The Enemies of Democracy in Canada by Robin Mathews, November 08, 2015
Many, many Canadians weren’t wrong – on October 19, 2015 – to feel they were part of an important historical event happening before their eyes. They knew, too, that they, themselves, were actively making the historical event happen. That experience doesn’t happen frequently in most people’s lives and it might have a permanently empowering effect on the many who were involved. Especially since the concerted action of millions of Canadians was taken to head off catastrophe.
The Gathering Storm
Millions of Canadians acted to cut off an ugly, intensifying program intended to end Canadian democracy as all living Canadians know it. The odious Conservative Party and government were working a multi-facetted plan of action: (a) to erase open and examinable actions by government (b) to engage in criminal destruction of democratic processes (c) to introduce racist bases for public decision-making (e) to undermine bases for national protections – medicare/pensions, etc. (f) to shield members of the ruling group from public contact (g) to defame and destroy voluntary public organizations working for the public good (h) to destroy the rule of law in the country (i) to cripple fair electoral processes (j) to make a mockery of the democratic traditions of parliament (k) to make secrecy a natural basis for international treaty-making … on the way to creating government by (largely foreign) corporate profit-seeking organizations, and (l) finally, to ridicule and erase any moves taken to assure the prevention of global environmental tragedy.
An almost unnoticed part of that program was support of the Conservative Party and government by a large part of the major press and media in Canada. Canadians need to focus on that fact. Despite the dozen kinds of attack on Canadian democracy listed just above (and there are more), The Globe and Mail, The National Post (and most Post Media publications), in fact, supported the Harper Conservatives to form government in the election of October 2015.
Canadians, a polite people generally, don’t like strong words about political matters. But in this case they have to look very squarely at the 12-point list written above. It reveals – using terms that are essentially misleading – a strong neo-liberal program. More correctly, it reveals a neo-fascist program intended to erase democratic rights and freedoms in Canada, a program endorsed by much leading media power in Canada. The forces supporting the odious Conservative Party and government were huge … and so the action of Canadians in the election is even more admirable.
By going around their normal Political Party loyalties a considerable majority of Canadians were able – decisively – to reject the odious Conservative Party and government program to debase Canadian democracy beyond hope of repair. (At its best, Canadian democracy is flawed and needs deep reform. But that fact opens a whole other important area of discussion and action.)
What Canadians may not have noticed is that while free and fair elections were being undermined, and Conservative lying was becoming the rule at all levels, and national records were being destroyed, and more and more Canadians were being vilified by power in office (and criminal acts of Conservatives were being exposed), ONLY ONE Conservative politician in the country publicly resigned the Party for reasons of conscience: Brent Rathgeber, MP for Edmonton/St. Albert.
As a reward for his admirable, principled action, Conservatives in his (newly shaped) constituency overwhelmingly turfed him out on October 19, 2015, revealing, perhaps, that neo-fascism remains the ruling mood in the defeated Conservative Party of Canada.
We other Canadians should create a medal especially for Brent Rathgeber, to honour his courage and to celebrate his book, Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada (2014).
The fact of only one public defection from the Conservative ranks – despite growing sleaze, dishonesty, criminal activity, lying, and open attacks on democracy in Canada – speaks volumes about the Canadians who voted for Conservative candidates in the 2015 federal election. It reminds other Canadians of the need for constant vigilance….
The Neo-Fascist Press And Media Post-Election
After the election … the game of the Harper-supporting press and media is to blank out the recent neo-fascist history, to use a White-Wash Crew on the defeated Conservative government, to present it as principled and positive, to ignore completely its negative acts, and to praise its (non-existent) positive actions.
That press and media make wholly meaningless claims of “achievement” by the Conservative Party and government. The only criticism they let escape into public view is of the “tone” of statements and actions by cabinet and prime minister. The “tone” of anti-democratic statements and actions was wrong: otherwise all was fine and dandy.
