Not your ordinary revolution

Lana Payne
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Scientists. Doctors. Nuclear engineers. Academics. Researchers. Stephen Harper has a big problem.

He has ticked them all off. And they are not suffering their grievances or concerns for informed, fact-based public policy and decision-making, the environment, the health of Canada’s most vulnerable citizens and the safety of all of us in silence.

No. Instead they are protesting, marching, disrupting government news conferences. They are mobilizing.

Last week, hundreds of scientists marched on Parliament Hill, condemning the Harper government’s cuts to science and environmental programs and regulations or what they described as the death to “evidence.”

Their website notes that the only specific evidence “Mr. Harper wants the public to know about is that which supports his political objectives and ideology. That’s not science, that’s propaganda.”

Doctors, not your usual demonstrators, have continued to protest cuts to Canada’s refugee health care program by interrupting news conferences and confronting federal cabinet members.

One of those doctors protesting last week was Dr. Philip Berger, chief of family medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Dr. Berger was reported as saying that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has cut health care for almost all categories of refugees, including medication for those who suffer heart attacks, or pregnant women. Dr. Berger said Conservatives should expect the actions by doctors to continue until the cuts are reversed.

Folks, this is not your ordinary revolution.

There were indications that Mr. Harper was indiscriminate with his agenda for the country last year when his government received unprecedented backlash (and from across the political spectrum) over the end of the mandatory, long-form census.

Academics. Public policy experts. Economists. Provincial governments. Almost anyone with a brain opposed the end of the mandatory long-form census, citing the loss of important data. Data needed for informed public policy decisions. All to no avail.

This is no surprise given how much this government has held facts and science in such contempt. In fact, not only are the facts dismissed, but the government is now purging the very programs and people who helped government with informed decision-making.

There is a growing list of Canadians who are denouncing the direction Prime Minister Stephen Harper is taking the country. It’s not just unions, federal workers, or progressive civil society organizations raising the alarm.

Rather the list of those discontent, unhappy, horrified, saddened, appalled, mobilized into action is growing in size and diversity. Like doctors and scientists.

Even seniors, many of whom have historically supported the Conservatives, are questioning the government’s actions especially since it decided to raise the age of eligibility for Old Age Security to 67.

A lesser nation

Dr. Jeff Turnbull, the former president of the Canadian Medical Association, in a thoughtful column

last week for The Ottawa Citizen, shared his growing concern for the nation.

With the planned cuts to OAS, refugee health care and employment insurance, to name a few, Dr. Turnbull said he now feared that “our collective legacy will be that of a lesser nation with an absence of strong, unifying core values.”

Dr. Turnbull, reflecting on the legacy we will leave future generations, wrote: “I realize that my good fortune is a product of the vision and sacrifice of those who came before. It was their legacy to us. I can only hope that we, as the current custodians of our collective identity, have the vision, courage and leadership to make those who will follow us proud of our enduring legacy to them.”

Dr. Turnbull is not alone in his anxieties. In fact, the polls tell us that the vast majority of Canadians, including 84 per cent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, reject the Harper government.

Some pundits say this is merely a hangover from 2008, when Premier Danny Williams led the ABC campaign.

Those who say this under-

estimate Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They have also failed to understand the core values that hold the people of our province together.

They are very similar to the values Dr. Turnbull referred to in his eloquent lament for our nation. Values like caring and sharing, compassion, fairness and equity. The very values that are under attack today.

But this is a prime minister and a government who have mobilized Canadians to take action, to protest, march and speak out. Canadians who would not normally do so. Canadians who care about the country, who care about how we treat the most vulnerable among us: the poor, the elderly. Who care about facts.

In two weeks, Canada’s premiers will meet in Halifax. Their agenda will be full. The economy, energy, federal cuts, health care, employment insurance, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. A big list.

But perhaps one of their biggest challenges will be how, or if, the premiers as a collective can mobilize against Mr. Harper in some fashion. Until now, Mr. Harper has, for the most part, ignored premiers and provinces.

But the provinces have power. The premiers just need to figure out how they want to use it and whether they can agree among themselves how best to do so. This won’t be easy, but it is not impossible.

It will require courage and leadership and an understanding that Canada is truly great when we are more than the sum of our parts.

It’s time for the premiers to start fighting back. And when they do, Canadians, the vast majority of us, will be with them.

Lana Payne is president of the

Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by email at

Her column returns July 28.

Organizations: Conservatives, Hospital in Toronto, Canadian Medical Association Ottawa Citizen ABC Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Canada, Parliament Hill, Michael Halifax

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Recent comments

  • dutchie
    July 30, 2012 - 19:23

    Sometimes it takes a "Payne" in the neck to wake us all up to what is happening to our democracy. This has nothing to do with which political party you support. It has to do with creating a just society for ALL; not just the elite. Demonizing refugees, scientists etc. is a terrible way to govern(?) a country. Adolf Harper is as close to a dictator as one can get.

  • Mark
    July 21, 2012 - 08:22

    Harper is a 1 man Government, other places in the world it is called a "dictatorship". Here in Canada it is called democracy.

