Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Harper Index is sort of an online "Harper Watch", devoted to keeping a close eye on all things connected with the federal Conservatives and especially what they would like to remain hidden. There's a great recent article there on what a majority Conservative government would likely be like. Sort of a "disaster planning" exercise I guess. The consensus was that Harper would throw his present restraint and caution to the winds if the tooth fairy left him what he wants. There are some people who should never be trusted with sharp instruments. Anyways, the article....
Majority government would move faster and farther
Social conservatives could call shots if Conservatives faced fewer constraints, predict most surveyed.

Ottawa, March 26, 2008: In federal by-elections March 17, the Harper Conservatives showed surprising strength. They nearly won in Liberal bastion Vancouver Quadra and won by a landslide in the formerly Liberal Saskatchewan riding of Desnethé Missinippi Churchill River.

Despite serious controversies (Mulroney- Schreiber, AECL, Afghanistan, Cadman), Stephen Harper's and his party's polling numbers have held firm over the winter. The Conservatives are polling consistently in the low-to-high thirties, with high ratings for Stephen Harper's leadership. Although many Canadians appear to adamantly oppose Harper, there is a real prospect the next election, if it is fought on Harper's terms and turf, could result in a majority Conservative government.

What would a majority Stephen Harper Conservative government look like and do? How would it differ from the current minority government, which Harper has tried to position as moderate?

To get a sense of the answers, conducted a small, informal survey of ten reporters and political observers. All responded to an email asking them to "type a number from 1 to 10 after each item on this list to show the priority you think it would get from a Harper majority government," and to offer other comments. Of the ten who responded, two simply offered comments, one by phone.

Would Harper bring back capital punishment? Some thought it was a top priority, some the opposite. Opinion was more consistent on other issues.

Most felt that an anti-union labour law would be a fairly high priority.

So would privatizing the CBC, which no one rated lower than 6. Other privatization projects - like Canada Post, the ports and social insurance - were consistently rated between 4 and 9 in priority.

A Harper majority would "lay-off or reduce civil service by 60,000 positions," forecast pollster Marc Zwelling, who added that "Harper would push more deregulation in the interest of 'competitiveness' (and corporate tax reductions), and de-emphasize climate change and the environment."

Privatization of health care, most panelists felt, would be a high priority. Three gave it number-1 ratings.

All ten panelists saw the introduction of a flat tax as likely, with two number-1 ratings, and none lower than 5.

A 'three strikes' law was also seen as a high priority by many, with one number-1 rating, and none lower than 6.

Several of the commentators warned that a Harper majority government would pander to the religious Right. At least two thought an attempt to rescind same-sex marriage laws would be likely.

Toronto Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias expects a Conservative majority would "start chipping away at women's reproductive rights" with measures like recognizing the fetus as a person. "Judging from the emails I get, I think that the woman-should-be-barefoot-and-pregnant misogynists would be difficult to control," she writes.

University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman isn't so sure. "While [Harper] is socially conservative, that isn't his priority. He's more interested in economic issues, so I don't think he could touch abortion, and I'm not sure how far he could actually go on same-sex marriage. I think he would move on the gun registry and have that totally dismantled, although he's done that (already) by not enforcing" it. He also expects there would be quick action on "so-called democratic reform," such as an elected senate.

Wiseman says Harper "would try to ensure the feds can't enter into areas of provincial jurisdiction. He would continue to have an emphasis on defense and the military, and would probably have a less sympathetic approach to Aboriginal interests..."

York University political scientist and author James Laxer thinks a Harper majority government would be more extreme than does Wiseman. The government, Laxer says, would "throw red meat to the Conservative backbenchers, who have suffered from the gags tied on them by the PMO during the minority." How? By having parliamentary committees study capital punishment, by banning late term abortions, by placing restrictions on immigration, through support for faith-based initiatives, by cuts to federal support for the arts and for research, and through the private marketing of wheat and the termination of the Wheat Board.

"Unlike social democrats when they take office (as they have in four Canadian provinces over the decades), a Harper majority government would not hesitate to implement the full Right-wing agenda for which the Conservative Party of Canada was created," Laxer writes. "The Harperites will not compromise on anything. They will put through their program, always with an eye to making it irreversible by any future government - just as Brian Mulroney did with free trade."

Harper, Laxer says, "would act quickly to set up a sweeping study (perhaps Royal Commission) on the prospects for a much closer North American Union" and tighter economic military integration with the US.

Dalhousie University journalism professor Stephen Kimber expects the Harper Conservatives would "dismantle the CRTC, reduce what restrictions remain on foreign ownership, more closely ally our military with US forces, look for ways to undermine gay marriage and a woman's right to choose, and offer more corporate tax cuts."

None of those surveyed expected a Stephen Harper majority government would move with the caution of the current minority.
Posted: March 26, 2008
Harper Index ( is a project of the Golden Lake Institute and the online publication


Anonymous said...

Surely there must be a few old Marxists around that you could add to your panel. If these wingnuts were any farther to the left they would be preaching for a new revolution of the proletariat.

mollymew said...

I actually wonder how many of the people questioned are "old Marxists". The only one that I am familiar with, Laxer, hasn't been a Marxist for many years- if he ever was one.