A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
In the early 1980's, a grade thirteen student from Etobicoke, while at home on Christmas break, was listening to the radio, tuned into the upstart Toronto station: CKEY. On that day, the guest on their popular talk show was right-wing journalist Peter Worthington.
Listening to the exchange, this young man found that he could identify with Worthington, one of the staunchest critics of then Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau.
So he called into the station and on air suggested that the Liberals had turned into socialists, to which Worthington replied: "That young man speaks for millions of Canadians." (1) According to John Ibbitson it was at that moment when Guy Giorno's political thought took a sharp right turn. (2)
However, I think that may have oversimplified things. Though his father had been a delegate at the Liberal convention that named Trudeau as leader, Guy was probably drifting to the right before this.
"I had become increasingly disenchanted with Trudeau's arrogance. At the time the Liberals had railroaded metric down our throats, and I wondered what next? In the summer between grade twelve and thirteen, I had won a four day holiday at Camp Enterprise, a pro-business initiative sponsored by the Rotary Club. Up until then I had bought the Liberal idea that big business is bad. My attitude was starting to change." (1)According to the Camp Enterprise literature, they " ... believe in the private enterprise system as a critical element of strength in the broadest, soundest governmental structure yet developed by man. It is on this foundation that Camp Enterprise was founded ..."
This now right-wing ideologically driven young man would go on to attend St. Michael's College, where according to Ted Schmidt, his name was bandied about, as a contributor to the right-wing Catholic Digest: "... a veritable house organ for the then Cardinal Carter*, mixed as it was with Cold War politics, slavish pro-Rome obeisance and one-note social activism - the anti-abortion movement." (1)
Reading Giorno's neo-con rants I used to wince - 'Nelson Mandela was espousing violence, unions have too much power, doctors should have the right to double bill', the list goes on. "How could they give a guy like this space in a Catholic paper?" I remember thinking ... [now] Giorno is one of the most powerful insiders in the Ontario Tory government. (1)That was written in 1997. Schmidt continues:
Most Ontarians have never heard Giorno's name, but every one's life is going to be irrevocably changed by what he has in his head. Slowly, journalists are twigging to his favoured place in the Tory Constellation. (1)In fact many in Queen's Park, though they knew of him and his unprecedented power, could not have picked him out in a crowd.
Guy Giorno himself continued to play a crucial role as policy director of strategic planning. Viewed by ministerial aides as a "true believer" who toiled at the centre of the web, he could be rigidly inflexible if departmental initiatives failed to conform to his expectations ... After three years at Queen's Park, the man ... described as the "intellectual heart" of the Harris government was still unknown to many**, including Liberal House Leader Jim Bradley, who allegedly asked to have him pointed out at a Queen's Park Christmas reception. (3)And with Giorno's ideology and power, came an authoritarianism that was quite alien to what was supposed to be a democratic government. And every one's life is still being irrevocably changed "... by what he has in his head."
Another Young Head Gets Filled
The notion that Guy Giorno or Stephen Harper could have been thought of as "bad boys", would no doubt make their former classmates laugh out loud.
But it was not booze, drugs or rock and roll that directed their fall from society, but hard right politics. Introduced to William F. Buckley by his friend John Weissenberger, Harper's neo-Liberal views began to form while a student at the University of Calgary.
He was already a member of the National Citizens Coalition, when Preston Manning, with a lot of corporate money, set out to start the Reform Party. And at the opening assembly, the powers that be, arranged for Harper and his friend Weissenberger, to sit at a table with David Somerville, then president of the National Citizens Coalition.
The NCC was started by Colin Brown to fight against Tommy Douglas and Medicare. Initially Brown only placed full page ads in major newspapers, condemning public health care until he read a little book, called Political Realignment, written in 1967 by Ernest Manning, with the help of his son Preston. Brown immediately arranged to meet the Mannings and it was Ernest who encouraged him, instead of just paying for ads which could be forgotten, to instead set up a non-profit "free enterprise" advocacy group.
