In March 2013, I wrote a prophetic column predicting a Liberal victory in this election with the concomitant return of the NDP under Thomas Mulcair to third-party status. I ended it by saying: “Whether Trudeau brings in a minority or majority Liberal government, voters will at least celebrate the fact that the Harper dictatorship will be in the hands of its enemies—Canadian citizens.”
Indeed, the dictatorship is over. Harper has even announced his intention to step down as leader of the Corporatist Party of Canada. Canadians from coast to coast are jubilant as the rout of the Blue Meanies heralds the return to power of Canada’s natural governing party.
A columnist always hopes to be proven right in matters such as this, but this is one time when I wish I had been wrong. After nine years of Stephen Harper’s fascism—yes, fascism—the electorate had a chance to vote in the New Democratic Party, which, for all of its flaws, was prepared to return the country to Parliamentary rule and oppose the obsequious official corporatism that has destroyed Canada’s democracy. Instead, voters gave the Liberals, led by the gormless Justin Trudeau, a majority even though Trudeau forced his Liberals to endorse Harper’s corporatist destruction of Canada.
So, why did voters not elect Mulcair and the NDP, which would have repealed the worst excesses of Harperism, such as Bill C-51 (Canada’s Enabling Act), which rendered the Constitution obsolete? There are several reasons, all of which prove that democracy in this country is still a farce.
To begin with, a telegenic neophyte who spouts banalities and poses for photo ops has a better chance of forming a government than a stern but smart leader who articulates coherent policies. This preference for style over substance is not a new phenomenon, of course: the entertainment industry is full of mediocrities who survive on their looks rather than talent, and what is politics if not electoral theatre?
Another reason is grooved thinking. Much of the country still does not take the NDP seriously as a governing party and is, in fact, conditioned to fear it. The reason I suspect is an institutionalized, uncritical worship of low taxes and the false equation of said worship with individual prosperity. Since the NDP puts the public interest ahead of the acquisitiveness of robber barons and foreign governments, it is not adverse to raising taxes, especially on corporations, which enjoy an absurdly low 15% tax rate.
Sufficient numbers of people, robovoters, cannot comprehend that starving the government of tax revenue so that it cannot provide services and run itself effectively is not a sign of fiscal frugality; it is a sign of willful self-impoverishment. The purpose of government is to provide for public wants, said Rt. Hon Edmund Burke, but no rational discussion of public wants, much less the public good, is possible in a climate that has deemed public spending to be tantamount to theft. Harperite fear propaganda made much of this quasi-religious anti-tax/anti-statist fetish and many voters continue to take it seriously. For what it’s worth, the Liberals sing from the same hymn book but not as loudly.
Undoubtedly, the most important reason is betrayal by the national media. Most obviously, it prejudiced the outcome in favour of the Liberals. Even though, the National Compost, Canada’s answer to Der Stürmer, offered up the expected editorial homilies to His Harperness, the Globe and Mail churned out fellatial praise for Trudeau. Clearly, the Canadian Liberal establishment could no longer stomach Harperism and so anointed Trudeau to succeed him. Against this, the NDP had little chance of success since its corporate media allies are few.
Once the voting was underway, the media decisively skewed the voting by declaring that the Liberals were the odds-on favourite to defeat Harper. Upon hearing this, voters rushed to vote Liberal, even those that had wanted to vote NDP or Green. This “strategic voting” designed to get rid of Harper worked, but it inflated the Liberal vote at the expense of electoral honesty. Trudeau does not deserve to lead a majority government and the NDP and Greens did not deserve to be slaughtered at the polls. If Canada had a preferential ballot or mixed-member proportional representation, voters would not have been afraid to vote their conscience. The Liberals and NDP, respectively, supported these reforms during the campaign. Will Trudeau keep his word? I won't hold my breath.
Finally, for nine years the media covered up the essential criminality of Harperism and allowed it to pass for a conservative party. Harper‘s systematic attack on the institutions of Canada should have been cause for national revolution and the media should have led the charge. Instead, it became an accomplice, adhering to an ossified notion of objectivity that allowed Harper to pass himself off as a "prime minister." Any criticism was kept within strict limits of propriety as the illusion of democratic normalcy had to be maintained at all costs.
The following passionate, succinct excerpt from Martin Lukacs in The Guardian is what voters needed to read and read often:
Harper’s greatest success in hampering the state from serving Canadians has been to strip it of its most important resource: taxes. Continuing a Liberal legacy, Harper’s cuts to taxes – GST, corporate and personal – have enriched corporations and denied the state a stunning $45 billion a year in revenue. This has deliberately starved the ability of this government – and of future ones – to pay for public services and address inequality or climate change. Such policies have reduced the country to depression-era divisions: Canada’s wealthiest 86 people now own as much as the 11.4 million poorest.
On 19 October, Canadians will have their chance to combat a home-grown threat – a threat posed not by veiled women, but by the dismembering of their country. When a regime so utterly ransacks its own lands and people, can we stop describing it as the governing of a nation? It is more akin to a barbarian invasion.
No Harperite candidate deserved a single vote, for there is no redeeming virtue to a party that “utterly ransacks its own lands and people” and then has the gall to pass itself off as a protector of the economy. Yet, the illusion of "conservatism" was allowed to persist unchallenged.
Imagine a journalist writing about taxes as a “most important resource.” Imagine this election after the human, financial and societal costs of Harper’s dictatorship over the past four years had been depicted day in and day out with the clarity and sobriety of Lukacs.
The NDP might have stood a fair chance.