Harper Government
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You can tell a lot about people by what they believe in. Money. Art. Jesus. Bingo. All roadmaps to the soul.

Stephen Harper has built his government and his career on information control and marketing. The nerd nobody liked is getting even; he now edits reality full-time.

As we begin the bumpy descent towards the October election (assuming it will be called), there is only one question to be answered: can Harper (assuming he runs) market his way to victory in the most important election in the country's history?

Most important, yes. All of the big elections have featured one overriding issue — reciprocity in 1911, conscription in 1917, free-trade in 1988. In Election 2015, democracy itself is on the line. The stakes don't get much higher (unless you're talking medical marijuana).

Big changes are coming no matter who wins. If Harper is returned, Bill C-51 will complete his journey to something so close to dictatorship that the differences will be trifling. If Thomas Mulcair or Justin Trudeau triumphs, the first-past-the-post system will be dead and the election after this one will be waged under some version of proportional representation — as in most enlightened jurisdictions with a continuing interest in democracy.

Under the latter scenario, the phenomenon of one party winning all of the power with just 38 per cent of the vote will disappear. Another Stephen Harper will be impossible. Which is why our Marketer-in-Chief will wage this election like Attila the Hun armed with rocket-propelled grenades. The country will be knee-deep in the blood of his adversaries by October. But can marketing work a fourth time for the man who thinks reality is what he says it is?

Harper certainly has the money and the media friends. In his view, no one ever lost many elections by counting on the stupidity of the people.

Just look at what Canadians have already swallowed from this Board of Trade personality with a streak of Caligula somewhere in the mix: the empty promise of transparency and accountability; Bill C-51; a feckless war in Iraq; a view of the environment which gave marine life in Prince William Sound a nice coating of oil; and some goofy imitation of trickle-down economics that didn't work for Ronald Reagan and hasn't worked for Canadians — unless you drive a Bentley.

As powerful as marketing is, like everything else, it has its limits. You can't really talk about the current Conservative party as a ground-up operation the way the old Reform Party was. Harper has no grassroots — just Astroturf.

Nor does he pass the Kentucky Fried chicken barrel in Calgary basements to raise money anymore. Why would he? He now has his very own Republican-style Political Action Committee tasked with buying the election before the writ drops.

But the party is Harper, as Harper is the party. And the record of the Harper party is catching up with this prime minister. Suddenly, the government he leads looks like the Hindenburg coming down sideways.

The PR-as-reality machine has slipped its gears. Consider the economy. Aren't we really better off with Steve, the CPC fondly asks? Not according to this year's first quarter numbers for the GDP, which took the country half-way to a recession.

As for balanced budgets — if you go one-for-seven in baseball you end up on the bus that takes you from the bigs to the boonies. It took Harper seven years to balance his first budget.

Even then, he did it with money filched from the EI fund and pudding-headed stock sales. With the oil industry firing on two cylinders, Harper has made things far worse by cutting government spending in the first quarter.

The great economist. Remember, this was the guy who said there was no recession back in 2008.

Comment: One might recall from Zero Hedge the quote by Harper concerning the economy and banks:
"It is true, we have the only banks in the western world that are not looking at bailouts or anything like that...and we haven't got any TARP money."

—Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
Except he lied? From the same link above, in a report from Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, they comment:
The official story of the 2008 financial crisis goes like this: American and international banks got caught placing bad bets on U.S. mortgages and had to be bailed out. But not in Canada. Through the financial crisis, Canadian banks were touted by the federal government and the banks themselves as being much more stable than other countries' big banks. Canadian banks, we were assured, needed no such bailout.

However, in contrast to the official story Canada's banks received $114 billion in cash and loan support between September 2008 and August 2010. They were double-dipping in not only two but three separate support programs, one of them American. They continued receiving this support for a protracted period while at the same time reaping considerable profits and providing raises to their CEOs, who were already among Canada's highest paid. In fact, several banks drew government support whose value exceeded the bank's actual value. Canadian banks were in hot water during the crisis and the Canadian government has remained resolutely secretive about the details.

It should be noted that the "Extraordinary Financing Framework" was prepared to spend up to $200 billion to aid the banks and other industries. In other words, while the sums reported in this report are enormous, there were even more funds to be disbursed if the banks needed them.
You can see David Macdonald, representative of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, discuss bank bailouts:

Nor can Harper market away the fact that his former parliamentary secretary, Dean Del Mastro, was sentenced to jail Thursday for cheating in the 2008 election. "An affront to democracy" — that's what the judge called the case. It's a fitting epitaph for the Harper years.

