by MICHAEL WELTON
“This abuse of executive power is tilting toward totalitarian government and away from the foundations of democracy and the rule of law on which this country was founded.”
-Errol Mendes, Professor of constitutional and international law (University of Ottawa)
The current Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper looks like a tattered and ragged old stuffed animal these days. You know–the ones with one button-eye missing and the other hanging by a single thread. Although he has survived endless scandals and sleazy acts over the past decade, Harper’s musical tune is now screeching and discordant.
Two of his top ministers (the obedient Peter McKay and the attack-dog, know-nothing John Baird) have decided to abandon politics. A third (Jim Prentice) left to run Alberta, but was soundly defeated by a resurgent New Democratic Party. Harper’s possible successor, Jason Kenney, now Minister of Defence, looks bewildered as he repeats NATO’s lies about Russian aggression and fumbles along in a totally incoherent foreign policy.
On the international scene, this mean autocrat has had the gall—if you can believe this—to point his finger at Vladimir Putin and tell him to get out of the Ukraine. This moronic demand bespoke of his ignorance of the Ukraine’s common history and culture with Russia. Harper has murky ties with right-wing Canadian Ukrainians and has adopted the fantastical narrative pushed by the US and its pliant allies in the EU and NATO. He thinks this may get him some votes. He sent 200 troops (disguised as trainers) into the Ukraine to help quell the rebellion in Eastern Ukraine.
The opposition parties are demanding that Stephen the Sneaky come clean regarding his support for the neo-Nazi gangs of thugs in the Ukraine armed forces (like the Azov battalion). He appears to love vilifying Putin. Recently Russian MP Aleksey Puskov (United Russia) stated that Canada is the “most anti-Russian state in the western alliance as a whole and definitely also in the G7 group.”
Indeed, for the past decade Stephen the Sleazy has been continually asked to tell us what he is really up to in the dark alleys. One thing for certain: the old peace-making Canada has been tossed out the window. Harper has raised no questions whatsoever about the criminal acts of the government of Kiev. He has leapt on the American military bandwagon. Canadians have little understanding of what Canada now stands for on the fraught geo-political scene. Canada can no longer think for itself. Our brain has been replaced by someone else’s.
This guy supports Netanyahu more than any western leader alive. He is a right-wing Christian Zionist wh0 will not bat an eye at shouting “hate-speech” when anyone supports the Palestinian cause. No wonder Palestinians pelted Baird’s car when he made a zip trip to the West Bank.
Harper is also a leading opponent of doing anything about climate change. He withdrew from the Kyoto Accord. He despises scientifically-informed, evidence-based policy. He loathes public health care systems. Right-wing Canadian evangelicals make up his base. This support for Harper who cares not at all for the weak and oppressed is in itself a travesty of Christian ethics and understanding.
And he despises passionately any person, movement or association that dares to criticize his government. He does not permit debate within his own party or the parliament itself. He has used the egregious tactic of the giant omnibus bill to push through dubious policies without deliberation. It appears to many of us on the Canadian Left that the man who adopted Alberta Oil Country as his home base does not much like his own country and has contempt for its parliamentary traditions. His latest sickening move is Bill C-51, which criminalizes dissent and opens the door for more surveillance than Canadians have ever experienced.
He has prorogued the parliament four times; one occurring just in time to head off accusations that Canada participated in the rendition of detainees to places where they could be tortured. On the local front, the Harper Conservative government tried to interfere with Canadians voting by using robocalls to misdirect voters to non-existing poll stations in the 2011 election. The recent Fair Elections Act tried to disenfranchise students and people living on reserves. Harper used attack ads—learned from the amoral American Arthur Finkelstein—to smear the hapless Michael Ignatieff as “just visiting.” And three senators chosen by him to do Conservative partisan bidding—Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau—have all been accused of falsifying their expense accounts (the Duffy case is presently in the courts where he has been charged with one count of breach of trust and one for fraud).
Taking a page or two from George W. Bush’s playbook, Harper has systematically and stealthily sought to change a social democratic country into a neo-con satellite of the US Empire of chaos. For those still on the Canadian left who affirm the necessity of a vibrant and dynamic civil society where debate and dissent are supported by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Harper’s crushing, stifling and criminalizing of dissent has raised loud alarm bells. The recently published document (by Voices-voix, an organization of 200 civil society organizations and around 5,000 individual members),Dismantling Democracy: stifling debate and dissent in Canada(2015), is shocking reading even for those who know quite a bit about Harper’s tipping of Canada toward totalitarianism.
