Canada Inc.

November 26, 2014
Our system of Canadian democracy is being systematically dismantled

I must have a lot of left-wing and liberal friends on Facebook, because I sure read a lot of negative comments about the way Stephen Harper is running our country. His controlling approach to the power of his political office really pisses some people off.

They’re angry that he takes liberties with our democracy, by proroguing Parliament whenever it suits his purposes. That he is not accountable to the media for questions or clarification. That he wields his party’s majority like a big stick, doing whatever he pleases. That he condones a party culture of entitlement and privilege, but will quickly throw any member who gets caught with his fingers in the cookie jar under the bus. That he keeps a tight leash on his ministers, not allowing them to openly speak their minds, or express any opinions that he hasn’t approved. That he has his fingers in every decision his ministers make. That he isn’t publicly accountable, and doesn’t forthrightly answer questions posed in Question Period. Nor does he offer up, for serious Parliamentary debate, the decisions and policies being made by his majority. That he throws his weight around at the United Nations, and G Summits, portraying Canada as some kind of aggressive, judgemental nation. That he disregards international consensus on crucial global issues such as aggressive military intervention, the environment, and climate change. That he comes across like he knows better than everyone else – period.

People argue that this shows Harper’s contempt for Parliament and the established rule of democracy, both nationally and internationally. And they’re right. He does do these things. So, is he a truly contemptible, arrogant politician? Maybe. Or maybe we just need to rethink our opinions about the kind of politician Harper really is.

Because, after considerable thought and observation, I’ve come to the conclusion that Stephen Harper isn’t actually a politician at all. I believe he sees himself as Canada’s Chief Executive Officer, its CEO, and he’s running the country as a corporation.

Think about it. A CEO does not run his company like a democracy; he runs it like a dictatorship. He makes all the decisions, then expects his underlings to carry them out without question. A CEO is not a team player. That’s because he usually perceives himself as being smarter than any of his underlings. Therefore he doesn’t open his decision-making process to discussion or debate. He doesn’t kindly entertain the idea of being questioned or second-guessed. He looks out for his company’s own interests to the exclusion of all others. He’s not above bending the rules, within the law of course, to accomplish his goals. He openly questions the credibility and integrity of his competitors, and will crush them if he must. He’s competitive, protective, and self-serving. He doesn’t spend money on trivialities, or even on socially responsible causes, unless it serves his bottom-line purposes.

Doesn’t that sound more like Stephen Harper, than thinking of him as some kind of power-hungry politician? Darned tootin’ it does.

And he’s not alone. This practice of using the electorate to put you into office, then ignoring them until the next election, has been slowly creeping into political life for years. It is, when you think of it, not democracy at all, but an elected benign dictatorship.

Okay, having our country run by a self-styled CEO, in the dictatorial model of corporate management, may not seem overly worrisome. But know this: A CEO has to answer to a Board of Directors, and sometimes even to the Shareholders. The scary part for Canada is, that during Stephen Harper’s term of office he is accountable to no one!

My concern is that this is a dangerous precedent to set. Canada is a nation founded on the principles of democracy. We, the electorate, expect our politicians to be voted into office by the majority of us, then to represent our majority interests as our elected representatives, and above all to be open and accountable to us.

We expect our Prime Minister, in turn, to simply be the spokesperson for a team of elected MPs, some of whom he gets to appoint as Cabinet Ministers, who then bring their expertise and the concerns of their constituents to caucus where they discuss, debate, and enact policy, with input and open debate from a Parliament of questioning opposition members. The Prime Minister is just that… the lead minister. Not King. Not Emperor. Not President.

It may come as a surprise to many, but Canadians did not elect Harper as their Prime Minister. That was done at a Conservative leadership convention by card-carrying members of the Conservative party, not by the Canadian voting public. Harper was simply elected as an MP in his riding of Calgary-Southwest like any other member of Parliament. Mind you, had he lost in his riding he would still have been Prime Minister, albeit a pretty lame duck one. But the point is that we, the people of Canada, never granted him through our votes the authority to run our country, especially not according to his own personal whims. That’s the way it is with all our elected leaders, but normally we have the rules of democracy to ensure they run the nation the way we expect. Throw out those rules, and there are no guarantees.

Democracy is a long-standing, tried-and-true, and well-honoured political system. Sure, it may be flawed, but it’s the best political system anyone has come up with so far. That is, until Stephen Harper came along. Harper, you see, runs the PMO like he knows how to run a nation better than anyone else in the last two hundred years of political history. I expect he feels quite proud of himself for having come up with the idea, for having the balls to pull it off, and for having the good fortune to have no one put a stop to it.

What Stephen Harper is attempting – no, succeeding – to do, undermines 150 years of our nation’s founding principles. His efforts are single-handedly dismantling our Canadian democracy, and our national way of life, in order to impose a corporate model of national management. And this is happening without the informed consent of the country. I fear that the damage done could well prove to be permanent, if not reversed soon.

The problem is that the Tories are, and always have been, the party of the Corporate elite. These are people who can relate to a CEO more than they can to an elected official. To them, someone beholden to his constituents is weak and handicapped. They see a CEO as strong and decisive. A commander. A leader. A rugged individualist. And so, they are likely to support this idea of running the country like a corporation. To them, it seems fiscally responsible. It seems proactive and assertive. It seems strong and imposing. That may very well be… but it isn’t a democracy, people!!

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the Conservative party of Canada, per se. It has a proud and noble history. There are some good, capable, and honourable people in its caucus and back benches. And it’s hard to fault its staunch belief that fiscal responsibility is good for the nation. My beef is simply with the way one man has twisted that party’s governance, to elevate himself to the position of Supreme Leader. And, in doing so, now has free reign in how he runs the country. It undermines everything I’ve come to believe in as a citizen of this great, historically democratic land of ours.

So I suggest that next year, when it comes time to vote, we need to ask ourselves; do we want our nation to remain an open and accountable democracy, or do we want to continue down this uncertain and risky road to Canada Inc. in Harper’s image.

Personally, I feel that if we don’t return to a true acting democracy soon, then we won’t recognize this country, its government, or our way of life, in ten or twenty years. Think about it.

I’m just sayin’.

One Response to Canada Inc.

  1. jack says:

    Well said, Brad. The classic example of Harper’s style is that one of the omnibus bills (another really bad thing) was reviewed in committee when it was a minority government, and several negotiated amendments made. It died during the election. When the majority came back in, the original bill was presented. The amendments – well and carefully thought through – were discarded. Arrogance!

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