Ernest Manning also opposed Tommy Douglas, stating that "Giving to the individual societal benefits such as free medical care ... breeds idleness... causing a break down in his relationship with God ... where the state imposed a monopoly on a service ... the sinful philosophy of state collectivism scored a victory." (4)
Brown hand picked David Somerville, who was a columnist with the Toronto Sun, when Peter Worthington, the man who made Giorno "see the light" (by pushing him into the darkness), was editor.
However, the National Citizens Coalition was only a stepping stone for Harper. It was another group that he became involved with, that was far more disturbing.
The Northern Foundation:
"... the Northern Foundation was the creation of a number of generally extreme right-wing conservatives, including Anne Hartmann (a director of REAL Women), ... author Peter Brimelow, Link Byfield (son of Ted Byfield and himself publisher/president of Alberta Report), and Stephen Harper." (5)
"‘The Northern Foundation was established in 1989, originally as a pro-South Africa group . . . lists among the founding members of the Foundation both William Gairdner and Stephen Harper ... " (6)Their first order of business was to fight for the continuation of apartheid in South Africa, but they took up many causes of the right-wing movement, including the fight against gay rights.
The foundation's magazine carries a half-page ad in every issue for The Phoenix, a pro-white South Africa magazine, and regularly solicits support from members on special causes, from property rights to English language rights. Attacks on homosexuals and homosexual rights are frequent, including a call in the Winter, 1990 edition for "No Special Privileges for Homosexuals," which carried a special financial appeal for the fight against "tax dollars going to homosexual activists."According to Dr. Debra Chin in the Canadian National Newspaper, "Toronto: Sun columnist Peter Worthington [has] been affiliated with the Northern Foundation." She also states that:
In its Spring, 1991 edition, it lists "thinkers and activists who are working for freedom." Among them are: David Somerville, of the NCC; Judy Anderson, of REAL Women; Ted Byfield; Link Byfield; Richard Pearman, who led the fight to have Sault Ste. Marie city council declare the city "English only"; Kenneth Hilborn of the NCC and pro-South Africa groups; columnist Barbara Amiel (Conrad Black's wife); and Michael Walker of the Fraser Institute. (6)
Now apparently, according to Stephen Harper, he was kicked out of the group for not being right-wing enough and would refer to them as "Quasi-Fascists". (8) Fair enough.
Corporate mass-media owners would seek to remake Mr. Harper and the Conservative Party from being ultra right, into a fabricated image of a non-threatening "moderately conservative" party ... “He [Mr. Harper] had little trouble doing so, as the media had been largely muffled by one fact: press baron Conrad Black, then reaching the height of his powers was also a member of the Northern Foundation and equally shy about having it publicly known ... Journalists feared incurring his wrath as he employed many of them at the time, and was a potential employer for those whom he didn’t employ. Had they made the membership list public, Mr. Black would have been exposed." (7)
However, I'm not sure that I believe him, and I'll tell you why in two words:
According to their own website:
Founding President: William Gairdner
Other Past Presidents: Tom Flanagan, William Robson, and Lorne Gunter
Founding Directors: Janet Ajzenstat, Ted Byfield, Michel Coren, Jacques Dufresne, Tom Flanagan, David Frum, William Gairdner, Jason Kenney, Gwen Landolt, Ezra Levant, Tom Long, Mark Magner, William Robson, David E. Somerville, Michael Walker
Let's break it down a bit:
William Gairdner - was a founding member of the Northern Foundation
Tom Flanagan - was the Man Behind Stephen Harper
Lorne Gunter - was with Ted Byfield's Alberta Report that helped to launch the Reform Party
Ted Byfield - helped to found the Reform Party and was the father of Link Byfield, a founding member of the Northern Foundation
Michael Coren - Is a notorious homophobe. Quotes of Coren's include: "While everything human must be done to find a cure for this plague [Aids], it is hard to deny that the majority of sufferers in North America contracted the disease through perverse sex ... Nobody cared very much about these men and women before AIDS was brought to North America and, frankly, nobody cares very much now."
