One of the freedoms we cherish in Canada is our freedom to vote, our democratic system. And now we face another federal election. All the parties are trying to win our votes. All proclaim themselves champions of democracy. But the Conservative Party is demonstrating a complete disregard for our rights and freedoms. I hope even those who are true blue Conservatives will recognize that allowing Stephen Harper to continue leading this country could have a devastating impact on our rights.
I read with stunned disbelief about the Conservative Party’s rallies. They throw out people whom they suspect of being sympathetic to anyone other than the Conservatives. They have teams checking people’s Facebook pages and car bumper stickers for evidence of disloyalty. So apparently they do not want to attract prospective voters, people outside the inner circle – they want to exclude everyone who is not a card-carrying Conservative. That bodes ill if they come back into power, as it truly suggests they only want to take care of “their own” and that they see no reason to respect the right of, for example, a political science student to listen to the discussions of all parties. What do they fear? That someone might ask a question Stephen Harper can’t answer? That someone might disagree with their policies? What happened to freedom of speech?
It’s downright creepy. Such behaviour conjures images of totalitarian states where one is not permitted to speak against the government, where the leader is cordoned off from the public (possibly in his mansion or palace) and surrounded by bodyguards or thugs.
And let’s not forget that the self-proclaimed “Harper Government” (no mention of the rest of the country) is the first government in the Commonwealth to be found in contempt of parliament. That’s a pretty blatant statement of disregard for democracy. But Harper shrugs it off. After all, he’s kept the economy in decent shape. We have to be very careful here. If we elect someone simply to save our jobs or our (corporate) savings, regardless of his ethics, we are paving the way for a dictatorship, which would suit Mr. Harper very well. He already controls what members of his cabinet are allowed to say in public and how many questions the press are allowed to pose. If we re-elect the Conservatives we would also be indicating we don’t care if the government hides what it is doing and spies on us, ignores parliamentary process and only ensures that the rich stay rich.
In contrast to what Harper is doing, all the other parties look golden. Two weeks ago I got a call from Jack Layton. Well, a recorded message, though for a minute I really thought I had him on the line. He invited me to join a town hall style teleconference, and when the NDP called back the following night, I thought, why not? So I listened in.
True, the NDP probably invited known sympathizers to participate (although I was not a party member.) Also true that no one had the chance to harass Jack in person because it was a phone call, but we did have Jack himself on the line for over an hour, answering questions from people all over the country. On the spot, without any handlers. It was refreshing to hear him respond, to hear his passion for the issues. At one point he apologized “Sorry if I seem a little heated about this, but it really makes me angry.” Imagine, a politician sharing his feelings with people he doesn’t even know, people who haven’t been vetted by his team. Someone who did not support the NDP might even have listened in.
A vote for Harper – or anyone in his party – is a vote against democracy. Think about it, Canada.