When the mud flies ...

Lana Payne
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When you throw mud, you should expect some to fly back. Just ask Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. Or better yet, tell him.

The federal Conservatives have spent years perfecting their mud-throwing tactics, demonizing their opponents with over-the-top and highly inflammatory rhetoric.

Instead of debating the issues with facts - mostly because the Harper Conservatives rarely deal in facts - they instead strive to lower the level of Parliamentary discourse, and have succeeded in doing so.

Vic Toews is no stranger to mudslinging. During debate (and I use the term loosely) on the government's now infamous "Internet snooping" bill, instead of arguing the merit of the proposed legislation, Mr. Toews told critics they "can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

As veteran Ottawa journalist Susan Delacourt pointed out in her Toronto Star blog, these kind of inflammatory comments have in recent years become "business as usual" in Ottawa where opponents of the Conservatives are likened to Hitler, or said to be allies of pedophiles, child pornographers or friends of the Taliban.

National Post columnist Andrew Coyne has, on many occasions, complained of the "escalation in rhetoric" that has contributed to the "general climate of hysteria in which politics is conducted these days." Strong words indeed.

Gerald Caplan, a well-known progressive and a columnist for The Globe and Mail, recently wrote: "lying is the very mother's milk of Harperland morality. When you invent your own reality, you can also invent your defence." Hitting below the belt, he says, has become standard practice.

What became crystal clear during the latest mudfest is that Vic Toews has no problem dishing out ugliness, but whines when the mud hits the fan and flies back to cover his face.

That's not to say I agreed with all the personal details of Mr. Toews' divorce being tweeted to the planet. Mr. Toews I could care less about. He deserves what he gets. His ex-wife and kids are another matter. They have no control over his horrible behaviour.

The problem is no one wins when political discourse turns ugly. Just ask the Americans.

In one of his last speeches in the Senate before he retired, Lowell Murray, a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, had this to say about the Harper government.

"I rather think something in the DNA of this government is never satisfied with a win but must try to destroy their adversaries. They are never satisfied to have adversaries. They must try to portray them as enemies. ... We have seen cases many times in the past where the actions or policies of a government have had the effect of dividing Canadians and dividing the country. This is the first government that I have known that has intended to divide by its action and intended to turn people against" each other.

But the sad fact is that gutter tactics, inflammatory rhetoric and untruths work for the Conservatives. They are a great diversion strategy when a government does not want to answer real questions about their actions.

Much easier to name call than explain why the government's proposed "Internet snooping" legislation will hand over new powers to police that would require Internet service providers to release basic identifying information without a warrant.

But then this kind of behaviour is not just condoned by Stephen Harper, it is encouraged, cheered on, in the daily talking points issued from his office to his ministers and backbenchers.

In fact, as Ms. Delacourt points out in her blog, the day after Mr. Toews made his nasty comment in Parliament, the prime minister continued along in the same vein calling on the Opposition to side with his government against child pornography.

Outside Parliament, the same politics of division and fear are practised.

Take Human Resources Minister Diane Finley's comments last week to a business audience about the Old Age Security (OAS) program, where she continued with the message of "we can't afford pensions," telling young people that the cost of OAS was just "unsustainable." Ironically, we can afford billions and billions in corporate tax cuts, but not decent retirement benefits.

Of course, Ms. Finley's complaints are contrary to all the evidence, including from the federal Department of Finance. But hey, why ruin a good talking point with the truth?

And then there is the fudging of the truth when it comes to the government's finances and why they are proposing deep cuts.

The union representing government economists warned last week that plans to cut $8 billion in federal spending will result in a loss of 116,000 jobs and will plunge the country into another recession.

They aren't the only folks saying this. Doug Porter, a senior economist with BMO, recently warned the Harper government to be very careful with its budget cuts.

He noted that the deficit is actually shrinking without the cuts. "And yet, the headlines are full of how the federal government is preparing for deeper cuts and a more rapid attack on the deficit. We would simply ask ... to what end? The markets are not exactly braying for deeper restraint from Canada. ... Meantime, growth has slowed ... and hardly needs another downward shove from even deeper restraint."

