Saturday, May 16, 2009

Harpercons: mean, closed and controlling

How Harper's European spring turned sour
Doug Saunders, The Globe and Mail: For three years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has had his diplomats and ministers sell the idea of a 'new, muscular Canada' to Europe... Canada was set to build a new and powerful set of eastward-looking relationships to shift weight away from our US ties... What happened? ... Europeans and their leaders were left with two images of Canada: a man clubbing a seal, and a prime minister missing a photo opportunity because, the European media kept reporting, he was on the toilet...

Jeremy Kinsman, Canada's former ambassador to the EU: 'This government has failed to reciprocate initiatives from the Europeans, it has not listened of offered anything that matters to them.'... A senior EU official: 'Canada's mistake was that they didn't make a big, visible sacrifice so they could get something in exchange. They just wanted to win everything.'

Nicola Ross, The Globe and Mail, reviewing Elizabeth May's Losing Confidence: [Harper] makes all the decisions, leaving his cabinet ministers, in the words of National Post columnist Don Martin, 'to play the role usually reserved for potted plants.' She accuses the PM of putting winning the next election ahead of governing, the result of which is that the parliamentary process 'becomes a mere backdrop for non-stop electioneering.' One of the more remarkable actions she attributes to Harper is that he 'cheated' during the 2008 all-candidates debates.

Rex Murphy, The Globe and Mail: There are a lot of cards in the political deck, but the attack card seems to be the one that most fits with the Conservatives under Mr. Harper... They are not good at reaching out. They are not good at getting beyond the bristling, mean way they view everyone who is an opponent. Even after their victories -- they are in power, remember -- the Conservatives of the Stephen Harper party still radiate the sullenness of a party denied, a party... nursing a sense of injury that they haven't been fully acknowledged, fully appreciated... It comes mainly from the edgy, mean spirit that predominates... There is an unacknowledged element in all attack ads. They say as much about those who design those ads as about their ostensible targets.

James Travers, Toronto Star: This Prime Minister's Canada is as unfamiliar to those who stick close to the neighbourhood as it is to expatriates. It grafts presidential powers and situational expediency to the Westminster democracy that has served well, if imperfectly, for 141 years and then wraps it in the rhetoric of Reform Party populism. By incremental steps and leaps of logic, the Prime Minister is taking advantage of public confusion to advance a political hybrid... While hardly unique to Conservatives, extreme partisanship is now the Ottawa norm. It makes nonsense of those other populist principles of accountability and broad-spectrum participation... After promising transparency and open democracy, Harper is delivering arguably the most closed and controlling government of modern times.
Image source: CBC