Familiar Fascism, or, I’m suffering from Stephen Harper Deja Vu

The only. The ONLY good thing. About this guy. Was the cats. THAT’S IT. And he could have had the cats without being a politician at all. Ugh.


We got rid of Harper and it was wonderful. After nearly 10 years of his leadership, left-leaning Canadians were so fed up with him that we all apparently mentally decided to not split the vote and we ended up kicking a bunch of established NDP MPs out of Parliament… which was a mistake. But an honest one. We needed to get rid of the Conservatives and the Conservative voters show up, with their strong 40% of the voting population, and they can easily win majorities when we on the left can’t collectively choose between the centrists and the actual left.

I would love the chance to vote for the Green party, actually, but I’d prefer to help keep the Tories out of power, especially after they spend a decade proving they didn’t even come close to deserving it. But now, with the centrist Liberal party in charge and without a stronger NDP presence to sway them leftwards more often than not, we run into problems like “Oh hey never mind about proportional representation, because that broken system we have just handed us a majority and what do you mean ‘think about the long term?'” and, “Yey, Trump reversed Obama’s decision on the keystone pipeline, that’s AWESOME for Alberta!”

You know. Until the environmental consequences of the tar sands catch up with us.

But I’m writing today because everything Trump has done so far (it’s Wednesday. Of his first week.) is reminding me strongly of Harper’s time as PM, and I thought I’d point out the parallels, because how else could I possibly spend my time until we’re all wiped out because of a tweet amiright

Gagging Scientists

Fascists hate science. Before Trump took office, some American climate research was saved on Canadian back up servers. Now that he’s been president for five minutes, scientists are banned from speaking publicly about their research.

Stevie did this too. In this piece, the way Harper’s gag worked seems pretty much identical to what’s going on with the EPA right now.

“In the past, journalists were generally able to contact scientists directly for interviews, but after these new directives they had to go through government communications officers.

And scientists had to get pre-approval from their minister’s office before speaking to members of national or international media, a process that can involve drafting potential questions and answers, which are then scrutinized by a team before the green light is given.”

So here are two examples of some information that might have been useful to be open to wide public knowledge from that same article:

  • Environment Canada’s media office granted no interviews after a team published a paper in 2011 concluding that a 2 degree C increase in global temperatures may be unavoidable by 2100. 
  • Postmedia science reporter Margaret Munro requested data from radiation monitors run by Health Canada following the earthquake and nuclear plant problems in Japan. Munro said Health Canada would not approve an interview with one of its experts responsible for the detectors.

The other unsettling part of this whole mess was the time they destroyed a bunch of research – it was originally claimed that they had literally burned some of it but apparently that wasn’t true.

The good news? This didn’t play well for Harper. I mean, the 40% of voters who always show up and always vote Conservative no matter the fuck what didn’t care, but the rest of us were pretty horrified. Gag orders. Muzzling scientists. Orwellian. We payed attention, and they really couldn’t spin this in a positive light.

The bad news? This was late into Harper’s 9 years. Trump is in his first week.

Abortion Abroad

Trump’s “Global Gag Rule” explained here by Laci Green reminded me of when Harper decided to be charitable with maternal and newborn health worldwide but wouldn’t fund abortions because they’re too “divisive,” in Canada (where they’re legal) and elsewhere, where the funding was going. An obvious point quoted in this article:

“New Democratic Party critic for international development Hélène Laverdière challenged the government on its summit theme of “Saving Every Woman, Every Child.”

‘Well, there’s 47,000 women who die each year from unsafe abortions,’ she said in an interview with CBC News.

‘So, if we want to save every woman, we have to address that issue too.'”

There’s only bad news here. Harper was very anti-abortion but started not talking about that publicly before he was able to win his first election. Given the opportunity to vote on reopening the “should abortion be legal in Canada” debate, he voted to not even have the discussion. I applauded him for that. It probably couldn’t have been easy for him (not that I sympathize with having “hatred of women” as a personal cause – listen, if it makes you uncomfortable that’s fine but then just don’t have one yourself, and if the thought of grown women dying from unsafe illegal abortions feels fine to you, reexamine that please), but it was clearly the right thing to do and he did it whatever his beliefs were.

Trump… is Trump. Lots of people have made the point that he’s likely paid personally for a couple of abortions, but to get that sweet sweet GOP teabagger applause he loves so much, he’s, you know, said some things. Much worse is that the people pulling his strings actually are fanatically anti-choice, and they will do whatever they can to make abortion illegal again in America. They’ve basically said so, and we would be wise to believe them.

Muslim People

We heard today about banning refugees and Muslim travelers to the US. This is disgusting. Harper didn’t do anything like that, but he used openly racist rhetoric during his final campaign.

The worst thing the Harper government promised to do was to set up the “Barbaric Cultural Practices” hotline. Its intent was that if you had some Muslim neighbours and you thought they might be honour killing their daughters, you could call this RCMP hotline and report them.

Like.

How did they not realize how unbelievably racist that was? That would enable so many racist bozos to call in about nothing. “I saw a guy in a turban walking down the street.” You know some clownstick (or several some clownsticks) would call in about Sikhs in traditional Sikh clothing.

The good news? There’s only good news for Canada’s Conservative party. Kellie Leitch, who has expressed the ambition to use Trump’s campaign strategy to win the Conservative leadership race, regrets it. Tearfully. Here, and here (I bolded the ridiculousness):

“‘I’ve had a lot of time to think about this since the campaign took place and if I could go back in time, which I can’t, I would change things,’ Leitch said. ‘I would not have made that announcement that day.

‘As minister of status of women I was focused on making sure that we eliminated violence against women and girls especially making sure we advocated for women’s rights,’ she explained.

Leitch, who is also a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, said her intention was to ensure that if women and children needed to ‘pick up the phone’ to call for help that someone would answer, but admits that ‘the message was lost.’

‘We weren’t talking about race, we were talking about kids … but that message was completely overtaken and I regret that, and I regret that it occurred, and it shouldn’t have been done,’ she said.”

So she’s not going to be outright racist. Maybe she’s leaving that up to O’Leary.

But.

Kellie.

It was called the “Barbaric Cultural Practices” hotline.

If you really wanted kids, all kids, or anyone at all to call for help, and whatever, to humour you let’s use the example of a Muslim girl being abused, perhaps even for “religious” reasons. Why in fuck would she feel safe calling the “Barbaric Cultural Practices” hotline? Call it something else.

Also, if you gave such a damn about women in perilous situations why did you not do a thing about the horrific number of missing and murdered Indigenous women? ???

Crocodile tears, is what I’m saying. You all knew what you were doing and you did it anyway, so now stand back and let the somewhat more competent and somewhat less racist than you political parties handle things until you and your voters are all old and dead, or have been replaced by people of actual quality. Thank you.

The bad news is that what Trump is promising is worse, and, again, it’s only the first week.

Medicine

Trump will be repealing Obamacare, to the horror of many voters of his who didn’t realize that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are in fact one and the same.

Harper didn’t like our government-funded health care system, but it’s fairly popular. I mean. You can find bozos here who don’t like it, and who in fact say things like “It’s so much easier for my dog to get treatment!” Honey. No. Some of these people are Conservative politicians, go figure. But most of us, even the basically uninformed, are proud of our health care. So Harper couldn’t outwardly state that he was going to privatize it. Instead, he made cuts. Lots of cuts. And we’ll be feeling them for years yet, at least.

There’s just bad news here. People are going to die, and those people who spite-voted him in because they didn’t like being called “rassist” will have blood on their hands.

Voter Suppression

The well-documented strategy of the Republicans has been to suppress the votes of people unlikely to vote for them – specifically, black people and Hispanic people. Trump will apparently be wasting money looking into voter fraud which of course is so minute that it may as well not exist.

Surprise, surprise, Harper did this sort of thing too. His policy was called the “Fair Elections Act.” We all made fun of it. We called it the “Unfair Elections Act.” Get it? It was clever.

They passed the Act because of a scandal they perpetrated – from this:

“The Conservatives put the new election laws in place ostensibly in response to the national outcry over the robocall scandal, in which party operatives were accused of using automated phone calls to direct non-Conservative voters to the wrong polling stations on election day. The misleading calls were reported in ridings across the country and appeared to be targeted based on information from closely guarded Conservative party data.”

Instead of actually doing anything to prevent further robocall scandals, the Fair Elections Act just made it harder to prove your ID if you don’t have a driver’s license.

The good news? After this “Fair Elections Act” was passed, we held an election, and everyone thought it was going to be close. We held our breaths for a couple of months. But Trudeau won a decent majority.

My hope is that in two years during the midterms, decent Americans will be as motivated, if not even more motivated, than we were when we voted our wannabe-fascist out of power, overcoming his election laws meant to shrink the numbers of people voting against him.

All right that’s enough. The Disney movie I’m pairing for today’s trip down a decade of Harper-themed memory lane is Wreck-it Ralph, in which bad guys have a support group and are actually really nice, and in which the real villain stole all his misused power from the girl. That’ll. Make me feel better. Sure.

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