This issue is likely to remain in the forefront, not only because of the media coverage it will continue to receive but also because most Canadians, sadly, tend to evaluate their election choices narrowly, as taxpayers, rather than from the much broader perspective of citizens. As a result, they are likely to look at which party can best reassure them about managing the economy, balancing the budget, and avoiding tax increases. While all of these issues are valid, they are – or should be – but secondary consideration in the election that is fast approaching.
Election issue should be restoring Canadian democracy
The key issue in this election should be/needs to be whether Canadians are prepared to begin the process of reviving our democracy. This is not something vague or abstract; we face a real and present danger. We would not be the first country to sleep walk through the loss of our individual rights and freedoms and democratic practices. That destruction has relentlessly proceeded throughout Stephen Harper’s time in office with some 70 abuses documented and reported by The Tyee.
Equally disturbing is the fact that Harper has promoted a personal cult, in which press releases are not from the Government of Canada, but from the Harper Government. A particularly chilling example of this leader-focused approach occurred when literature was being prepared to promote the 2009 stimulus budget. The draft brochures included photos of images of Canadians working on infrastructure projects and the like. They were sent to the PMO for review (as required for everything) and came back with the images of ordinary Canadians replaced with images of Stephen Harper. Protests by senior civil servants got many of the booklets returned to their original format – but some were never used because the PMO lost interest once the Harper photos were gone.
As reported in the media in recent weeks, these abuses have continued and intensified now that the election campaign is underway. Canadians can only attend campaign events by invitation, or as otherwise approved by the Conservative Party. Reporters are limited to a total of five questions that they can ask Harper. Harper’s staff decide which reporters can ask the five questions and which subjects are acceptable. Those with TV cameras are escorted out of Stephen Harper’s campaign events after two minutes or less. Conservative candidates have been told not to attend all candidates meetings or to speak with the media. Why is this high-handed behaviour tolerated in a supposedly democratic country?
Economy important but democracy vital
We are told that “bread and butter issues” are what interest voters not concerns about democratic abuses. But we will continue to neglect these abuses at our peril. It is time the government was held to account for the way it has increasingly undermined Canadian democracy. It is time that we demanded from any party seeking our support a commitment to the renewal of that democracy.