Thursday, September 10, 2009

Can we do better than Stephen Harper? Yes we can



Here's the six minute video version (see previous post for the short one). David Akin has provided a fairly accurate transcript of key parts from the video above. Here's Harper's pitch for why he needs a majority government:
That will be the choice. I hear rumours, these days, we may be going to an election. The next election will be a choice between higher spending and higher taxes or it will be a choice between a balanced budget and keeping taxes doing down. It will be a choice between cracking down on crime or returning to soft-on-crime policies. But most of all - it will be a choice between having a conservative government and not having a conservative government. And let me be clear about this: We need to win a majority in the next election campaign. I’m not just saying because we need a few more seats. We saw what happened last year. Do not be fooled for a moment. If we do not get a majority, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois will combine and they will form a government. They will deny this till they’re blue in the face in an election campaign but I guarantee you if we do not win a majority, this country will have a Liberal government propped up by the socialists and the separatists. That government may not last very long but every day it’s in office it will do long-term real-damage to this country. This country cannot afford a government like that. If they force us to the polls, we have to teach them a lesson and get back there with a majority and make sure their little coalition never happens.
Beyond the content of Harper's speech, which one could have a field day with, the tone Harper sets here is really educational for the Canadian public. This is behind closed doors Harper, the real Harper. This is how he sounds off behind closed doors about the enemy, the Liberals. The resentment and anger is palpable, coming through in spades when he ultimately says "...we have to teach them a lesson...and make sure their little coalition never happens." It's not very reassuring stuff to hear from a political leader.

The questions are obvious. How can you watch this and trust this Prime Minister to work in good faith with the opposition? (We learned yesterday on the EI issue, once again, that you really can't.) How can you watch it at the moment and think gee, the Liberals really should be working with this guy to avoid an election. How can you watch this and have any notion that this guy should be trusted with a majority government.

Just to comment on one aspect of Harper's speech, he criticizes the former Liberal governments for "subsidizing lawyers to bring court challenges on behalf of left wing fringe groups." This is a reference to his government's having done away with the Court Challenges Programme, a federal programme that has funded litigation on equality issues, going back to the original adoption of the Charter. The thinking was that groups who have expertise and can speak to the impact of a given law on their members should be represented at appellate court levels in Canada so they could contribute to the development of the Charter case law on equality. Otherwise, we would have had only private litigants who can afford it appearing before the courts. The case law that has developed over the last 30 years would have been much different without these groups' participation and Stephen Harper likely knows that.

One of the legal advocacy groups that has been funded in the past, for example, is the Women's Legal and Education Action Fund (LEAF). As their site notes, they've intervened in over 150 cases since 1985, many of them landmark and which have advanced women's rights in Canada. In acting on behalf of women and being funded by the Court Challenges Programme, however, to Stephen Harper this is "left wing fringe group" stuff. It's a great reminder for women in Canada about what Stephen Harper thinks of such advocacy efforts on behalf of women.

Maybe more later on other specific remarks but for now, the partisan poison and intemperate tone are what stand out more than anything. This is a Prime Minister showing how poorly suited he is to lead a minority parliament and he simply does not deserve a majority. You can't even trust that he's saying the same things in public that he is saying behind closed doors.