Perhaps for the first time, this exceptional document provides the analytical framework and empirical evidence which enables us to see the Big Pattern of Harper’s attempt to dismantle Canada’s democracy. It is as if the dots have all been connected. It’s all here, and what is striking about Dismantling Democracy is the outlining of the variety of devious tactics used by the Harper theo-cons to remove every possibility, legal and otherwise, of objecting to and blocking the complete capitulation of Canada to the triumphant rule of corporations (and America’s domination of the world) and its ultimate seepage into the US whirlpool.
The report is divided into two parts: Part A sets out the key elements of a vibrant democracy and Part B examines how Canadian democracy is undermined. The latter part has four sections: Silencing the public sector; Silencing knowledge; Silencing the voices of marginalized communities and Silencing voices through national security and foreign policy. Everybody on the global left should read Dismantling Democracy closely to learn more about how the enemy actually stifles debate and silences criticism (its nefarious playbook of assault on its citizenry). Many countries in the world have experienced similar sorts of things.
Human rights, an enabling environment and a vibrant democracy (Part A)
The steering group for Voices-voix, primarily people with scholarly knowledge of law and human rights, are deeply worried that “freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly are among the fundamental pillars necessary to hold Canada’s democracy upright. But, as our human rights and civil participation come under attack, we’re exceptionally worried about Canada’s future as a safe, healthy and inclusive democracy” (p. 4). Voices-voix feels betrayed. Canada’s proud traditions of deliberative forms of democracy have been seriously undermined and tarnished (see Michael Welton,Unearthing Canada’s Hidden Past: a short history of adult education for an explication of this emancipatory tradition). Harper and his neo-con flunkies have set the state against the people. The citizens are now enemies.
Essentially, the introductory section of the report is a primer on human rights and the ideal of conversational democracy. It sets the stage for the specific analysis of part B. They affirm that: “Canada’s Constitution provides the building blocks for achieving this goal. The Supreme Court of Canada has interpreted Canadian democracy as requiring ‘a continuous process of discussion,’ in which dissenting voices are heard and their concerns addressed This discussion should not be limited to those in the Parliamentary majority. A truly democratic conversation must include the claims of competing groups and consideration of conflicting evidence”. But under the Harper regime, the use of silencing techniques has intensified as they have limited “dissent, public debate and democratic participation” (p. 6).
Part A’s most innovative concept is the idea of an “enabling environment.” The report explicitly critiques the ideas that, once elected, the governing party can forget the people and do whatever it likes behind parliament walls without responsibility to actively intervene to ensure that all barriers are removed to enable citizens to engage in deliberative public spaces.
Voices-voix define the enabling environment as “one where the government actively supports, promotes and celebrates the inclusion of diverse voices in public debate and discussion. Many of these voices come from civil society: organizations, such as non-government organizations, trade unions, and faith-based groups, as well as individuals such as activists, artists and human rights defenders. What makes individuals and groups part of civil society is that they are working together to advanced shared interests” (p. 13).
By failing to promote an enabling environment or foster the human rights that are critical to democracy, the government denies Canadians the dynamic, innovative society they aspire to build” (ibid.). We will now see that the Harper government receives an “F” in every category.
Undermining democracy (Part B)
Theme 1: Silence the public sector
One might characterize Harper and his gang in government as a pack of wild dogs. With their noses sniffing the air for the smell of dissent, they have gone on the attack to silence the public sector (theme 1). One of Canada’s respected traditions—an independent public sector, robust oversight mechanisms and protection for those reporting government wrong-doing—has been systematically undermined and abused by the Harper authoritarian regime.
The report contends (with lots of examples) that the Harper wild dogs attack dissenting and diverse voices within the public sector. They introduce omnibus bills (800 pages no less) that propose massive changes and provide little time for careful consideration. If a parliamentarian or civil servant disagrees publicly with the government, they are vilified. Advice emanating from the public service is often ignored or eliminated. And the Harper government runs roughshod over oversight mechanisms through incessant government meddling.
