Saturday, September 12, 2009

Roots of Reform: Like Father, Like Son, Like .... Stephen Harper????

The above video is kind of a blast from the past, after an election that changed the political landscape of our country. The Bloc, a 'separatist' party would be the official opposition and the Reform, an anti-Quebec western protest party, was not thrilled about it.

In fact by the next election campaign in 1997, the Reformers ran a controversial television ad where the faces of PM Jean Chrétien, Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe, PC leader Jean Charest, and Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard, were crossed out; followed by a message saying that Quebec politicians had dominated the federal government for too long and that the Reform Party would end this favoritism towards that province.

I'm currently reading Murray Dobbin's Preston Manning and the Reform Party, and trying to share some of my views along the way, before I forget everything I've read. His book is part of my journey to try to make sense of the fact that a group founded on bigotry, is now running our country.

So where did this resentment toward Quebec start? Was it all part of the 'western alienation' mindset, promoted by various western politicians, especially in Alberta? Was it protest against the National Energy Program introduced by Trudeau, but supported by Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed? The Meech Lake Accord?

All of the above I suppose, though I believe that it is much more than that. When studying the roots of the Reform Party; from Social Credit to Reform to Alliance and finally the Conservative Party of Canada, there is a definite pattern. They were all based on what I call the anti's'. They originated as anti-Semitic, then became anti-Communist, anti-Socialist, anti-Francophone, anti-multiculturalism, anti-feminist, anti-gay .... the list goes on.

But all can be traced back to Ernest Manning, then to his son Preston, and finally Stephen Harper, who took over the reins of the 'family business'.

I've already posted a separate entry on the Social Credit Party, founded in Canada by William 'Bible Bill' Aberhart, but now want to show how that relates to Ernest Manning, and the revelations from Mr. Dobbin's book. No he doesn't suggest that the former Alberta Premier was anti-Semitic. Quite the contrary.

But like Preston and Stephen Harper, he wasn't above using the extremists he knew were in the party, and was quite clever in the way he played them.

After World War II, as the world learned of the Holocaust, a party based on a Jewish conspiracy theory was no longer Kosher (no pun intended). Therefore, Ernest Manning began to weed out the anti-Semitics, in particular one group referred to as Douglasites, because of their allegiance to Social Credit founder Major C. H. Douglas.

But the Douglasites were also foes of communism, and as Manning became more fundamentalist and a friend of big business, he too feared the threat of Communism and of course, Socialism.

"Manning moved decisively to block the Douglasites at the 1948 convention and most of them left the Party. The departure of the Douglasites left Manning in complete control of the party and government ... he had used their views to push out the socialist-leaning elements of the party and now used them again as a lever to push them out of the league.

"Yet as Manning publicly rejected any notion of a Jewish Conspiracy, he continued to view the world in conspiratorial terms and to govern accordingly." (Preston Manning and the Reform Party. Author: Murray Dobbin Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing 1992 ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 17-18)

And of course there was a general theory that Pierre Trudeau was a socialist and used Ottawa as his base for socialist activities. "According to Calgary political scientist, Roger Gibbons: 'Ottawa is charged with socialistic, Marxist leanings, with being soft on communism and anti-Americanism" (Dobbin pg. 13)

Trudeau was a Francophone and a devout Catholic.

From Wikipedia on the Social Credit Party: Beginning in the early 1960s, there were serious tensions between the party's English and French wings. In 1961, Robert Thompson of Alberta defeated Réal Caouette of Quebec at the party's leadership convention. The vote totals were never announced; many suspect that Caouette actually won more votes, but was rejected by the party's western leadership for fear that he would be a liability. Alberta Socred Premier Ernest Manning had previously told the convention that his province would never accept a francophone Catholic as the party's leader, leading to suspicions that the vote was fixed in Thompson's favour.

When the Reform Party was created, anti-Quebec and anti-Francophone rhetoric was a familiar theme. Peter Brimelow, the author who spurred Harper on in his early days, blamed Quebec for all of Canada's problems, suggesting that governments were pandering to the French-Canadians.

"English Canada will - sooner or later - recover from it's post-Imperial hangover, and will increasingly assert it's North American identity - Eventually, Anglophones will question the value of the Quebec connection. The Quebec issue in Canadian politics may become not whether Quebec will secede - but whether it should be expelled." (The Patriot Game by Peter Brimelow)

When Harper helped to found the Northern Foundation, it was not only with Peter Brimelow but also several members of APEC, an anti-French hate group.

The Reform Party was definitely pro-Anglo culture and Preston Manning did nothing to discourage his members from voicing their prejudices. All of the early mentors from Ted Byfield to William Gairdner; Peter Brimelow to all the others in the Northern Foundation shared a familiar theme. This country belongs to white people of European descent and that was that.

The only thing standing in their way were the 'socialists' and 'separatists'.

We see this on a regular basis with Stephen Harper. Whenever he is backed into a corner, he calls out this familiar battle cry, and his base comes running. It's like he has a magic whistle that summons them home.

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