Friday, December 18, 2009

The reviews are in

Anybody else noticing a theme? Here's Susan Riley:
It is one thing to be irritated, even disgusted, by the Harper government's tendency to disparage or fire conscientious public servants, portray its political opponents as unpatriotic anti-Semites, dismiss parliamentary votes it doesn't agree with, or shroud its most important decisions -- climate change strategy, its deficit- recovery plan -- in secrecy.

But at what point do Canadians become alarmed at the absolute control, the intolerance of dissent and the manipulative messaging, often publicly funded, that characterizes this regime? Why aren't we worried now? We elected a minority government in a modern liberal democracy, representing a messy range of opinion. Yet that government operates like a not-so-friendly dictatorship.

In fact, Harper's no longer "hidden" agenda -- his tough-on-crime, easy-on-climate-change, pro-military and anti-tax policies -- may turn out to be less scary than his methods.
Without independent reporting and the odd, brave "watchdog," we would never know what our government is up to -- not until the big "reveal" in a glossy media campaign. For four years, the government has successfully deep-sixed its critics and confounded the opposition. Low-key nuclear regulator Linda Keen was fired (and the isotope crisis remains unresolved.) Inquisitive parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, is being starved of funds. The government refused to co-operate with the Military Police Complaints Commission looking into the detainee issue and is not reappointing its chairman, Peter Tinsley. It has taken Elections Canada to court, withheld an RCMP study on the gun registry until after a crucial vote, and ignored a vote ordering it to release documents relating to Colvin's testimony.

Short of hauling Sheila Fraser off in leg-irons, sending the dangerously popular Michaëlle Jean on an unescorted fact-finding mission to Mogadishu, or appointing Don Cherry to the Senate, it is hard to know what it will take to provoke a pro-democracy movement here in Canada.

But this we know: Harper will do whatever it takes to hold power, democratic niceties be damned.

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