Dismantling Democracy takes great pains to reveal how the federal government cuts to the public service have curtailed the ability of public servants to “provide timely, thorough and comprehensive advice. New public codes of conduct have added a chill, dissuading public servants from offering independent advice or speaking publicly for fear of being seen as partisan or disloyal” (pp. 19-20). The cuts to The Departments of Justice and Environment Canada have been particularly devastating. For example, public legal programs and institutions such as the Court Challenges Program and the Law Commission of Canada have been eliminated, leaving Canada’s courts less accessible to many and discriminatory practices more likely.
It is shocking—in this age of panic over climate change—to discover that the anti-science, anti-enlightenment government of Sleazy Stephen has cut back seriously the budget of Environment Canada. Jobs have been lost; and similar cuts have happened in Canada’s entire public scientific community, including Agriculture Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, and Natural Resources Canada. Funding cuts had the intended effect of muzzling scientists. Their ability to address the media, even collaborate professionally and generate impartial advice, was restricted. The scientists now feared that speaking truth to power would face the bared-teeth of the dog pack.
One of the most compelling and disturbing sections of theme 1 in Part B is the explication of how the federal government muzzled watchdog mechanisms and ruined the careers of many civil servants. Oversight agencies must maintain the requisite distance from the government. They must be cushioned from political interference and receive adequate funds. The report points out that the Harper authoritarian regime used two main tactics to enfeeble watchdog agencies from doing their jobs.
They provided inadequate funding and interfered directly with the agencies activities. Perhaps the most egregious example of these tactics was the “federal government’s myriad efforts to obstruct an independent oversight agency” from “investigating the Canadian Forces’ treatment of Afghan detainees by the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC)” (p. 21).
Established in 1998 as an independent civil oversight agency, the MPCC had the responsibility to investigate complaints against military conduct. But Peter Tinsley, then chair of MPCC, decided to proceed with an inquiry and soon discovered that the federal government withheld “requested information and documents” and sought to “supress evidence gathered in the course of the MPCC hearings” (p. 21).
The government challenged the jurisdiction of the MPCC, and twenty-nine public servants who were subpoenaed to give evidence, reported receiving intimidating letters. They were discouraged from even appearing as witnesses. Then, in December 2009, Harper prorogued Parliament in the midst of its investigation. The work of the parliamentary committee was derailed—just two weeks after the government had to hand over unredacted documents. The case of Peter Tinsley is not an isolated one.
The report provides the reader with a chart showing the means of silencing the public sector. Nine percent of the cases studied used political interference, thirteen percent vilification and smearing, seventeen percent funding cuts and restrictive internal policies, four percent used funding cuts alone and fifty-seven percent fired, forced the removal or did not re-appointment public servants.
Chills run up and down one’s spine as one reads the long list of organizations (such as the Status of Women Canada, Library and Archives Canada or Canadian Human Rights Commission) and persons (such as Tinsley, who was fired, Scott Vaughan, Yves Cote, Marc Raymond and many more who were silenced with the tactics at the government disposal).
Clearly, Canadians (and their international friends) are not facing the odd anti-democratic action on the part of Harper’s government. They are an anti-democratic regime, and they are dismantling democracy brick by brick as we have known it. But, despite Harper’s 2006 speech from the throne intending to protect whistleblowers, his government has done nothing of the sort. Edgar Schmidt, a senior lawyer in the Department of Justice, went public in December 2012 claiming that the government had not met its obligations under the Charter.
One of his tasks was to ensure that any law proposed had to comply with the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Charter. But he soon discovered that government lawyers had been instructed to reject proposed legislation only if it was “’manifestly’ or ‘certainly’ inconsistent with human rights standards” (p. 26). Schmidt repeatedly raised concerns with the deputy minister, the chief legislative counsel and the associate deputy minister. Nothing was done. Schmidt decided to proceed with legal proceedings against the government. The Harper government suspended him; he was put out of his office shortly thereafter. Legal proceedings are still underway.
Theme 2: Silencing Knowledge
These days we routinely identify our post-industrial societies as knowledge or information societies. The report, Dismantling Democracy: stifling debate and dissent in Canada (2015), maintains that: “The collection and free flow of data and information are crucial for a robust democracy, and important aspects of the right to freedom of expression” (p. 30). In an “educative democracy” or “just learning society” the public needs credible knowledge to “properly evaluate the government’s conduct and make informed political choices. If taken into account in government decision-making, sound information results in more transparent, accountable, and responsive policy” (ibid.).
