In October of 2006, an American journalist visiting Canada noticed that something was not right. He had been making the trip every year, but this time there was a marked difference.
Something he was all too familiar with in the United States. Visceral politics.
As an American journalist visiting my wife's relatives in Canada, I've always been struck by how ardently the country's political discourse focused on substance — the budget, health care, schools, roads — with little of the cheap theatrics and angry divisiveness of U.S. politics and punditry. Reading and listening to the Canadian news media during those family trips could be a tad boring, but it also was touching, like remembering your earnest grade-school civics teacher lecturing about the wonders of the American democratic process.And he knew the cause:
But in my visit this past summer, I noticed that the tone of Canada suddenly had changed. There was a nastier edge to the commentary. There were not-so-subtle appeals to racism and xenophobia, references to Muslim neighbourhoods in Quebec as “Quebecistan” and to Lebanese-Canadians as “Hezbocrats,” a play on the Muslim group Hezbollah. To someone who has covered U.S. politics for three decades, there was a shock of recognition. Standing out starkly against the bland traditions of Canadian governance was the pugnacious 'tude of American political combat, wedge issues pounded in with a zeal that put the goal of winning and holding power over everything else. (An American journalist's view of Harper, By Richard Fricker, October 18, 2006)
For inspiration in building a new brand of Canadian conservatism, Harper looked to Washington, where Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Georgia, was promoting a combative style designed to shatter the longtime Democratic grip on the U.S. House of Representatives.What Fricker didn't know though, was that Newt Gingrich actually took his inspiration from Preston Manning and Stephen Harper during their Reform Party days. We exported this.
Linda McQuaig rightfully suggests, that the rampant spread of right-wing extremist rhetoric, is partly the fault of the media who give it a platform. They not only condone it but encourage it, cheering from the sidelines when people like John Baird and Pierre Poilievre are at their worst.
Peter Worthington also weighed in. It was kind of funny though because when I read the headline: Peter Worthington: A nutbar who couldn’t be stopped, I thought it was someone writing about Peter Worthington. That man spews so much poison it's embarrassing.
A war supporter who once suggested that Afghan prisoners were not our responsibility, forgetting something called the Geneva Convention.
There's no argument that the Reform movement brought ugly politics into Canada. Yes before that election campaigns were heated, but once over everyone rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
But the neoconservative strategy is to keep political strategists on the government payroll, and they are the ones who make all the decisions, based on what is more politically beneficial to their party, and not what's good for the country.
It's time to put some civility back into politics. Not too much or nothing would get done.
I'm going to share one of my favourite videos. It's Dalton Camp, a former Conservative party insider, from Canada's original Conservative party. That party dissolved in 2003, and it's a shame. I miss it. The late Dalton Camp wrote often, warning about the neoconservative movement, and how it would destroy us.
We should have listened.