But the Harper Conservatives are engaged in an ideological war. And winning that war, by any means necessary, is all that matters.

Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by email at lanapayne@nl.rogers.com. Her column returns March 10.

Organizations: Harper Conservatives, Taliban, National Post Globe and Mail Old Age Security Department of Finance BMO Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Carl
    February 27, 2012 - 21:28

    Funny how the anti-Conservative haters have completely forgotten that the same internet crime bill was introduced (twice) by the Liberals in previous parliaments.

  • Anon
    February 26, 2012 - 18:04

    It doesn't matter. The vote will pass, the senate will let it through and we'll be one step deeper into a police state. This country is dead. Occupy Everything. FOURTH ATTEMPT AT A POST, TELEGRAM YOUR CAPTCHA SUCKS

  • Maggy Carter
    February 26, 2012 - 09:55

    One wonders whether the cynical Harper view of the electorate as something to be deceived and manipulated is not a trait that is being increasingly embraced by the Dunderdale government. This province's per capita debt - already among the highest in Canada - will more than double when Musksrat Falls is developed. It will mean a doubling of electrical rates in this province when there are already many thousands of seniors and others on fixed income who spend half their days sitting in the cold. It will also mean higher taxes and less money for health, education and the maintenance of the crumbling infrastructure across the province. Despite that chilling prospect, this government had long ago decided that the public review process would be gutted, that information on the project would be distorted or withheld altogether, that there would be no informed debate, and that anyone who spoke publicly against it would be maligned and discredited by ministers and their minions - including the no-name john smiths who roam these boards ready to attack at the slightest sign of opposition. While the Liberals have been vocal in their opposition to the project, the NDP position is still in doubt. Ms. Michaels has objected to the narrow terms of reference given to the PUB but has not actually criticized the project itself. Notably her predecessor and now federal MP Jack Harris has come out full swing in defence of the project -so we can only guess that the local Never-ending Debt Party is a closet Muskrat supporter.

  • sealcove
    February 25, 2012 - 09:26

    Just like the fiberals

    • Robert Ferguson
      February 25, 2012 - 18:54

      I believe that the police have all the advantages they need to find abusers on the internet. Look at the number of child pornographers that were arrested here and in other countries recently. The police are not interested in civil rights. They are interested in promotions and some in being violent. To allow the police to snoop throws out a 1000 years rights won by brave men and women, sometimes with their lives. The reason for those rights is that we cannot trust either the police or politicos to do anything other than look after themselves. As proof we need only look a the police behaviour at the G whatever summit in Toronto and the lies every government has spun over the years.

  • TheLaughingMan
    February 25, 2012 - 08:53

    Stephen Harper, Rob Nicholson, John Baird, Jim Flaherty and Vic Toews, along with the rest of the Conservatives are liars, cheats and thieves! Bill-C10 threatens to throw many in jail longer and needlessly! Bill C-11 would strip Canadians of even more rights to what we already own and censor our flow of information! Bill-30 will strip us of our privacy! Now lets not forget the G20 fiasco, Vic Toews immortal centimes about Canadians being pedophiles, the planned pension cuts, or their election fraud, and now they're delaying the budget, as if we don't know their motivations! The fascist Conservatives and would turn our country into an Orwellian nightmare! They aren't even a legitimate government! Canada needs to rise up march on Ottawa and occupy the parliament! We need to take back our country, remove the Conservatives from power! Those that would appose the will of the people need to be taught a lesson, followed by some good old fashion tarring and feathering, finish with banishing traitors from Canada! Finally Canadians need some laws that allow us to force referendums on the government and punish corrupt politicians who think they can screw with their people, their employers, you and me! Shout from every mountain top, "WE WILL NOT STAND FOR CORRUPTION WITHIN OUR GOVERNMENT! WE'RE COMING FOR YOU HARPER REGIEM! EXPECT US!" People shouldn't fear the government, the government should fear the people!