But since gaining power in 2006 (at first as a minority government), the Harper autocrats have systematically impeded developing Canada into a culturally and economically literate space. Dismantling Democracy contends that, rather than doing everything they can to lay the groundwork for a knowledge-based, critically oriented Canadian society, the Harper government has dismantled the very agencies that can help to create the basis for evidence-based policy.
They have made increasingly severe cuts to an organization like Statistics Canada (almost $30 million since 2012 as well as 18% of its staff). StatsCan can no longer respond to questions pertaining to job vacancies in Canada. In 2014, the Auditor General Michael Ferguson requested information about job vacancies in Canada. This information was necessary to make wise decisions about the controversial temporary foreign worker program and cuts to employment insurance. But StatsCan pleaded lack of resources to provide the needed data. Informed decision-making was stomped into the ground.
The cuts to StatsCan can be linked with the replacement in 2010 of the mandatory long-form census with a voluntary National Household Survey (NHS). This census provided important data to “inform government policies on important matters such as public transportation plans, employment insurance plans and the Canada Pension Plan” (p. 31). With only partial evidence available, it is much easier for the government to manipulate data to serve its own ends. Recently, StatsCan admitted that it will not have a thorough analysis of Canadian income trends ready before the next federal election (scheduled for the fall, 2015).
Particularly devastating cuts have taken place in scientific organizations. Everybody needs scientific thought and empirical research in order to create an environmentally sustainable world. Alas! The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) budget cuts since 2009 have led to the firing of 2,000 government scientists. This merely adds to earlier firings associated with Environment Canada. Seventy-five scientists were fired from the Marine Toxicology Program alone. The program ended in April 2013. Few Canadians, I believe, know much about these firings and quashing of research that might call into question profit-making corporations who love a de-regulated and unethical world.
How can we assure accountability when we lack information and vibrant public spaces for debate and dissent? Knowledge has been silenced by restrictive government policies (12%), forcing the resignation or removing perceived threats to the government’s appalling agenda (25%), defunding organizations that raise critical questions (38%) and engaging in enhanced scrutiny and audits by the Canada Revenue Agency [CRA] (25%).
In 2007—to give one example—the Harper autocrats muzzled government scientists from speaking at conferences or to the media or public. As expected, the media coverage of climate change and other pertinent matters decreased dramatically (by 80%). And as expected, the muzzled scientists feared retaliation if they spoke truth to power. Harper was successfully creating a culture of fear and suspicion.
Under the Harper regimes tilting towards a totalitarian society (or “police state” as Joyce Nelson has argued in “Police state Canada,”CounterPunch, March 13-15, 2015)), government secrecy and lack of transparency (like knowing what Harper is up to in recent international trade agreements) has radically increased. Canadians cannot get easy access to information. Nor can they discuss themes like sustainable development openly. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE)—its mandate was to act as an independent, non-partisan advisor on sustainable development—produced a report in 2011 that has severely critical of Canada’s measures to reduce climate change. The government eliminated the NRTEE.
Most despicably, the Harper attack dogs have proven hostile to Indigenous-led organizations and initiatives related to Indigenous people’s issues (there are many). They cut the funding of The First Nations Statistical Institute in half in 2012 and eliminated it completely in 2013. They have been particularly hostile and cavalier in response to evidence concerning Indigenous women in Canada (the organization Sisters in Spirit compiled a data base pertaining to 600 unsolved murder cases). Harper’s gang cut their funding completely.
The theo-con Stephen Harper (he of hyper-conservative evangelical worldview) has turned a blind eye to opening up a serious inquiry into violence against native women. It is easier to misrepresent and ignore the cries of the vulnerable when advocacy organizations are kicked to the margins or quashed like cockroaches under foot.
The dictatorial Harper (my way or the highway) wants a subdued and subjugated citizenry. He has attacked advocacy groups with anti-capitalist, environmental and scientific agendas (The Sierra Club Canada, David Suzuki Foundation, Tides Canada, ForestEthics, and Environmental Defence). In January 2012, then natural resources minister Joe Oliver issued open letter accusing environmental advocacy groups of being “radicals”—who desire “to stop any major [industrial] project, no matter what the cost.”
