Monday, October 4, 2010

The Differences Between Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper are Fundamental

"Reform [Party] is somewhat un-Canadian. It's about tidy numbers, self-righteous sanctimoniousness and western grievances. It cannot talk about the sea or about our reluctant fondness for Quebec, about our sorrow at the way our aboriginal people live, about the geographically diverse, bilingual, multicultural mess of a great country we are." (1)

A recent Toronto Star article suggested that Liberals lay groundwork for a campaign of contrasts.
... fear versus hope, open versus closed, right wing versus the moderate middle ... (2)
Those distinctions are easy to make. We've never had a government like Stephen Harper's before, where instilling fear, operating in total secrecy and making radical changes to the fabric of Canada, define it's agenda.

We have also never had a government before that is so darned American. And not just American but American Republican in it's new form, defined by ignorance and religious fanaticism.

But I believe that the differences, especially between Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff, are much more fundamental than that, and are based on their understanding of what Canada is and who Canadians are.

A Country Founded on Rights

The Reform Party was not just a Western protest party as many have suggested, but was also an Anglo male protest party, whose members felt that they were being overrun by immigrants, Francophones and radical feminists, threatening to destroy what they felt was their right to hierarchy based on race, language and gender.

They never really understood our rich cultural history.

And this is seen through some of the literature that inspired their movement. From Doug Collin's Immigration: The Destruction of English Canada; J.V. Andrew's Bilingual Today, French Tomorrow and William Gairdners' The Trouble With Canada.**

All written to instill the fear that English Canada was under attack and was being threatened with extinction.

For Stephen Harper himself, he was motivated by Peter Brimelow's The Patriot Game. So much so that he went out and bought ten copies for friends*. Brimelow refers to himself as a 'wandering WASP' and a 'paleoconservative', and promotes a "white" nation and an end to non-white immigration.

And he promotes this through a revival of segregation.

Something I've discovered about Stephen Harper, is that his entire political life has been plagiarized. Whether it's from Republican James Inhofe or Australia's John Howard, you can find his "famous quotes" somewhere else, without his ever citing their origins.

During the 2004 election campaign, he began touting a Belgian style federalism, where the country would be divided along linguistic lines.
Conservative MPs are defending an idea put forward by Stephen Harper to model the Canadian federation after Belgium, where federal authority is divided along linguistic lines. The Conservative leader first floated the idea during a speech in Quebec last Friday. "By devolving authority, not solely to a province, but to have an arrangement based on linguistic groups that cross the country," he said. (3)
The idea may have been put forward by Stephen Harper but it originated with Peter Brimelow. (4)

And Now by Contrast

One of the best descriptions of Canadian identity I've ever heard, came from Michael Ignatieff in 2000, as part of his Massey Lecture series: The Rights Revolution.
We are a community forged by the primal experience of negotiating terms of settlement among three peoples: the English, the French, and the aboriginal First Nations. This gives us a particular rights culture and it is this rights culture that makes us different. (5)
We don't tout bloody conquest as the roots of our nation, but our ability to negotiate. Our legitimacy is found in the words of an assortment of treaties, some fair, some unjust. But we don't establish our identity by our military strength, but our ability to reach a consensus.

The rights revolution distinguishes us as a people, and it has changed our politics ... the rights revolution has made our democracy more inclusive by incorporating groups and individuals who were marginalized or excluded. It hasn't even been necessary for white males like me, who have always enjoyed rights, to give up anything essential; we've merely had to find a place at the political table for newcomers.

... Whether someone is male or female, black or white, straight or gay may be central to their identity, but these differences should be strictly irrelevant to the way we treat them as persons. Our ideal should be that the way we treat people should depend not on who they are, but only on what they do and say. (5)

Where Stephen Harper has called multiculturalism a "weak nation strategy" and bilingualism "the god that failed", Michael Ignatieff understands that this country's very existence depends on a political table that makes room for everyone.

And as Ignatieff puts it "enhancing our right to be equal while protecting our right to be different".

And this is what we need to do in order to beat Stephen Harper. It has to be broken down to something that fundamental.

And these ideals can be found in all of the other party leaders, including Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe and Elizabeth May. In that way they will find more common ground with Michael Ignatieff than Stephen Harper.

And it's why I've decided to back Michael Ignatieff as the best choice to lead this country. And whether that's as head of a coalition government or a Liberal government, is irrelevant to me.

My primary concern is getting rid of this destructive government with an impostor as it's leader.


*Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, by William Johnson, McClelland & Stewart, 2005, ISBN 0-7710 4350-3

** Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7 and Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada, By Trevor Harrison, University of Toronto Press, 1995, ISBN: 0-8020-7204-63


1. Vancouver Sun, April 8, 1994

2. Liberals lay groundwork for a campaign of contrasts, By Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star, September 1, 2010

3. Harper suggests 'Belgian-style' federalism, CBC News, October 20, 2004

4. The Patriot Game: National Dreams and Political Realities, By Peter Brimelow, Key Porter Books, 1986, ISBN: 1-55013-001-3, Pg. 83

5. The Rights Revolution: CBC Massey Lectures, By Michael Ignatieff, Anansi Books, 2000, ISBN: 0-88784-656-4, Pg. 14


  1. I agree, Emily. Although NDP at heart, I definitely believe Michael Ignatieff is the best choice for taking our country out of the hands of the Harpies.
    I like the way Ignatieff used his years away from Canada to step back and take a look at his own country from a different angle, to see its true strengths from one remove, to analyze while not being in the midst of it... anyone who criticizes his time away does not realize what it truly means to be a Canadian.
    My brother worked in the US for some years, but he and his wife never felt themselves to be anything but Canadian.

  2. I just don't understand any of it.
    When the government of British Columbia took an elderly, infamous protester to court earlier in the year, they brazenly asked for 25 years in prison for this "lifelong nuisance".... My mother said that in the Canada she knew and loved, no one ever would have dreamed of attempting to send a protester to jail for speaking for their beliefs.
    I know, however, that in Stephen Harper's Canada, we're all one step away from it. Because in Stephen Harper's Canada, profit comes before people. Companies before Citizens.
    It's a depressing time to be a young family in Canada. Of this much I am sure.

  3. It did give him perspective. Sometimes I think he left Canada to escape his family ties. Not because he was ashamed of them, but because they were such a prominent Canadian family he may have felt that he wanted to find his own way.

    And he found success on his own.

  4. You're right Lindsay. In Kington we had an 87 year old woman handcuffed and shackled because she waas protesting the closing of the prison farms. What has this country come to? It's frightening.