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Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada: The New Hypocrisy

I wonder if there were actually people who believed Stephen Harper when he said he was going to be different from other politicians. “We’re not like those other guys, the Liberals” he implied through out his whole campaign, and in the days leading up to the election. “We are open and above board and don’t stoop to political chicanery to get things done.”

Usually it takes a politician at least a few months in office to succumb to the temptations of power. They make some sort of effort to live up to their promises of accountability and clean living. The Conservative Party of Canada must have set some kind of record for acting like hypocrites.

They hadn’t even been given the keys to government washrooms and they’ve done two things for which they condemned the Liberals in the past. In fact both instances show how quickly they’ve learnt the lesson of political expediency taking precedence over promises and supposedly entrenched party policy.

Ever since the Conservative Party of Canada was in their first incarnation as the Reform Party, one of their major complaints has been with the Canadian Senate. The governing party appoints Senators in Canada, usually as a reward for service to the party. Our Senate has very little actual power, they might be able to delay the passing of a law, but they can’t prevent anything.

The Reform Party, and now The Conservative Party of Canada, has demanded all along that Senators, if not elected by the public, at least chosen by provincial legislators, with each province being guaranteed a certain number of Senators. This, would prevent governing parties from appointing Senators willy-nilly to suit their own nefarious purposes.

One of the things they were most set against was the appointment of people to the Senate in order to offer them a position in a government’s Cabinet. Many governments have done this in the past when they do not have a member elected in a province, or a region, so that they can at least have the appearance of representing that part of the country.

After nigh on twenty years of complaining about this practice, the first thing this first time governing party does is (This party had never formed a government in Canada, no matter what newspapers say about the first Conservative government in thirteen years. This is not the same political party that was elected under Brian Mulroney. That party was known as the Progressive Conservative party) that very thing.

They appoint some party hack, Michale Fortier from Quebec to the Senate so they can put him in the Cabinet. This is a guy who is quoted as saying that he didn’t want to run in the election, because the time wasn’t right to be involved with politics. What could have changed in less then a month?

Maybe being offered a Cabinet post without having to go to all that trouble of being elected, or actually risking getting people’s approval had something to do with it. Considering that the Conservative’s didn’t win a single seat in Montreal and that is where M. Fortier is from, could it have been decided in advance?

Okay it looks like we’re not going to get any seats in Montreal, so will you make the sacrifice of taking a Senate seat, and a place in Cabinet? You’ll have to run in the next election, but by than it will be fine, everyone will have forgotten how you got in power.

Last spring the Conservative party made quite the stink when one of their members crossed the floor to join the Liberals. Belinda Stronach had lost the leadership race to Stephen Harper, and was considered very liberal on social issues. She supported same-sex marriage and was pro-choice. She had tried to work within her party and it wasn’t working.

She was offered a cabinet post in the Liberal government, and more room for advancement. The timing of course was seen by the Conservatives as being the biggest betrayal, because it was the one vote that allowed the Liberals to stay in power last spring. But in some ways that makes the most sense; if you no longer support the party your with, you don’t want to go into an election as a member of their caucus.

Naturally at the time, Mr. Harper condemned this behaviour as underhanded and a betrayal of the democratic principles behind elections; she had been elected a Conservative, and was now a Liberal, what would the people of her riding think. She gave the voters in her riding a chance to decide on her in this past election, and she actually increased her margin of victory as a Liberal, over what it had been as a Conservative.

So imagine everyone’s surprise that David Emerson who was elected as a Liberal, in a riding where the Conservatives finished dead last, showed up at the Governor General’s mansion on Monday to be sworn in as a member of the Conservative party’s new Cabinet.

This was a man who during the election was calling Conservatives a party with a hidden agenda that discriminated against immigrants, (his riding is heavily immigrant) and encouraged New Democratic Party voters to vote for him in an attempt to stop the Conservatives. In his victory speech after winning his riding he promised to be vigilant in fighting the Conservatives in any infringements of civil liberties and social issues.

Now he’s a Minster in their Cabinet committed to ensuring their survival as a government. Even when it comes to such issues as same – sex marriage, which he voted for the last time, and tighter immigration laws that he threatened his constituents with if they voted Conservative.