Before that happened, and while Deano was under active investigation by Elections Canada, Harper made him the government's spokesperson for ethics and electoral matters during the Robocalls controversy. If the New England Patriots need a new ball-deflater, Deano could be their boy. Steve surely would give him a favourable reference, being so big on deflating balls himself — politically speaking.

Maybe the guy who said, "I am Peterborough" in his resignation speech thought cheating was okay. The Conservatives cheated in 2006 and 2008. Peter Penashue cheated. And someone cheated in 2011 using lists of non-supporters from the CPC's Constituent Information Management System, the party's computer system.

I wonder who that could have been? Perhaps the people who had information on "matters of some significance" who wouldn't talk to investigators from Elections Canada, according to Elections Commissioner Yves Côté?

And how many sailors have to jump ship before you call it a mutiny? Nearly three dozen non-offering MPs — that's a sizeable percentage of the whole crew. When you add in cabinet lunkers like John Baird, Peter MacKay and James Moore, not to mention small fry like Christian Paradis and Shelly Glover, you have to start wondering about the captain. After all, these people are professional wind-sniffers. They smell defeat.

Then you toss in the fact that social Conservative MPs have largely abandoned the party, having finally realized that Steve's commitment to their cause was strategic, not philosophical. He played them like fifty-cent fish, and now they're taking their Bibles and going home — maybe to the Christian Heritage Party. Like Napoleon, Steve is everyone man's woman and every woman's man in the world of Conservative politics. The question is, does he really believe in anything but information control, marketing and bossing people around?

The terror thing is wearing pretty thin, too. The Harperites mention it six times a day in the House of Commons merely to scare all those people who would happily vote for a resurrected Joe McCarthy. And the country is still waiting for this PM to provide the evidence for his bizarre claim that ISIS has "executed and is planning attacks against Canada and Canadians." As for his argument that criticizing the fight against ISIS is "irresponsible electoral politics" — the last time Harper said something like that was when he was retailing whoppers about the cost of the F-35 stealth fighter during a federal election.

Justin Trudeau has it absolutely right on the war in Iraq. He is not soft on terror. His critics — which include the painfully out-of-touch panel on CBC's Power and Politics — are the ones who are soft-headed. Wars on nouns are notoriously unwinnable. Since 9/11, nearly twice as many people have been killed by anti-government fanatics than jihadists, according to the New York Times. From Canada's perspective, ISIS is what you call a manufactured threat. It is marketing to scare you into perpetuating a government that lives on fear and deception.

The surest sign that Steve the fear-merchant is losing his touch is what just happened in the Senate. The Conservative-controlled Upper Chamber passed a piece of legislation that will erode some of the undemocratic powers that all party leaders have assumed, and which Harper has wantonly abused. There will be no more kangaroo courts run out of the PMO — and no more victims of this man's political malevolence like Helena Guergis and Bill Casey.

And how will Stephen Harper market his way out of the revelations of the Mike Duffy trial? Will the public stand by and watch Duffy scapegoated while the Senate withholds evidence crucial to his defence? Did the Senate claim parliamentary privilege for its own internal audit into residency issues because that audit shows that if Duffy is guilty of anything it may be "an officially induced error" — legalese for doing what he was told was okay by Senate staff? Like a lot of other senators did?

Will the trial reveal that Duffy and Pamela Wallin were not at the heart of the residency scandal at all — but the PM was? Well-placed sources have said that both Duffy and Wallin asked to be appointed from Ontario and that it was Harper himself who insisted they take their appointments from P.E.I. and Saskatchewan respectively.

It may all come down to Nigel Wright and what he says this August after the court decides on whether to admit the internal Senate audit into residency — that, and the relevance of the RCMP's "expert" Mark Grenon and his analysis of Senator Duffy's finances.

Here is what we know. Not only did Wright tell the RCMP that Duffy likely was entitled to his living expenses under existing Senate rules, there are also 880 emails out there between Duffy's then-lawyer Janice Payne, the Senate leadership and senior staff in the PMO about the deal.

If those emails clearly show that the genesis of the repayment scenario was PMO-driven and known at the highest levels of the office, there will be no closet dark enough for the prime minister to hide in. If Nigel Wright's testimony and the emails lead Canadians to believe that the PM actually knew about the deal, and then lied to Parliament, the merchant of marketing will be facing mission impossible.

Comment: When it comes to pathocrats, Harper personifies the worst type. He loves to address Canadians with the word "friends" - however, this is just from beneath his mask of sanity.

Michael Harris is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws for his "unceasing pursuit of justice for the less fortunate among us." His nine books include Justice Denied, Unholy Orders, Rare ambition, Lament for an Ocean, and Con Game. His work has sparked four commissions of inquiry, and three of his books have been made into movies. His new book on the Harper majority government, Party of One, is a number one best-seller.