Sunday, 8 March 2015



The Ministry of Fear


Some days you win. I was gleeful when the hysterical and inane Sun News Network cut to dead air after vain pleas to the archaic Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) for common carriage in the increasingly complicated digital universe. Canadians showed no appetite for our own trite version of Fox News. Like its sister chain of tabloid newspapers, it set the lowest common denominator bar so low that a garden slug could have slimed it. Social conservatives thought that was just the bee’s knees.


Most days you lose. Within our borders, 2015 is designated as a federal election year. Across the nation voters meet in pubs for Despair Hour. There’s the secretive and paranoid incumbent regime along with a couple of other lame and painfully inexperienced prime ministerial contenders. Some riding will elect somebody who figures creationism is legit science; we know that much. And for the most part, the distracting hockey on the surrounding flat screens isn’t any good. This country has crashed headlong into its What’s happened to us!? moment.


Canada’s seventh prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1896-1911), famously declared that the 20th century would belong to Canada. History intervened, world wars and whatnot, but we made out well enough. Number 22, Stephen Harper (2006 – present), envisions Canada as a 21st century energy superpower, a global force to be reckoned with. The Bond villain scheme is temporarily on hold; commodity prices can be alarmingly elastic. The current edition of Rolling Stone (issue 1230, Madonna cover) contains a glib expose of Harper’s failed ambition.


The threat or promise of peak oil, depending upon your politics, seems paradoxically far-fetched. The Keystone XL pipeline has become a symbol of the fossil fuel debate. It’s really just one more tube in an already extensive and ageing continental network. Might it be nice to have a new one in the short term as everything tends to wear out over time? One side describes the heavy crude as ‘ethical oil’ for our neighbour and closest ally. The other side cites tar sands and posits a manufactured environmental disaster. The stuff’s going to move one way or another, so let’s hope the Grateful Dead’s Casey Jones isn’t driving that train.


President Obama’s recent veto of Keystone XL is meaningless, a lame duck legacy signature. What has stymied the Harper government is OPEC’s (specifically Saudi Arabia’s) decision to keep the taps turned on, driving down the price per barrel and making would-be competitive oil providers in North America inefficient. This could all turn on a dime of course as an unstable Middle East historically gooses the price of oil, and things over there are particularly messy right now. But for now, with global energy domination no longer an effective re-election platform plank, Ottawa’s ruling Tories have turned to the politics of fear.


When the writ is dropped later this year, the discourse on the stump will be public safety. Shockingly, the vast majority of Canadians are not in favour of crime or terrorism. The majority party in Parliament through previous and proposed legislation has created the illusion the Canada is a seething sewer rife with Twitter bullies, serial killers and terrorists. Tough on crime and tough on terror are easy aces to play face up on the green felt. It’s important to note that the Harper government actively moves to limit debate on its legislation and tends to ram through omnibus bills, essentially putting apples and oranges in the same bushel basket. The Tories have been so hasty that they’ve even sent the wrong draft of a bill to the upper house of sober second thought for rubber stamping. Amazingly, the dozy appointed senators caught the error. There’s a pervading sense coast to coast to coast that Bill C-51, the government’s impending anti-terrorism legislation was written by 1000 monkeys pecking away at 1000 typewriters.


Fortunately, in a country as blessed as Canada, the state’s watchmen would never abuse their invasive powers even if the law they’re to abide has more loopholes than a poorly knitted sweater. Frankly, so-called terrorists in this country are no threat to the state. In another time they would have been lonely losers absorbed into the Moonies or earning their keep hanging around airports, dressed in orange and forcing flowers on annoyed travellers.


Violent crime in Canada has receded to a 40-year ebb. Our federal prisons overflow with inmates due to Tory mandatory minimum sentencing. What’s to be tabled next on the Hill? Life sentences without parole; Canada abolished capital punishment in 1976 and you wonder how fond the Harper government is of the good old days, God save the King. Crown prosecutors always got it right back then, didn’t they?


It’s easy enough to piss off the editors of Rolling Stone. Recently Canada Canada! has earned the condemnation of both the United Nations and Amnesty International. Since 1980 more than 1000 aboriginal women have been murdered in this country. Nobody knows how many more are missing. Aboriginal people constitute a little more than four-per-cent of our population of 34-million souls and change. This appalling statistic shames every citizen.

Crisis? What national crisis? Prime Minister Harper is on record describing this extremely narrow and insanely inflated swath of violent death as a mere police matter. Anything outside of his admitted expertise in economics seems to be beyond his scope as a human being. So we are left with a federal government that will perpetuate and leverage fear as an electoral weapon but will do nothing to alleviate it for those truly at risk and genuinely living in its grip. Who will be unafraid to speak for the dead and the missing during the upcoming campaign and again on election day?

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