Prince Albert Herald, Tuesday, February 28,
2006 (in a severely
truncated version) and North Central Internet
Mr. Harper goes to Ottawa
by David Orchard
Two and a half years ago Stephen Harper headed a
regional and fading political party unable to connect
with most Canadians because of its unpalatable policies.
Today, Mr. Harper is prime minister of Canada.
Two factors were key in transforming Canada's
political landscape. The Progressive Conservative (PC)
party's last leadership convention, on June1, 2003,
elected Peter MacKay leader on his written promise not
to merge the party with Harper's Social Credit-based
Canadian Reform-Alliance. MacKay's subsequent betrayal
delivered the PC party – including its name, colours and
logo – to Mr. Harper. (The new party now even calls
itself "Tory" and claims to be the descendant of John A.
Macdonald's founding party of Canada.)
For the Reform-Alliance party to get the Conservative
name it coveted was a coup. Discarding its essentially
meaningless green colour and draping itself in blue,
especially in Québec with its potent history of "les
bleus" going back to the nation's great co-founder,
Georges-Étienne Cartier, allowed the new party to
achieve what one Québec observer called "power by
A second contributing factor was the NDP, which
triggered the recent election at the most opportune time
for Mr. Harper and then – by accident or design – helped
the Conservatives win.
The NDP campaign began with Ed Broadbent declaring
that Stephen Harper was no longer so "scary" – and Jack
Layton praising the reasonable and responsible attitude
of his new coalition partners, the Bloc and the
Conservatives, helping to legitimize both – and ended
with a broadside from Broadbent, not against the front
running Conservatives, but against the NDP's former
governing allies, Paul Martin's Liberals.
In the weeks between, Mr. Layton's party directed the
majority of its firepower and advertising budget against
the "corrupt" Liberals, occasionally tut-tutting the
Conservatives for being "wrong on the issues."
Canadians, the NDP told us, had a third option rather
than voting for "the Conservatives or corruption." As if
the new Conservative party, created in blatant deception
and betrayal – including a rigged merger vote – and
laden with Brian Mulroney's operators and their scandal
ridden past, was somehow less corrupt than the Liberals.
In the end, the split vote between the NDP and the
Liberals handed the country's future to the Bloc and Mr.
"We want to help the government function for a
while," the Bloc House Leader recently announced, "to do
what needs to be done."
The NDP's role in rehabilitating Mr. Harper and
helping him to power is strikingly reminiscent of the
party's actions in the 1988 free trade election, when Ed
Broadbent turned his guns on John Turner – who was
carrying the battle for Canadian sovereignty – thus
playing a crucial role in giving the country the Free
Trade Agreement, NAFTA, the GST and four more years of
Brian Mulroney. In 2006, a few thousand votes for the
NDP instead of for the Liberals in a couple of dozen
ridings gave power to a party the majority of Canadians
tried their best to block at the ballot box. Buzz
Hargrove has called for an end to the Liberal-NDP vote
split in key ridings to better reflect the voters'
wishes and end the Conservatives free ride to power.
Also noteworthy was the kid glove press treatment of
Mr. Harper, whereby a man with an unfailing adherence to
U.S. foreign policy, by his own admission inspired by
the U.S. right-wing Conservative movement, was suddenly
transformed into a moderate, even progressive,
mainstream Canadian politician. The masters of spin
around Harper knew that right-wing leaders don't win
federal elections in Canada. And voilà, virtually
overnight he ceased to be one – and the media appeared
to swallow it all. Any attempt to point out Mr. Harper's
amply documented past was derisively dismissed as
It remained for a former U.S. vice-president, Al
Gore, to blow the whistle for Canadians. In an explosive
interview from Park City, Utah, strikingly underreported
in Canada, Mr. Gore said, "The election in Canada was
partly about the tar sands projects in Alberta. And the
financial interests behind the tar sands project poured
a lot of money and support behind an ultra conservative
leader in order to win the election... and to protect
Mr. Gore pointed out that one of the things the oil
industry wants is Canada's pullout from Kyoto.
As Brian Mulroney's entourage emerges from the
shadows into key cabinet and government positions, as
the stunning and deafening silence grows regarding Mr.
Mulroney's receipt of large payments of cash from
Karl-Heinz Schreiber despite his sworn testimony in
court that he had "no dealings whatsoever" with Mr.
Schreiber, the country waits for Mr. Harper's next move
and for Mr. Layton's explanation of why his party opened
the door for the Harper-Bloc alliance.
We wait also for the RCMP investigation into Mr.
Gore's allegations of foreign funds going to a Canadian
political party, and into Mr. Schreiber's statements
which, if true, point to a prima facie case of perjury
against Mr. Mulroney. Mr. Harper and his justice
minister, Vic Toews, promised to "clean up" Canadian
politics and "get tough on crime." Here's the perfect
place to start.
David Orchard ran for the leadership of the federal
Progressive Conservative Party in 1998 and 2003. He is
the author of The Fight for Canada – Four Centuries of
Resistance to American Expansionism, farms at Borden,
SK, and can be reached at tel (306) 652-7095, e-mail: