In the last federal election, the voters in the Wetaskiwin constituency voted in overwhelming numbers for the Conservative candidate, Blaine Calkins. Everyone will remember that this contributed to the strong majority the Conservatives now hold in Ottawa.
I assume that Conservative platform promises related to a strong economy and improvements to the justice system where some of the reasons that people were so supportive of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government. However, in the intervening months, other aspects of our current government are proving to be quite troublesome.
Harper’s Conservatives have taken unprecedented actions to silence alternative points of view and stifle the free flow of information that is vital to the functioning of a modern democracy.
Among these actions are major cuts to Statistics Canada and elimination of the long-form census — a crucial policy tool available for analyzing poverty and inequality in Canada. As well, Harper has abolished the National Council of Welfare, a federal agency whose authoritative reports on issues like welfare incomes, child poverty, pensions and the justice system have been widely used both inside and outside government for sound policy making.
The Conservative government has also weakened environmental assessment rules — allowing easier approval of risky new projects like pipelines with little or no public input. Prominent arms-length social and labour market policy research institutes have been forced to close because of funding cuts by the government.
The Conservative government has also mounted an aggressive campaign against non-profit organizations that are frequently critical of government, threatening to remove their charitable status unless they cease all criticism. The recently passed “Omnibus budget bill” included a number of crucial measures the House of Commons was unable to question or debate because of the size of the bill. Included in this bill, for example, was a change in the Fair Wage Act that now allows companies engaged in government contract construction projects to pay workers far less than the going wage for construction workers, and opens the door for underpaid foreign workers to be employed, thus undercutting the Canadian labour force.
The sum total of these measures, and other similar to these, is that the democratic process in our country is literally under siege by the Harper Conservatives. This does not bode well for the future of democracy in Canada. What makes these actions troublesome for me is the fact that there have been situations in the past when democratic governments have been degraded in just this way. One of those situations was under the reign of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the dictator of Spain from 1936 to 1975. Another was under the National Socialist Party in Germany in the early 1930s. We all know the direction that ultimately took.
These were not happy situations for democracy in Europe. These are not happy actions in our Canada of 2012. Watch this government carefully, and ponder your next vote.