Mr. Harper, of course, sees nothing untoward about a member of another party switching sides to come and work for him. That’s totally different than someone going the other way. I just wonder why it doesn’t constitute a betrayal of the people who voted for Mr. Emerson as a Liberal, nearly three to one over the Conservative candidate, and a betrayal of the democratic principles behind elections?

The Reform Party used to see themselves as some sort of anti-politician political party. We won’t conduct business as usual in that corrupt Ottawa way. But now that they have finally obtained power under the name of The Conservative Party of Canada, they’ve set a land speed record for political hypocrisy.

They haven’t even opened their first session of parliament and they already look like the opportunistic liars and cheats they used to accuse the Liberals of being. They said it was because the Liberals were venal and corrupt from long years in power with no one to challenge them. This Conservative Party has never been in power and has already proven them selves to be as arrogant and cynical as the Liberals ever were.

That doesn’t really inspire much trust in anything they say does it? I think we would be wise not to give them too much time in power, for their own good. They wouldn’t want to become just another political party now would they?

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • desi

    Steven got a lot of splaynin to do!!

  • T

    Gypsy: I was so pissed at this switch, especially when the conservatives were crying foul for months on end when Belinda crossed over. They even went so far as to boo her in the House of Commons.

    But to them it is just another day..what do you mean it is wrong to screw over your constituents? Yes, they voted liberal but too bad, I’m conservative now and I have a job.

    I watch the B.C news when they interviewed people from this asses riding, they were completely shocked and angered by this. How the hell can an elected official from one party instantly switch to another party after they have been elected? To me this is highly illegal. To make it even more bizarre, this politicians own secretary was unaware of the switch, she was giving an interview with a signed picture of Paul Martin on the guys office wall!

    This whole thing is a joke and I can forsee yet another early election where this little experiment will come to a quick end.

    Thanks for the article.

  • JlC

    Could this be a whack them right at the beginning strategy so in a year from now most people won’t remember.

  • http://spaces.msn.com/rcmbooks/ Randy

    I disagree with your thoughts on Harper because when asked in the debate about making laws against crossing the floor, he said that he would not, because it gave the PM too much power.

    I’m personally not against crossing the floor because the MP will pay for it if there riding isn’t happy.

  • Steve

    I’m in agreement with Randy on this one, Harper just said last month that he had looked at the various proposals to stop floor crossing (including one that had been introduced in the House during the last Parliament which had only received support from the NDP and half his own caucus), and felt that the ‘solutions’ were more problematic than the problem.

    Of course, from what I have seen, the television media seem to have selective amnesia on this point.

    The fact is folks, this kind of practice is par for the course for centrist parties, which the Ontario media at least, seems to agree is the kind of govt. Canada needs!! But when the Conservatives move to the center as they have done (poaching a Liberal MP, like the Liberals did to the Tories last year with Ms. Stronach) they get roundly criticised anyway. Nice little double standard.

    Personally, I am not a fan of floor crossing, but it does raise the question of how to involve non-partisan folks (as Emerson claims to be, pre-election speeches notwithstanding) into the Parliamentary process.

    As a strategy, I do wonder if Harper is lowering expectations of his govt. (a la same sex marriage announcement on the first day of the election campaign) so his govt. can have a ‘honeymoon’ in the final weeks before the next election, as opposed to having one now, as would be traditional.

    Those who know him best seem to think he has something up his sleeve. Sure will be interesting to find out what. After all, as many TV pundits have said, it wouldn’t be the first time the media has been…surprised…by Harper & the Tories.

    I can’t help feeling that maybe Harper is beginning to try to show people that a centrist govt. may not be what the people SHOULD be wanting in the first place.

  • Steve

    Re. Mr. Fortier, as I understand it, this would be a temporary appointment, not a lifetime one, and it appears that elected senators will be in the Senate by the end of this govts. term. His Parliamentary Secretary will be in the House to answer questions. I don’t consider his presence in the Senate to be a big deal, and neither does Quebec, whom he is representing.

  • MidBeast

    Stephen Harper a/k/a George Bush’s newest Lapdog:

    “Israel has the right to defend herself. I think Israel’s response under the circumstances has been measured.”

    Newsflash: seven Canadian civilians dead as a result of Israeli bombing in Lebanon.

    Nice to see that Canada’s Prime Minister supports the senseless slaughter of Canadian civilians.

    This is one scary and creepy character who will end up taking Canada all the way down if he is not quickly removed from office.