Sunday, December 18, 2005

Would the *Real* Stephen Harper Please Stand Up?

Stephen Harper's speeches are painting a picture that's more "Where's Waldo?" than actually clarifying either CPC policy or his own personal stance.

Consider the following:

In a 1997 Speech, Mr. Harper makes it no great secret that he would quite cheerfully merge Canada with the US Republican Party, singing the praises of the United States, and roundly criticizing much of what differentiates Canada from it's neighbor to the south.

Then, in 2003, Mr. Harper wrote this article for the now-defunct Report magazine. In this article, Mr. Harper reinforces his socially conservative views, and again argues strongly for a much closer alignment of Canada with a growing conservative movement in the United States.

In researching this article, I found the following chronology of Harper - which again reinforces the idea that Mr. Harper is both deeply socially conservative, but also strongly in favour of alignment with the United States in quite a number of dimensions - to the extent that his statements to date would suggest that he is quite in favour of dismantling a lot of the public social infrastructure that is so deeply a part of the cultural fabric of Canada - from public education to medicare.

At the beginning of this election campaign, Harper re-opened the can of worms that is same-gender marriage - signalling that a Conservative government would tacitly lean much more towards a socially conservative agenda. (and reopening the Canadian government to a 'death by a thousand cuts' with repeated challenges of various laws by groups agitating for equal rights.

Which leads me to this comment from Harper regarding the ongoing softwood lumber dispute with the United States:

"I think if NAFTA is to move forward, to realize its full potential, we're going to have to get a satisfactory resolution of this dispute, otherwise I think we've probably gone as far in our trading relationship with the Americans as we can."

Along with some of the rather half-baked attempts to distance himself from the G. W. Bush Neo/TheoConservatism recently, Harper is sending out a very mixed message overall. A few months ago, Harper was making motions in the House of Commons demanding that "all necessary steps be taken" to stop same-gender marriage from being legalized. Today, we find him saying that the Section 33 NotWithStanding clause would not be used? Like all of the leaders, he has promised billions in spending and "tax cuts", but for a supposedly "fiscally conservative" party, this is something of a non-sequitur - the amounts being promised don't sound that big, but like the pennies I keep in a shoebox, they add up to a fair chunk of money over time.

He isn't saying anything that eschews speeches and articles written in the past, yet he is sounding rather contradictory to much of his "past works legacy" at the same time. While I can't entirely blame Harper for skirting around these issues, it remains decidedly ambiguous for voters just what the man - and his party - really stand for. Is he simply saying what he thinks will get him elected - only to fall back into old patterns when he is officially "in power"? Is he lusting after power, or is he actually interested in governing? The behaviour of certain long-time Conservative MPs such as Kenney and Anders make me suspect strongly that there are those in that party who lust after power for its own sake, and would wield a frightening amount of influence in a CPC government.

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