Robert Benzie had a piece in the Toronto Star this weekend: Return to the 1960s, in which he asks "One Party?"
It is well researched and well written, comparing today to 1963, when we had a conservative prime minister (Diefenbaker) and a conservative premier (Robarts) in Ontario.
He adds a bit more deja vu with the fact that there was a progressive democrat, with a pretty wife, in the White House, and the Green Bay Packers were football heroes.
However, I would like to challenge his story.
First off, Stephen Harper is no John Diefenbaker, because Dief believed in Canadian sovereignty. Harper does not.
And Diefenbaker stood up to JFK when he wanted Canada to accept nuclear warheads (Kennedy & Diefenbaker: The Feud That Helped Topple a Government, By Knowlton Nash, McClelland & Stewart, 1991, ISBN: 0-7710-6711-9). Canadian diplomat, George Ignatieff, tried to broker a compromise but Dief would have none of it.
Ignatieff, although a diplomatic realist, was also an indefatigable champion of disarmament, and he sought to provide Diefenbaker with a formula that he could use with Kennedy in articulating the near-incomprehensibility of Canada's official position on warheads. The urbane diplomat proposed that the prime minister say he would accept warheads on two conditions: first, if there were joint control in their use — a joint control of Diefenbaker's particular definition; and second, only if an all-out effort at disarmament were launched first and if, at the end, it was determined that there could be no progress.By comparison, Harper has erased our borders, allowing the U.S. military to cross on a whim, their FBI to conduct investigations on Canadian citizens, and the U.S. Coast Guard to patrol our waters.
That formula would buy Diefenbaker some time and it might well wash politically in Canada, even if it wouldn't in Washington. "Making clear-cut decisions was not part of Diefenbaker's nature," Ignatieff later remarked. (McClelland & Stewart, 1991)
And he has committed Canada to the Missile Defense (Star Wars) program.
When Stephen Harper was trying to broker his buy America/Sell Canada deal, he became the brunt of jokes with U.S. diplomats. He was calling every day sweetening the pot. (Wikileaks) "What if I throw in two provinces and the CN Tower? You have to accept this damn country if I pay you to take it?"
John Diefenbaker would have kicked his behind.
And Mike Harris lapdog, Tim Hudak, is no John Robarts.
Robarts supported public healthcare, even endorsing NDP MLA Kenneth Bolton when running in the London riding of Middlesex south. And he believed in having two official languages, opening the door to French education in Ontario schools. He promoted public education, the expansion of teacher colleges, built York University, and launched the Ontario Scholarship fund.
He also believed in science and was responsible for the construction of the Ontario Science Museum.
All anathema to the neoconservative agenda of for-profit schools, private healthcare, and a pox on scientific research unless it's to develop weaponry.
Instead of 1963, should Ontarians have a memory lapse and elect Harrisite Tim Hudak, this situation is more 1993, when a chain of events opened the door to ignorance as a prerequisite for power.
It started with the Reform Party's electoral success, and the Progressive Conservatives electoral death blow. But for those who believe that the Reformers replaced the PCs in the West, most of their gain was at the expense of the other populist western offering, the NDP.
- The anti-government campaign of Preston Manning and the Reform Party, inspired Newt Gingrich in the U.S., who used the same tactics, and many of the same people, to propel the Republicans to victory. Now Newt Gingrich is running for president.
- The National Citizens Coalition, that spent more than a half million dollars to destroy the government of Bob Rae, and $50,000 to get "Steve" Harper elected as an MP, threw money behind Mike Harris, though Harris wasn't their first choice. They had actually approached Toronto born and raised Harper to run as a neocon premier. He declined. That same NCC, that Harper once ran, also played a role in Harper's majority victory.
-After their success, the Reformers turned their attentions on Ontario, even adopting ridings with staff from their own campaign.
When we look at the legacy of Diefenbaker and Robarts, what is the the legacy of Harris and Harper?
- A privatization nightmare. Ditto for Harper.
- Sale of prime public land for campaign contributions. Jim Flaherty is planning a fire sale of public property.
-Abuse of tax dollars on signs and self-promotion ads, engineered by Guy Giorno. Ditto for Harper.
- Disdain for the poor. Ditto for Harper.
Deaths at Walkerton because of deregulation. Deaths from Listeriosis because of deregulation.
Riot police to stifle dissent. Riot police to stifle dissent.
So while I wish it was a return to the sensible conservative governments of 1963, I'm afraid it's only a return to Republican/Tea Party/Reform Party offerings, that have created the age of ignorance.