David Frum - former George Bush speech writer who coined the term "axis of evil". He was also behind uniting the right and is a longtime associate of Jason Kenney and Stockwell Day. His sister Linda was one of Harper's patronage senate appointments and his father-in-law is Peter Worthington.
Gwen Landolt - is the president of REAL Women of Canada, and spoke regularly at Northern Foundation functions.
Tom Long - was a member of the Mike Harris government and one of the authors of the horrible Common Sense Revolution. He was also a member of what was referred to as the "Little Shits", along with Guy Giorno, Deb Hutton (Ontario Conservative leader Tim Hudak's wife) and Tony Clement. (1)
Mark Magner - was a member of the Canadian Alliance National Council, (The Alliance Party of Canada board) that included Jason Kenney and Stockwell Day.
David Somerville - Ex-president of the National Citizens Coalition.
Guy Giorno is also a member and in 2003 at their national conference, gave a presentation entitled "Transplanting Provincial Successes to Ottawa".
They are almost the same group as the original Northern Foundation. And if Stephen Harper wasn't right-wing enough for them, why did they invite Republican Pollster Frank Lutz, to instruct him on how to win a majority? And why is he a regular speaker at their "private" functions?
Now personally I don't care who belonged to what group. What I do care about is the fact that Guy Girono and Stephen Harper, were both indoctrinated when young into the neoconservative philosophy, which Harper himself described as "quasi-fascism', and are running this country with the help of the Civitas Society, the "new" vanguard group of the extreme right.
Guy Giorno-- or Double G, as he's known in government circles -- is probably the most powerful man you've never heard of. The 44-year-old former lawyer is the Prime Minister's [Stephen Harper's] chief of staff, a position he also used to fill for former Ontario premier Mike Harris. He is closer to the Prime Minister than any other individual in government and his counsel is sought on decisions that affect millions of people and billions of dollars. (10)Both men are driven by pure ideology. And as warned by Ted Schmidt in 1998, when speaking of Guy Giorno: "... every one's life is going to be irrevocably changed by what he has in his head." (1)
This is not your parent's Conservative Party. Harper has already suggested at the G20 that nations must adopt a neo-Liberal (neoconservative) platform. When speaking at the Reform Party assembly in 1991 he stated that Canada should drop the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security, and had no business providing what was then called unemployment insurance (now EI). He also told the NCC that "It's high time the feds scrapped the Canada Health Act."
He bailed out our banks to the tune of 200 billion dollars so that they could provide their execs with an 8 billion dollar bonus. This is the party of big business, while the rest of us just get in their way.
I for one am not ready to be "irrevocably changed" by what is in their heads. Are you?
*Cardinal Gerald Emmett Carter (1912-2003) was a key player in the pro-life movement during the Trudeau years when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was being drafted.
**"When Guy Giorno, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, made a rare public appearance recently to testify before a House committee looking into government secrecy, even some veteran Parliament Hill news photographers needed to have him pointed out so they would know which way to aim their lenses."(6)
1. The Man Behind Mike, by Ted Schmidt, NOW Magazine, January 8-14, 1998
2. Promised Land: Inside the Mike Harris Revolution, By John Ibbitson, Prentice Hall, 1997, ISBN: 0136738648, Pg. 76
3. Hard Right Turn: The New Face of Neo-Conservatism in Canada, Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2, Pg. 170
4. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, Pg. 9
5. Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada, By Trevor Harrison, University of Toronto Press, 1995, ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6, Pg. 121
6. Dobbin, 1992, Pg. 100-101
7. Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper demonstrates continued ultra right wing affiliations by blocking pro social justice Toronto candidate, by Dr. Debra Chin, Canadian National
8. Jeffrey, 1999, Pg. 4309. Judging Giorno, By John Ivison, National Post, February 20, 2010
10. Guy Giorno: national man of mystery, by John Geddes, MacLeans, May 31, 2010