It’s not the same old neighbourhood anymore. Change may seem imperceptible at times, but at some point you notice the trees have either grown or disappeared. The nice family next door has long gone and the fence is grey and rotting.
That’s how Joe Clark sees Canada today. As do Allan Gregg and Andrew Coyne.
A growing number of seasoned politicians and pundits have described in depth lately how Canada under Stephen Harper has become a strange and hostile place.
This is not the usual vitriol from partisans and left-wing zealots. They are thoughtful, reasoned observations. And they paint an alarming portrait of how this country has lost so much of its treasured prestige.
Gregg, a well-known researcher and television pundit, turned heads in the fall of 2012 with a blistering speech that chronicled the growing assault on evidence-based knowledge under Harper’s leadership. He reprised the theme in a speech to Alberta union members this past April.
What’s so astounding about Gregg’s revelations is not so much the rich trove of examples for his thesis — everything from spiking the mandatory long-form census forms to muffling environmental science — but the realization the Conservatives are deliberately trying to hide their agenda.
How do we know? For starters, from the naming of legislation. Here’s Gregg’s litany:
Bill C-10 — An Act to Enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism — is actually an omnibus bill which, among other things, stiffens penalties for possession of pot and builds more prisons.
Bill C-5, The Continuing Air Service for Passengers Act, is really just a bill to legislate a no-strike contract for airline workers.
A bill to “protect children” would actually have opened your computers to government snoops, and a bill boasting “market freedom” simply killed the Canada Wheat Board.
“By obfuscating the true purpose of laws under the gobbledy-gook of double speak, governments are admitting that their intentions probably lack both support and respect,” Gregg said. “Again, the lesson here is Orwellian … in the same way that reason requires consciousness, tyranny demands ignorance.”
Joe Clark, meanwhile, is promoting his new book “How to Lead” — something, evidently, he feels Harper has yet to learn.
Clark’s main lament: Canada has cashed in its worldwide reputation for exercising “soft power” in peacekeeping and mediation for a more belligerent image. And Clark should know, having served in Foreign Affairs.
“The government’s movement away from Canada’s soft power assets has grown more pronounced with each year in office,” he told The Toronto Star.
As for Andrew Coyne, his column in Thursday’s National Post says it all. The prime minister’s comical contortions over the current Senate scandal, he says, seem to signal a coup de grace to traditional expectations of culpability and honesty.
“There does not seem to be much that does bind the government: not convention, not its own promises, not even basic facts,” he writes.
Indeed, we are waking up to a very unfamiliar neighbourhood. And a very unfriendly one at that.