WENDY ELLIOTT: What is Harper government leaving behind?

Wendy Elliott
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By Wendy Elliott



During the early 1930s as the Depression became entrenched, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett seemed like a man with little sympathy for the common folk. His government seemed unable to form policy that would reduce suffering. But, behind Bennett’s public face was a generous man who donated $25,000 a year to charitable causes. Bennett received hundreds of letters from desperate Canadians requesting aid and he responded with a $5 or $10 bill.

I cannot imagine our current leader writing personal letters to ordinary Canadians late into the night and conveying cash. In a way Sean Devlin and Shireen Soofi, who succeeded in getting past the PM security detail in Vancouver recently, were trying to catch Stephen Harper’s attention. Their message wasn’t about poverty: Devlin stood behind Harper with a sign that read “Climate Justice Now.”

The pair of activists was attempting to communicate with power, similar to how the Idle No More campaigners tried to send a message to Harper and his government last winter.

Perversely, the message the Harper government has been sending is that science doesn’t matter. Back in 2012, when his government announced it was going to close down national archives across the country, word was digitization would take place. Now the CBC’s Fifth Estate has documented that whacks of archival material, especially that dealing with climate research, has been burned or sent to landfills.

Muzzling scientists, gutting the Fisheries Act, abandoning climate change research and dismantling research programs disrespects the solid work of the past. Do Canadians at large care?

Muzzling scientists, gutting the Fisheries Act, abandoning climate change research and dismantling research programs disrespects the solid work of the past. Do Canadians at large care?

I understand, for example, that the library at the St. Andrews, N.B Biological Station got axed. Fifty-two years ago environmental scientist Rachel Carson used it extensively to research Silent Spring, her important book on toxins.

Dalhousie University biologist Jeff Hutchings called the closures "an assault on civil society" that fit into a larger pattern of "fear and insecurity" within the Harper government, "about how to deal with science and knowledge."

Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford, after the ice storm and all his embarrassments, has an approval rating of 47 per cent. According to a Nanos poll, only 26 per cent of Canadians approved of Prime Minister Harper’s conduct last year.

Globe & Mail columnist Richard Gwyn writes, “almost no one likes Harper. He’s seen widely as mean, insensitive, crassly partisan,” but he is still a tough leader for tough times.

As Harper continues to be vilified, former Senate page Brigitte DePape is hinting that disruptions will likely continue. DePape was the page who stood as a protest during the 2011 Throne Speech with a sign that read “Stop Harper.”

"These actions are taking place as part of a global movement of groups of who are directly confronting the fossil fuel industry, from First Nations legal challenges and blockading projects on their territories, to other forms of non-violent direct action,” she said after the Vancouver protest.

DePape has created a Stop Harper Fund, which is meant to support creative non-violent action against the Harper government's agenda. Can you sense how the lead up to a 2015 election might unfold?



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Recent comments

  • Fred Macdonald
    January 23, 2014 - 11:33

    Wendy - Your opinion piece is important for what you've said and how and where you said it. And, unfortunately, the comment from Perry Brant regarding keeping our eyes open is also important given the blind focus on dinosaur fuels at the expense of a diversified economy. Bravo!

  • Perry Brandt
    January 22, 2014 - 12:35

    I would be surprised if Mr. Harper remains leader of the Conservatives heading into the next election. He is extremely unpopular to most, and surely must be seen as a liability, even amongst the rank and file of his own party. The disregard for the electorate at large will come back to haunt them. Having moved from the west many years ago, I have always mused that folks have always been worried about the separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada. Given the shift in political power, and the obvious economic advantages held by Alberta, one should perhaps keep both eyes wide open.