Donner Prize on May 1st and details how to reform our constitution so the prime minister isn't able to be so powerful. Most people don't know that our political system runs almost entirely on trusting in the "good faith" of our PM. Without that, he has way too much power: very dangerous and undemocratic.
4
1
Rating: +3
Susan Rankin
Thank you Elizabeth May. I dont know how you keep sane and any sense of decorum at all dealing with these monsters. Thank you and Keep up the good work.
3
3
Rating: 0
p lg
One word...SHAME

Good news though, even Harper's magic 40% has dropped to 30%...and this is before we hear from Elections Canada on the robocalls. Kind of funny that no identified Conservative voters received a call from the faux elections canada telling them their polling station had been changed.

Harper and his ilk are best described as "dominionists".

So heavenly bound they are no earthly good.
3
2
Rating: +1
W. S. Pierson
The only thing that will stop this Harperian Government Juggernaut is for free thinking Conservative Ministers to vote against it... to snap the lease of this idiot and his posse and to start building a better Canada from within.

What are the odds of that happening?
2
2
Rating: 0
lawson45
Well May we find you a bigger disappointment!
4
1
Rating: +3
Seth Oldham
It's time for an uprising. The people need to raise their voices against Harper and figure out a grassroots mechanism of influence against the regime. I'm very afraid of what they'll do over the next two years before they start throwing money at health care and seniors in the last year before the election.
2
3
Rating: -1
Canadian
Several words...SHAME, UNTRUSTWORTHY, DECEITFUL, LIARS, CONTEMP for Canada's Democratic Institutions and the Canadian Values and Parliament, Anti Majority of Canadians. Those are just a few words to describe Stephen Harper's right-wing Conservative Majority dicatorial Government's rule over Canada.

Good news though, even Stephen Harper's brainwashed 39% support has dropped down to 30%...and this is before we hear from Elections Canada on the robocalls scandal and of course another 3 years of Stephen Harper right-wing Majority Conservative rule over Canada. Kind of funny that no identified Conservative voters received a call from the faux Elections Canada telling them their polling station had been changed or closed early.

Stephen Harper and his thugs " sorry I meant Cabinet Ministers and other of his Harper Government Ministers and employess loyal to Harper " who think they can continue to rule Canada which is what they're doing now while at the same time ignoring the voices of Millions of Canadians that is the vast Majority of Canadians for many more years to come are best described as "dominionists" at best.

Stephen Harper's Zionist right-wing Conservative Majority Government in the Canadian Parliament, while ignoring the voices of tens of Millions of Canadians is UNSUSTAINABLE and won't last a long time let alone another decade of Majority rule.
Can't wait to see Stephen Harper's Majority Conservative Dicatatorial Government that is OPPOSED by over 60% of Canadians, Collapse already.
Vast Majority of Canadians don't Split your Vote in the October 2015 Federal Election to NOT ALLOW another Elitist Stephen Harper Majority Conservative Government to be "Democratically Elected" that ignores the opinions of the vast Majority of Canadians, shouldn't that be considered a Dictatorship?
2
1
Rating: +1
R U Kiddingme
Zionist? Decade between elections? Dictatorship? Posting twice in the same comments under different names?

Stop helping
4
1
Rating: +3
devastating to democracy
Canada gets a make over and it feels more like a dictatorship everyday as the questionable Conservative Government does democracy in and causes election chaos to win an election that was rigged in more ways than one. What is also dramatic is Harper's drop in popularity which was at 24 percent but soon will be sitting somewhere in the lower teens. The majority of Canadians are frustrated and angry and feel cheated by a government they are certain wasn't their majority choice and all it will not take much for Canadians to say they have had enough. Is Harper going to be like Syria and blow Canadians away as jobs, jobs, jobs are on the line and the economy is fucked for sure and a recession is looming if not a condition the country is in already..
What is going to burst first is it the housing market or Canadians disdain for their questionable leader who the majority of Canadians love to hate. The Conservatives are in big trouble and have a whole lot of explaining to do but don't count on it but do count on more corruption and hard times as Harper continues to ignore voters like they didn't even exist.
3
2
Rating: +1
David Bloom
I've heard so many people claiming that the "Conservatives" have been moderate because they have made to substantive attempts to attack abortion rights or gay marriage.