Murray Dobbin (“Terrorizing Canada with Stephen Harper,”CounterPunch, March 20-22, 2015) rightly worries that Canada’s civic literacy is so permeated with the mass media’s deceptions and prevarications that its citizenry will be unable to fight the fierce fanatic Harper.
That’s it: the Harper submission to corporate domination of society cannot stand any organization that stands up against a pipeline cutting through Indigenous people’s lands. So if you are a new social movement association in Canada, you will be audited by the CRA and your leadership will be investigated behind closed doors. And your participati0n in government spaces to discuss development projects will be serious curtained. The Harper regime is the government of the closed door.
Dismantling Democracy concludes that: “Ultimately, the government is dramatically impairing Canada’s diverse knowledge-base and eroding the ability of public servants, civil society and the general public to oppose or even simply debate government policies and hold it to account” (p. 39).
Theme 3: Silencing the voices of marginalized communities
The report gives considerable attention to the government’s devaluing, dismissing and misrepresenting of Indigenous voices. Voices-voix insists that ensuring equality and a vital democracy requires that the voices of the marginalized be heard and listened to. “Canadian democracy is only strong if it is inclusive and fair for its most vulnerable communities” (p. 42).
But the federal government has neglected the vulnerable through using the tactics of “funding cuts, controversial legal reforms, and the forced removal of several ombudspersons who have spoken out about the treatment of vulnerable Canadians” has “undermined public discourse in Canada, reinforcing existing exclusion based on gender, Indigineity, age, and socio-economic issues” (ibid.).
Between 2012 and 2015, the Harper gang cut about $60 million to Indigenous leadership organizations. The keystone native organization—the Assembly of First Nations (AFN)—was punched in the head as they faced cuts of 59%.
These cuts had a ripple effect: affecting other organizations such as the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and other regional organizations. Moreover, Indigenous-led non-profits also lost funding (such as the Aboriginal Healing Foundation), thus disenabling responding to some of the wounds of Residential schooling and ennui on poverty-stricken reserves.
The federal government obstructed voices for women’s equality. Canadians may have forgotten that in 2006, the Harper government cut extensively the Status of Women (SWC), pressing it to shut down most of its regional offices. An historic organization created in 1976, the SWC had struggled to provide resources and care for women’s shelters and research places. Attack-dog John Baird defended the cuts because they were “wasteful” and “ineffective.” In 2007, the National Association for Women and the Law (NAWL) lost its SWC funding. Now, women had a tougher time getting legal rights—including changes to sexual assault laws.
Harper cares little for the struggle for gender equality: 1 in 9 Canadian women still live in poverty, and, yes, they still earn only 70.5% of what men earn for full-time work. And of course women do the bulk of labour for care-giving to their kids, seniors and the disabled. The assault on women’s rights by the government yap-dogs even includes resistance to women’s right to pay equity. The federal government of the straw-hearted Harper wanted to leave women’s pay to market forces (and they knew damn well that neo-liberalism drives down wages without blinking an eye).
Canadians did wake up a little when the Harper regime passed the New Veterans Charter (NVC) in its first term that significantly reduced veteran’s benefits. It is not surprising, however, that the government has maligned persons who expressed concern over existing policies. Pat Strogan, Yves Cote and Pierre Daigle—all defence force ombudsmen—were prevented from serving second terms as reward for their critical questioning and advocacy for veterans. Other critical voices were punished with the government digging into personal medical records to find something to turn into dirt to throw in the face of the accused.
Nor does the federal anti-labour government of Harper have any love for trade unions and the labour movement. The government castigated those politicians with ties to labour as public enemies. They sought to interfere with union-sponsored political events and pressed them to release public financial statements. And Labour Minister Lisa Raitt broke strikes by Air Canada and CP Rail as fast as one can say the Market is God.
It is scarcely surprising that the government introduced Bill C-6 to force workers to return to work after only five days on strike. This Bill seriously eroded established norms for “conducting labour arbitrations, and specified a maximum wage rate the arbitrator was able to impose. These changes interfered with the usual powers and process at play in arbitrations, and resulted in a decision that involved a wage rate considerably lower than Canada Post’s previous offer” (p. 50). Other bills—C 377 and C 525 are anti-labour, throwing sand into certification and decertification processes that undermine fully democratic procedures. Canadian workers have had their teeth kicked in.