We might as well take the National Post “Comment” (Mon. Nov.2, 2015, p. A6) by Michael Den Tandt as an example (there are many). To begin, he follows RULE ONE for the White-Washing Crew. “Do not admit, do not mention, do not hint at any one of the twelve neo-fascist activities listed above (or any other ones). Act as if they didn’t ever exist. Instead … create fog.”
To avoid concrete discussion of neo-fascist activity, talk about the Conservative “achievement” in the election. Michael Den Tandt does that. They weren’t wiped out … that’s the achievement he points to! In fact, truly stated, almost ALL the “achievements” of the Conservative government from 2006 to 2015 were non-existent, or negative, or plainly destructive. One thinks of what was said of the deposed Italian Fascist dictator nearly 70 years ago. “Benito Mussolini wasn’t all bad. He drained the swamps and made the trains run on time.” That is two-up on Stephen Harper.
After that Michael Den Tandt moves to RULE TWO. Commentators must talk about the incredible, positive economic achievement of the defeated government. Den Tandt praises the “responsible fiscal management” of the defeated Conservative government. That is the biggest ‘red herring’ dragged across the eyesight of Canadians. The neo-fascist press in general tells us that the Conservative government did amazing things to prevent disaster in the 2008 banking meltdown. In fact, it bailed out corrupt and mismanaged private banks with public money instead of moving to national banking and to the original, positive use of The Bank of Canada as a basis of national credit. AND it increased the National Debt by tens of billions of dollars!
To continue … the Conservative government rejected all environmental planning. It allowed and aided the hollowing out of Ontario industry. It destroyed specialist scientific libraries. It negotiated international treaties that permit private, foreign corporations to sue government for gigantic sums payable by every Canadian. That – Michael Den Tandt and his fellows call “responsible fiscal management”.
As to the charges – inside and outside Canada – of Stephen Harper’s war-mongering … well … Den Tandt simply denies it happened. RULE THREE.
To show the paucity of positive claims that can be made even by Stephen Harper’s fervent apparently neo-fascist media friends, Den Tandt lists as one of Harper’s achievements … his leaving office. (I don’t think that one is in the Rule Book.) It’s an achievement, apparently, because there is a galaxy of wonderful fill-ins and candidates for Leader. Den Tandt’s list of Stars Brightly Shining and waiting to become Leader will give most Canadians, I believe, a serious case of indigestion: Jason Kenney, Lisa Raitt, Tony Clement, James Moore …. One of them may, he opines, change “the tone” that has, apparently been negative and harmful in the face of “responsible fiscal management” and other powerfully positive things achieved (?). At the gates of many of the inhumane Nazi concentration camps was posted the very positive sign “Arbeit macht frei” – ‘work makes (you) free’. A positive tone is always best.
In the meantime Conservative Interim Leader is Rona Ambrose, apparently a fan of Ayn Rand’s politically far-Right novels. Ambrose interfered with a book launching of a public employee’s novel – preventing him from appearing, under the pretence that he was engaging in work-related speaking … after the Harper Conservatives repressively silenced scientists in public service. “Outraged” that the Supreme Court of Canada widened the possible use of marijuana for medical reasons, ‘Little Miss Harper’ could not be better qualified to take the place of the former leader. Indeed, we do not (yet) know what back-room role Stephen Harper played in her election. The Harper-supporting press and media pretend he has lost all power, has gone, and skulks on the outer-edges of the Party….
What Stephen Harper Has Wrought
The behaviour governed by RULE FOUR for the White Washers requires Conservative commentators to praise the making of an organized Party by the Harper forces. Michael Den Tandt doesn’t report that undertaking quite as clearly as some Canadians would like, in my opinion. Stated clearly, I would say, the achievement is the takeover of the Conservative Party of Canada by neo-fascist forces.
