Stephen Harper
© The Canadian Press Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds a news conference in Toronto on Feb. 17, 2011
What happens when the smartest man in the room (by his own estimation) proves too clever by half? What happens when a one-man band puts on a third-rate show? What happens when a "brilliant strategist" is so full of uncontrollable resentment and meanness that he keeps getting himself in trouble by interfering where he has no business?

Whenever it appears that Stephen Harper may be closer to that elusive goal of majority government, along comes Stephen Harper to remind suspicious Canadians they're dead right to be suspicious. That's what the Bev Oda fiasco is really about.

Every time I hear Michael Ignatieff shrieking at the Prime Minister to fire Ms. Oda I want to scream back: THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BEV ODA. Of course she baldly lied, just as Jason Kenney lied about Kairos policy on Israel and Tony Clement lied when he claimed Statscan approved his crusade against the long-form census. This government lies as routinely as it maligns, and it never apologizes. But Ms. Oda, like Messrs. Kenney and Clement, is just the organ grinder's monkey. Any CIDA minister would have been in the same boat. She just follows orders. And it's those orders in the Kairos case that remind us of the real Harper agenda.
"At the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Developments hearings in December, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda testified she did not know who wrote the word "not.On Feb. 14, however, she told the House of Commons that she had ordered the change."
See here to view the altered document.

The issue here is the reversal, by Stephen Harper, of a 60-year consensus shared by all previous governments about the central role of civil society in Canada. Every previous government has funded civil society groups and NGOs even when they espoused policies that contradicted the government's own. Governments might have done so grudgingly and not as generously as some of us hoped. But it has been one of the quiet glories of Canadian democracy that our governments have often backed groups that criticized them or had competing priorities.

No more. With Stephen Harper, you either buy the party line or you get slapped down. That's what happened to Kairos (now ironically receiving proper recognition for its terrific work over the years - eat your heart out, Jason Kenney). That's what happened to the Canadian Council For International Co-operation and Match International. That's what happened, with little media attention, to an astonishing number - in the many, many dozens - of other worthy organizations. (An exact figure will soon be posted by Voices, an important virtual coalition of organizations and individuals formed precisely in reaction to the Harper government's attacks on civil society organizations. I am an enthusiastic supporter.)

Never mind that, politics aside, most of these groups were also doing crucial humanitarian work. Never mind that Kairos was working with violated women in the Congo. Never mind that many de-funded organizations were promoting maternal and child health, ostensibly Mr. Harper's big personal cause. Yet because they also pursue issues that Stephen Harper will not abide - human rights for Palestinians, women's equality, climate change - they are anathema in his eyes.

The same is true of the international human-rights organization Rights & Democracy. Suddenly, all of its good work around the world counted for nothing compared to small grants it gave to three groups, one of them Israeli, defending the human rights of Palestinians. It's important to remember that R & D was created by Brian Mulroney who chose Ed Broadbent as its independent president. Not to romanticize, but those were the days, and they're dead as a dodo. So dangerously single-minded is Stephen Harper about punishing dissent that he hasn't hesitated to wreck R & D, an institution that had enhanced Canada's reputation wherever people embraced human rights and democracy.

Source: The Canadian Press