Theme 4: Silencing voices through foreign affairs and national security
Our final theme takes us into the dirty world of the “ugly Canadian” (see Yves Engler, The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy ). Here, we can merely touch on some salient issues as we enter the Hall of Shadowy Mirrors. Basically, Harper the Tough Guy found the new 9/11 security landscape to his liking. His actions have been “marked by secrecy and repeated complicity in the violation of the rights of both Canadians and citizens of other countries” (p. 54).
In the aftermath of 9/11, Canadian intelligence and security forces “were complicit in the detention of Abousifan Abdelrazik, Omar Khadr, Abdullah Almaki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati, Muayyed Nureddin and Mahar Arar by countries well-known for committing human rights abuses, including torture—respectively Sudan, the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Syria and Egypt” (ibid.). The Arar Inquiry revealed numerous serious problems in intelligence collection and sharing. It called for more “robust oversight mechanisms for national security investigations” (ibid.). Arar—as we now know—was tortured and innocent. A judicial inquiry into the cases of Almaiki, Bimaati and Nureddin discovered similar problems as the Arar inquiry.
Harper seized the opportunity after the killing of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier on ceremonial sentry duty, on October 22, 2014—I believe—to fabricate this singular event into a monumental “war on terror”—with Canadian rights now apparently threatened by violent jihadists. To fight this war on terror, Harper introduced Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorist Act 2015, to position himself as Defender of the Nation, crush the opposition parties and those who would pierce through Harper’s ideological fog.
The Bill gave the government—already skilled at snooping and false accusations—“unprecedented powers to investigate the democratic activities of Canadians, to infringe the privacy of individuals both inside and outside Canada, to share information extensively, as well as detain and ‘list’ individuals on the basis that they might pose a threat to national security” (ibid.). Nelson points out that Bills C-13, C-44 and C-635 also link with C-51 to increase surveillance and curb rights to assemble and protest.
Dismantling Democracy accuses the federal government of placing dubious foreign policy before human rights and development. What is revealed is an appalling government record of withdrawing funding from the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) in July 2010 because the organization was expending effort to monitor federal policies on foreign affairs, aid, peace-keeping, trade and human rights. The Canadian government has, for instance, silenced “individuals and civil society organizations engaged in development or humanitarian work in the West Bank or Gaza, or with advocating human rights of Palestinians” (p. 56).
Examples of attacks on critics of the state of Israel include KAIROS, a faith-based charity that works on a range of issues, including peace between Palestine and Israel. They lost their funding, and so did The Canadian Arab Federation in 2009. The Arab Federation had tried to nurture links between Arabs in Canada and the Arab homelands. They supported causes such as human rights for Palestinians.
Their criticisms of the federal government and the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration were caustic. They were dumped, and the Harper government withdrew support for two research grants of the Mada al-Carmel Arab Centre for Applied Social Research in 2010. They were researching democracy and the human rights of Palestinian women in Israel. Like his mentor Netanyahu, Harper despises the Palestinian cause.
The silencing process has taken the form of interfering directly with individuals. Professors who even try to set up a conference on Israel-Palestine come under attack and find their funding vanished. The Canadian government even bans activists and humanitarians like George Galloway from speaking in Canada. The internationally respected Palestinian doctor, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, was prevented from speaking at a meeting organized by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). The government delayed working on his visa.
One grows weary reading this relentless report: there is more. The government even interferes with parliamentary agencies like Rights and Democracy over funding to three Israeli human rights groups—B’Tselem, Al Haq and Al Mezan. Harper ended up shutting Rights and Democracy down.
The report makes several conclusions. We cite just a few. The Canadian government is “failing to enhance democratic participation and the flourishing of Canadian democracy, its undermining of democracy is much more fundamental. It erodes established rights and practices that foster democratic participation, and silences the voices necessary to develop sound policy that serves all Canadians. Far from enhancing democracy, the Canadian government is stifling it” (p. 64).
“Parliamentary processes have been misused, and reduced funding and restrictive codes of conduct have threatened the ability of the public service to deliver frank, independent and competent advice. Interference with oversight mechanisms has frustrated their ability to hold the government accountable, and a weak framework for the protection of whistle-blowers has led to reprisals against those willing to expose government misconduct” (ibid.).
The tragedy of Harper’s Canada is that it has slid considerably down the slippery slope of the end of politics. Once the bottom has been reached—totalitarian rule from above—it is not easy to roll participatory democracy back up the hill.