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Posted by on Aug 15, 2015 in At TMV, Canada, Politics | 10 comments

Closing The Canadian Mind

459px-Stephen_Harper_May_28_2011 (1)

Stephen Marche is a Canadian journalist who writes for American publications. In this morning’s New York Times, he provides Americans with some background information on Canada’s ongoing federal election and current prime minister:

THE prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, has called an election for Oct. 19, but he doesn’t want anyone to talk about it.

He has chosen not to participate in the traditional series of debates on national television, confronting his opponents in quieter, less public venues, like the scholarly Munk Debates and CPAC, Canada’s equivalent of CSPAN. His own campaign events were subject to gag orders until a public outcry forced him to rescind the forced silence of his supporters.

Mr. Harper’s campaign for re-election has so far been utterly consistent with the personality trait that has defined his tenure as prime minister: his peculiar hatred for sharing information.

Marche then goes on to document Harper’s attempts over almost a decade to ensure Canadian ignorance:

But the nine and half years of Mr. Harper’s tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of that reputation for open, responsible government. His stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively. He has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.

Mr. Harper’s war against science has been even more damaging to the capacity of Canadians to know what their government is doing. The prime minister’s base of support is Alberta, a western province financially dependent on the oil industry, and he has been dedicated to protecting petrochemical companies from having their feelings hurt by any inconvenient research.

In 2012, he tried to defund government research centers in the High Arctic, and placed Canadian environmental scientists under gag orders. That year, National Research Council members were barred from discussing their work on snowfall with the media.

Scientists for the governmental agency, Environment Canada, under threat of losing their jobs, have been banned from discussing their research without political approval. Mentions of federal climate change research in the Canadian press have dropped 80 percent. The union that represents federal scientists and other professionals has, for the first time in its history, abandoned neutrality to campaign against Mr. Harper.

His active promotion of ignorance extends into the functions of government itself. Most shockingly, he ended the mandatory long-form census, a decision protested by nearly 500 organizations in Canada, including the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Catholic Council of Bishops. In the age of information, he has stripped Canada of its capacity to gather information about itself. The Harper years have seen a subtle darkening of Canadian life.

Harper’s single minded focus, Marche writes, has been twofold: to close the Canadian mind and to change the essential nature of the country. This election, therefore, is seminal:

Whether or not he loses, he will leave Canada more ignorant than he found it. The real question for the coming election is a simple but grand one: Do Canadians like their country like that?

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  • Harper may be in trouble because of the low oil price. All new projects in the Alberta tar sands have been canceled or postponed and existing projects are being shut down because with oil at less than $45 a barrel it’s impossible for them to show a profit. This also makes the Keystone XL pipeline irrelevant.

    • Jonathan Story

      This pipeline is only irrelevant if transportation of oil by rail is cheaper or safer than by pipeline. The facts, however, state otherwise. Obama’s denial of the pipeline will be a big F U to the lives of Americans and Canadians who live along the rails that transport oil.

      • Sal Monela

        Building the pipeline is a big slap in the face to the farmers and ranchers who live along the route and are forced to sell easements to a Canadian company, to move oil that is inefficiently produced, in an environmentally hostile manner, to Texas ports to export.

        I understand the dilemma regarding rail transport given the horrific accidents that have occurred with oil shipments. The best thing that can happen is that production of this oil will cease due to economic realities.

        The folks that I really feel bad for are the workers who traded a better natural environment for good paying jobs. Now they have neither.

        • Jonathan Story

          This totally ignores the reality that oil will move to markets. No pipeline does not mean no oil. What it does mean is that oil will move to markets in a way that is more dangerous and less sensitive to the environment. So-called environmentalists who oppose pipelines are, in fact, enemies of the environment.

          • Sal Monela

            Production of this particular oil in itself poses risks. Cancer rates among the native population who live in the vicinity of the extraction and production facilities have spiked since production began. The nature of this particular oil is that it produces more pollution which means probable health consequences for others. Yes oil will have to be moved and pipelines may be the safest way to move it. But in an era of relatively cheap oil and plenty of alternatives, we are be better off without petroleum produced from tar sands.

      • The pipeline is irrelevant because there is going to be little if anything to put in it. The tar sand plays need $90 – $100 a barrel to be profitable which is not going to happen anytime soon.

  • JSpencer

    Very unfortunate for Canada to have allowed themselves to get saddled with Harper in the first place. They should have known better.

    “active promotion of ignorance”

    Someone has been taking lessons from those neighbors to the south.

  • Jonathan Story

    Stephen Marche may be a journalist in the sense that he writes for publications, but there is little to suggest that he has anything but contempt for the truth, where it does not serve his ends. He asserts that Harper doesn’t want “anyone to talk” about the October 19 election, because Harper refused to use the traditional debate forum, yet Marche fails to note that this election cycle is the *longest* in over a century, or that Harper will be participating in *five* debates, instead of the traditional two. Marche is utterly discredited as anything but a hack writer with a political axe to grind.

    • BeresfordTipton

      I did not find the article a hack piece, as you call it. What he writes about Harper is completely true, including about the debates. It is one thing to have them on the CBC, nationally, and another to have them in more local venus where the audience is smaller. The author is also correct in asserting that Harper has soiled Canada’s international image and degraded the excellent economy which he inherited from Paul Martin. Mr. Harper has been office too long, is getting shop-worn and should be replaced by the electorate.

    • Brownies girl

      This may be the longest election cycle in over a century, Mr. Story, but it’s us taxpayers who are paying for it. To the tune of about $675,000 per day. After nine years of this “dictator”, who needs over 70 days to make up his/her mind? Instead we get to pay for Harper spreading his outright lies all over the country. Harper *may* be participating in five debates, but two of them will be totally in French, when we have only two provinces with people speaking that language on a wide basis, and only ONE designated as a bilingual province. And he won’t touch the CBC or CTV so the debate can go cross-country – what’s up with that?

      You say Marche is utterly discredited …. NOT! …. you know who’s utterly discredited? It’s Harper – have you been following the Duffy trial? I have – saddest, most disgusting trial in decades! And please don’t tell me you think Harper didn’t know what was going on, that his (TWO) chiefs of staff kept all that info from him. Impossible, because Harper is a control freak. Nixon tried that ruse back in the 70’s – look where it got him. Harper appointed Duffy a senator, purely for all the media/big business contacts that Duffy had. He went out of his way to make sure Duffy didn’t have to resign — but smarter minds prevailed, thank heaven.

      Myself, I can’t wait to see the tail end of Harper. Passing that tome of a bill C51 in Parliament and then advising Senators to vote along party lines to approve it — disgusting. He can’t be gone soon enough for me. The man is a true psychopath by definition and he needs to go, for the sake of this wonderful country. And I won’t even mention his fights with the Supremes — who voted against him and he was the one who appointed them. Looks good on this crappy guy!

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