But Den Tandt puts it slightly differently. He tells us that the old Progressive Conservatives are almost not visible anymore and that the “grand coalition” formed by Stephen Harper “stands”. He calls it a “centre-right” organization. Others might be forgiven for calling it neo-fascist, neo-liberal, Far Right … and other names. Because Den Tandt never touches any of the twelve points listed at the beginning of this piece – or any failing whatever of the Conservatives – he is able to say, confidently, that the Conservative Party of Canada – because it has no “deep systemic problems” – can change “relatively quickly”. All an in-coming leader has to do is adopt a more pleasing tone … and then it will be “full steam ahead” for the neo-fascism that was more and more visible in the Harper years.
The enemies of democracy in Canada are no longer violent, designing, and militant forces outside Canada. They have a Canadian home and legitimacy now. And they call themselves The Conservative Party of Canada. They are confident in the support they receive from major elements of Canada’s (‘free and democratic’) Mainstream Press and Media.
Image by Montreal Simon
Postmedia let down readers by dictating election endorsements, Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey did the newspaper industry a disservice by dictating election endorsements, writes Torstar Chair John Honderich by: John Honderich Chair of the Board, November 09 2015
Never before in a federal election, in my memory, have newspaper endorsements become so controversial. Topping the list unquestionably was Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey’s dramatic order to all 16 major Postmedia papers across Canada to support Stephen Harper.
Each paper was allowed to write its own editorial, but the conclusion was preordained.
“Since God made babies, I think (endorsement editorials) were always made that way,” longtime Conservative Godfrey explained later, reacting to the uproar. “If anyone thinks otherwise, I think they were dreaming in Technicolor.”
Really, Mr. Godfrey?
You might want to examine the policies of other newspaper chains that tell an entirely different bedtime story of the so-called “proprietor’s prerogative.” No one can dispute the tradition of an individual publisher or owner calling the election shots for their local paper. Godfrey did that regularly when he was publisher of the Toronto Sun. But to dictate the choice across an entire chain – and nation. That is an entirely different tale.
Owning a newspaper, in my view, is a privilege not a right. Nor is it the same as owning a pizzeria or car wash. Newspapers are an essential informing part of the democratic process and their first responsibility must be to the local readers they serve.
The old Thomson chain in Canada, owned by the richest family in the land, had a similar practice of non-interference in local editorial issues.
South of the border a similar tradition has existed for decades. In the last presidential election, America was a patchwork quilt of competing newspaper endorsements.
The huge Gannett chain states that “diversity is strength. By encouraging and expressing a mix of opinions, backgrounds, stories and ideas, Gannett improves results.”
An executive for the large Knight-Ridder chain put it more pithily. “We bought them (newspapers). But we don’t own them.”
In the interests of transparency, it must also be declared that editorial independence has always been the official policy of the Torstar newspaper group. While the proprietors and publisher of the Toronto Star are involved in the Star’s election endorsements, the Hamilton Spectator, Waterloo Region Record and all 125 of Torstar’s community papers can decide for themselves.
So in the 2011 federal election, the Star supported Jack Layton’s NDP, while virtually all other Torstar papers endorsed Stephen Harper. In 2015, all the dailies came out for the Liberals under Justin Trudeau.
These aren’t dreams. They are black and white realities reflecting a long-held common tradition among North America’s major newspaper groups.
Mr. Godfrey, soon to be installed in the Canadian News Hall of Fame for his contribution to Canadian journalism, clearly has a different perspective.
Yet, the firestorm of criticism on social media, the rumours of discontent in Postmedia newsrooms and even a damning story in Britain’s Guardian newspaper all reflect a pervasive discontent.
Even more worrisome is the negative impact this affair is having on the newspaper industry in general. At a time when the relevance and impact of newspapers are under attack, this doesn’t help.
Ultimately, though, it is readers who matter most. And surely those in Postmedia communities deserved far, far better.
John Honderich is chair of the board of Torstar Corp. He is a former publisher and editor of the Toronto Star. [Emphasis added]