"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporality embarrassed millionaires." John SteinbeckThe healthcare debate has once again brought the National Citizens Coalition into the spotlight. The group that Stephen Harper has not only belonged to for three decades, but also served as its president.
The NCC was founded in 1967 by wealthy insurance broker Colin Brown, to fight against what he called "socialized medicine". Kind of like the American Tea Party.
However, it didn't really take off until Ernest Manning came on board, encouraging them to seek status as non-profit to enjoy the tax breaks. A bit of irony here. A group that fought against taxes (and they want the corporate tax rate to eventually be zero), had no qualms about stealing from taxpayers to promote corporate interests.
And there was no end to the corporate money that flowed through the offices. So much that they could afford to hire top Republican strategist Arthur Finklestein.
And while the ultimate goal of the NCC was to end public healthcare, they also advocated the end of unions and the ability of corporations to fund politicians.
The notion of corporations funding politicians was not new. After Watergate, when laws were toughened in the U.S., Finklestein, who had worked for Richard Nixon, created what he called Independent Expenditure Campaigns. In Canada we call it Third Party Advertising.
And Finkelstein helped the NCC become massive third party advertisers. But there was a problem. In Canada we limit this to $150,000. How could wealthy corporations take over the democratic process if all they could spend was $ 150,000?
Enter Stephen Harper.
In his 1993 campaign to win a seat for the Reform Party, the National Citizens Coalition poured $50,000 into his riding, advertising against what they called "the Gag Law". (1) This was especially telling, since Harper was running against Jim Hawkes, the man who had acted as mentor, making Harper his aide in Ottawa when he was a PC MP.
The attack became so visceral, that Harper's former fiancee, Cynthia Williams, went to work for Hawkes. Not a jilted lover because she was the one who broke off the engagement, later saying that had she stayed with Steve, she would not have been able to have a career. (2)
Something else we should have taken from Harper's time with Hawkes, was that his former boss found Harper a little odd. The only thing he talked about was himself and his ambitions. (2)
But back to corporate funded democracy.
Stephen Harper believed in this to such an extent, that he actually sued the Canadian people, in the now infamous Stephen Harper vs Canada ruling.
Mitchell Anderson is concerned that if given a majority, Harper will simply go over the head of the Supreme Court in favour of corporate interests. And he's probably right.
This Rogue in Power does everything by stealth.
In the court decision against Harper, the Supreme Court stated: "Promoting electoral fairness by ensuring the equality of each citizen in elections, preventing the voices of the wealthy from drowning out those of others, and preserving confidence in the electoral system, are pressing and substantial objectives in a liberal democracy."
Electoral fairness? Equality of each citizen? A liberal democracy? Stephen Harper? NEVER!
Mitchell reminds us of what is happening in the United States when a Bush appointed court paved the way for the corporate sector to engineer American democracy. A nightmare.
Democracy will only apply to those who can afford it.
Is this really your Canada?
On May 2, vote and vote wisely.
1. Loyal to the Core: Stephen Harper Me and the NCC, By: Gerry Nicholls, Freedom Press, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-9732757-8-0
2. Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada, by William Johnson, McClelland & Stewart, 2005, ISBN 0-7710 4350-3