Those people are phenomenally naive. Social issues are not this government's priority. Their priorities are almost entirely about support for big business, eroding civilian rights and consolidating their own power. They realize that social issues will still trigger resistance, whereas Canadians have become numb about basic democracy and anything that involves numbers or complexity.
4
0
Rating: +4
2nd Nation
Dear fellow commenters,

The hyperbole isn't helping. Calling Harper a dictator is just silly and demeans those that live under *actual* dictators. Same thing for "facists", "zionists", "monsters", et cetera.

You may disagree with his politics but the hyperbole only suggests you don't have a good enough argument to make otherwise.
4
2
Rating: +2
zzzz
what would you expect from a bunch of reptilians? neo con harper is part of the illuminati family. their goal is to take away your rights, your freedoms, keep you enslaved, keep you dumbed down and asleep.
2
2
Rating: 0
oldblackdog
Perhaps, now is the time for a debate on real climate science!
3
3
Rating: 0
shannon mackey
I agree with everything in this article. There are many things about our current system that I find unfair and undemocratic. I would like to see things move in a leftward direction, with as much direct public input as possible into questions around our international role, the use of our public resources, our environmental policy, and our economic system. Due to the autonomous power of the conservative government such public input is limited and this undermines the basic premise of democracy.

We call our country a democracy (most do, at least) because we have free and fair elections. Yet we have a freely and fairly elected PM who just about everyone and their dog seems to hate (I'm left and am obviously getting some amount of info bias). This baffles me.

I jumped on the NDP train last election because Layton was talking about doing away with the senate, among other major changes. But some of us want to see changes like expropriating our oil and other natural resources and using profits to better our country instead of bettering the status and power of a handful of elites. Or setting up a government of the people, which facilitates public discussion and direct decision-making, withdrawing from NATO (saying to the world that we are the one rich nation wiling to say no to killing innocents even if the US disowns us), or finally listening to science and taking the steps needed protecting our planet.

These are all very sensible in my mind. However they aren't presented as legitimate options by our main news outlets and they are quickly dismissed as radical when they are mentioned. Likewise our electoral system doesn't provide for such points of view. Even the NDP with never support a withdrawal from NATO, for example. So we are left with choosing between options, neither of which has any intention of caving to the will of the people.

The Greens are the only visible party to approximate my viewpoints. It's a shame the NDP have claimed the Canadian mainstream left. I feel like if they were to become the government we would see little try change.
3
2
Rating: +1
Jiggy D
It is imperative that all those who oppose the current regime have a united front next election.

Unfortunately left and left of centre are split ... What to do about that?

3
2
Rating: +1
dictators don't care about elections
They fix em so the Dictator comes out on top and can push pipelines through a rain forest something no other party would do.. That is how you know you are living in a dictatorship when you have the likes of Harper, the media and robo calls to let voters know democracy is dead and Harper and his dictatorship and his sell out to corporations rules instead. Has anyone see Harper brown bagging it? Mulroney did. Dictators don't care what people say as Canada's questionable leader sits at 23 percent and is rapidly losing ground. What do Harper and Campbell have in common? The majority of voters do not trust them or like them and is no way to run a province or a country with a leader's popularity sitting somewhere in the teens says dictatorships are alive and well and democracy is dead and sitting somewhere at 20%.
Harper can't pull this off because the people of the country are warming up to set democracy right while the word is out the Conservatives fixed the election but not the economy says their days are numbered at best.
3
0
Rating: +3
who u calling silly
http://www.democracyweb.org/elections/principles.php
2nd Nation have you ever considered taking a course say in politics, I did so I could be bettered informed and wouldn't sound silly like u.
5
2
Rating: +3
David Benja
Harper must be American republican spy.. :P
4
1
Rating: +3
2nd Nation
@Who

How's that working out for you?

And let me get this straight - you're suggesting I take a course because I propose not using hyperbole to make an argument? Is that what your learnin' taught ya? C- for you sir. And I am being generous since you're in a poli-sci class.
3
2
Rating: +1
bdubblut
There is a song.
It is aptly titled Rise-Up.
Those who choose to rule, instead of lead, may find the wisdom of the song being acted upon in Canada.
(With sincere apologies to Jack...its getting close to a** whooping time)

2
3
Rating: -1

Pages

Add new comment
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.