Friday, October 22, 2010

Canada and Switzerland. Who Would Have Thought It?

Switzerland has always been seen as a peaceful country, remaining neutral in war. It's people friendly. Someone Canada could identify with.

Politically, they have no head of state and their government is comprised of ministers from all parties.

Sounds wonderful doesn't it?

Stephen Harper is in Switzerland today suggesting that Canada's foreign policy will now be based on "Canadian values". (HIS Canadian values) And photos with the "soccer mom" economic minister, are obviously staged to make us feel all warm and cozy.

Who cares if the rest of the United Nations hates us now, we've still got Switzerland on our side.

But something has been happening in Switzerland. The same social disease that brought Stephen Harper's neocons to power, is infecting the Swiss political system. Our carrier was the Religious Right/Republican strain, and medical experts now believe that it may have found it's way to this Alpine region.

The host is the Swiss People's Party (SVP), a right-wing populist, national conservative political entity. This is their list of symptoms, as described by Geneva University professor Pascal Sciarini during their last election campaign:

... anonymous donors are bankrolling an increasingly American-style campaign marked by unprecedented media coverage. Sciarini says party policies have taken a back seat during the run-up to next month's parliamentary elections as personalities and negative campaigning have dominated the electoral landscape.First came the People's Party notorious poster campaign showing three white sheep kicking a black sheep over the Swiss border [shown above promoting their anti-immigration stance]. Then the party's figurehead, Justice Minister Christoph Blocher, grabbed the headlines, complaining of a plot to unseat him.

... There are very important issues in Switzerland but the electoral campaign has turned into a very personalised campaign based on the image of Christoph Blocher. Therefore there is not much room for discussion about important issues, and this is something very unusual in Switzerland

... There are no budget limits, there is no transparency and there is no public financial support for the parties. Therefore the system is very opaque and we don't know exactly where the money comes from. Some people say the People's Party has spent at least SFr20 million ($17 million) on the campaign, which is quite unusual. The official budget for the electoral campaigns of the Social Democrats or the [centre-right] Radical Party is SFr1.2 million.

A right-wing party that has all the money and spent 20 times what the other parties could afford? And there are complaints that politics is becoming more polarized.

And Canada is not the only country to make Islamophobia an official policy with a government that promotes racism.
A Swiss vote to ban the construction of new minarets puts the spotlight on the Alpine country's social and political divisions and could herald a new surge in populist, anti-immigrant sentiment. The unexpected vote and high turnout in Sunday's referendum gives a boost to the right-wing populist Swiss People's Party (SVP), a relatively new political force that has shaken up the country's traditionally cozy power-sharing system.

"It could well be the beginnings of a new right-wing surge," said Clive Church, a Swiss politics expert from Kent University. The SVP, which has grown rapidly since the 1980s to become Switzerland's largest party, has been accused of racism for its strident anti-immigration campaigns, including a poster showing a white sheep kicking black sheep off a Swiss flag.
Yes these Islamic mosque style spires are now banned. One former member of the SVP called the party's campaign against Islam, a 'witch hunt.'

And the policies of the Swiss People's party, sound eerily familiar:
The SVP adheres to national conservatism, aiming at the preservation of a conservative society. Furthermore, the party promotes the principle of individual responsibility and is skeptical toward any expansion of governmental services. The emphases of the party's policies lie in foreign policy, immigration and homeland security policy as well as tax and social welfare policy. Among political opponents, the SVP has gained a reputation as a party that maintains a hard-line stance. The SVP supports supply-side economics. Thus it is a proponent of lower taxes and is against deficit spending.
So pardon me if I don't fell are warm and fuzzy knowing that Switzerland is on our side. I'm not so sure I want them to be.

Oh and by the way. Don't expect Herr Harper to be bringing home chocolate, though I've heard he's bought them out of Swiss Army knives. No more just slinging barbs across the room.


  1. Love the Swiss Army Knives line!

    Mr Harper's version of Canadian values is not mine, not that he cares...

  2. After 800 years of peace and brotherly love, the Swiss produced the cuckoo clock. After 143 years, Canadians are halfway there and produced a cuckoo.

  3. Not mine either, and you're right. He doesn't care.