  • Trevor
    July 17, 2012 - 23:27

    Funny how socialists like Lana Payne always rant and rave about science and facts, while denying facts that don't fit their ideology. For example, Payne opposes any limits at all on abortion, although it is a clear scientific fact (according to the Canadian Medical Association, the same organization whose leader Payne quotes in his article) that an unborn child is viable outside the womb by the gestational age of 20 weeks, and has all five physical senses as well as awareness of itself and its surroundings. Payne also clings to the defunct junk science of global warming, even though global temperatures have not risen in the last 15 years. And she opposes free trade, although every shred of empirical evidence demonstrates that free trade benefits all participating economies. In truth, it is socialists who ignore empirical facts that disprove their ideology.

    • e
      July 31, 2012 - 14:06

      You're kidding, right? As a direct result of NAFTA, 3 _million_ Mexican farmers were bankrupt... and that's just one result. And no one, not even the government seeking to keep "business as usual" still denies that the climate is changing. Finally, the fact that a foetus may be viable does not invalidate the mothers' rights. How can you expect anyone to take seriously the argument that a child's life holds supreme value, while simultaneously removing health care support for pregnant mothers and watching complacently as vast numbers of children are reduced to homelessness, poverty, and illness due to governmental policies?

  • Aunt Lizzie
    July 17, 2012 - 23:13

    The people quoted by Lana Payne might be medical experts, but they are not experts in immigration policy, or employment insurance, or OAS, or the "collective identity" of Canadians, or our "unifying core values." These are purely political and philosophical matters, about which these doctors have no more expertise or authority than I have. All they can offer is their personal opinions and political biases, the same as everyone else.

  • Carl
    July 17, 2012 - 23:06

    According to Lana Payne, "everyone with a brain" agrees with her socialist views. Only an insulting, intolerant bully would say such a thing. Especially considering that polls show a majority of Canadians agree with the Conservative govenrment's elimination of supplementary medical coverage (which most Canadians don't have) for refugee claimants. And polls showed a majority of Canadians (albeit a narrow one) opposed the mandatory long-form census. So according to Payne, the majority of Canadians have no brains. What a rotten thing to say.

  • Taylor
    July 17, 2012 - 22:59

    Every single article Lana Payne writes is a partisan diatribe against Stephen Harper. And she never discloses that she is an active member of the NDP.

  • DarbyCar
    July 16, 2012 - 13:47

    Excellent - and a shoutout to the provincial premiers is necessary. We cannot trust the federal government to either listen or act democratically. It appears that Elections Canada has been muffled, bought, unfunded, emasculated, whatever. The hope we had for any CPC backbenchers finding integrity has pretty much faded. Therefore we must now rely/hope on our judicial system, our premiers, First Nations, etc. to resist the Harper takeover of Canada's laws, resources and traditional values as much as possible. We need to support them.

  • Cheena Graham
    Cheena Graham
    July 15, 2012 - 03:51

    I disagree with the pundits that say this is merely a hangover from 2008, when Premier Danny Williams led the ABC campaign. Were that so, there wouldn't be nearly as much dissension, nor as widespread - because the feeling is unanimous all across Canada. (except for his small base, and even they are questioning his decisions) ........ A hangover it is not! Disgust, distrust, suspicion, betrayal, all these come to mind when thinking of this faux government. These core values you speak of that hold the people of your province together, also hold the whole of Canada together. In spite of harper's favourite ploy of 'divide and conquer', we are all one country, united, and as long as we remember that, and live it, there is not much rhetoric he can spout that will change it. If there was doubt, the 'cassaroles' of Quebeckers were heartily embraced and continue to be supported by the rest of Canada. These are very brave youngsters, and I admire them.... What is happening in Quebec is a microcosm of the rest of Canada. Sometimes it takes a younger generation to highlight to us what is really important; caring for our country, our democracy, helping our fellow man, becoming indignant when this is legislated away ... this is why Canada has always been held up an important example to the rest of the world, Unfortunately, harper and his faux govt. have taken over the attention currently, ~ but only as an overbloated and vacuous court jester on the world stage!

    • Lane
      July 17, 2012 - 23:18

      Cheena, the feeling of Newfoundlanders toward the Harper government is certainly not "unanimous all across Canada." It is not even unanimous in our own province, where Conservative candidates received 28% of the vote in the last federal election, and Labrador elected a Conservative MP. Across Canada, 40% of voters preferred the Conservative government, which is why they are still in government. In fact, the Conservatives have increased their share of the popular vote in every federal election held since the party was formed. Those are facts, whether you like them or not. But feel free to continue deluding yourself.

    • Thomas Darcy McGee
      July 17, 2012 - 23:33

      Cheena Graham: Do you seriously believe that the spoiled brat student protestors in Quebec are "heartily embraced" and "supported by the rest of Canada?" That's just a crazy thing to say! Even a large majority of Quebecers oppose the student protestors, and outside Quebec they have virtually no sympathy at all!

  • Anon
    July 14, 2012 - 10:49

    we'd be better off going back to responsible government.What people need to realize is that it's not just Harper screwing us, it's the banks, the corporations and the controlling elite. Harper is merely a lap dog and a tool of the purest form.