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This election is about Stephen Harper

An interesting political theory is that if an election campaign is all about someone, they will lose. In the upcoming election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper should be the issue.

In our lifetimes prime ministers Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark, John Turner, Brian Mulroney, Kim Campbell, Jean Chrétien, and Paul Martin all failed in some ways but I think they had one thing that Harper seems to lack . . . they cherished this country and the institutions that have made it unique.

No prime minister has raised the disrespect of Parliament to the level that this one has. He cares little for the House of Commons, and Question Period has become an exercise in evasion and finger pointing. Legislative announcements are made before a staged audience, seldom in the House where they should be.

The PM’s office has become a presidential bunker. Ministers are treated as puppets; members of Parliament must join the chorus of the party line, yet loyalty does not exist. Those who stray or disappoint or question are often thrown under the prime minister’s bus.

Pearson enhanced Canada’s reputation for fairness and balance in peacekeeping around the world. Harper has diminished our foreign service, our reputation at the United Nations, and continues to pick rhetorical fights for shortsighted political gain.

This prime minister has never stopped campaigning. His advertising is negative, personal, cheap, and incessant. He callously basks in celebrating our armed forces while ironically our soldiers and veterans still remain underfunded.

Pierre Trudeau had a vision for this country. He energized the young. It was exciting to be Canadian. He championed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Harper seeks to undo the Charter. He distrusts judges who apply it. He is eroding the rule of law, as we know it, and building rigidity into the system. Discretion is his nightmare.

Historically, when Canadians travelled around the world, our flag was stitched into our knapsacks and clothing. It was a symbol of balance, happiness, and acceptance. Under this prime minister, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of our flag was muted, no, actually it was all but non-existent.

Brian Mulroney’s sometimes-boisterous blarney promoted our friendship and business connections with the United States. This prime minister wagged his finger at Barack Obama using a pipeline as a weapon of arrogance. It got our nation nowhere.

The entire world is awakening to an environment in peril. The future of the planet is the responsibility of every citizen, every nation, and every leader. Harper does not talk about the environment. Each year he photo-ops in the North, with blinders that block climate change around him. He continues to miss opportunities to lead, to speak up, and to protect our planet for future generations.

Every prime minister in the aforementioned list had a vision of a better country, a hopeful future. This prime minister seems to have no vision for this country. He does not lead; he manages for his base every day every moment.

Most leaders face, some even embrace the media. They, elected by the public, allow themselves to be questioned, scrutinized, and sometimes even answer. Not Harper.

Media scrums are as foreign as the non-existent press conference. His engagement with the media and hence the public, is staged, managed, and always scripted.

Jean Chrétien was a charming scrapper, engaging, smart, and quotable. He, like other prime minsters, had a message to explain, perhaps to sell his policies and often faced the media. Harper seldom engages. His occasional singing of Beatles songs seems to be as much engagement as can be expected.

We are a comparatively young country, which has slowly come to embrace our First Nations and a rich aboriginal heritage, too long ignored. Harper should be commended for his apology in the House of Commons but other than that, does he embrace that heritage?

I think if we canvas the world about ourselves, most would say Canadians are friendly and accepting and for the most part we like each other and attempt to honour cultural differences. Recently the prime minister’s comments seem to be anti-Muslim and unfortunately promote intolerance.

We expect our leaders to promote hope and a better future based on mutual respect and hard work. Harper on the other hand is the harbinger of fear. Paradoxically while he campaigns against violent crime he embraces gun ownership. His law-and-order campaign featuring safe streets, safer communities, mandatory minimums, erosion of parole, and discretion are all political, cynical, unnecessary, and are changing the face of this nation from within.

Our courts and justice system are the envy of the world and have always been the source of pride and balance. This prime minister is destroying them.

He is in conflict with the judiciary. Make no mistake that what he sees as proactive judges are currently and will be targets in the next election. His messages are disappointingly mimicked by many who should know better. In early March, RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson commenting on anti-terrorism and bill C-51 is quoted (in The Globe and Mail) as saying: “a recent request for a peace bond was put off for a month” arguing the court disregarded the urgency of the request. “It doesn’t seem consistent with what we are trying to advance. While the legislation and proposed legislation is adequate and the proposed legislation would be helpful, I think we need to rethink in this country how we manage the courts.”

Neither the prime minister, Minister of Justice Peter MacKay, nor it seems anyone else, called him out on such improper comments.

Bill C-51, the anti-terrorist bill is a demonstration of omnibus-like legislation too frequently rolled out by this government. Once the layers are peeled back, there is much more than simply anti-terrorism provisions. There are many issues essentially already covered by existing legislation. We find a lack of clarity, vague definitions, expanded information sharing, new police powers, and of course no suggestion of meaningful independent oversight.

It is notable that the weekend of March 15 found public demonstrations across the country by ordinary citizens who see signs of 1984 in bill C-51.

In a similar vein, the proposed and totally unnecessary “life means life” legislation replaces judicial and parole board discretion and shockingly introduces cabinet review of parole eligibility of person’s deemed to fall into a certain category of murder.

The legal profession in this country has an obligation to protect the justice system from political interference.

There is a way to accomplish this. Our profession must ensure that this election is about Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

  • Bill C-51

    Red Forneri
    I'm voting ABC Strategically. I'm voting for the opposition candidate in my local riding that has the best chance of beating a CONservative candidate in my local riding. Our outdated election system FPTP is not in our favour, therefore it is our only hope in HE77 to remove a dictator from office.

    Further more I'm not buying Trudeau's support of Bill C 51, by voting along with harper con self serve atives, that is most troubling of all. I've always voted Liberal, not this's looking like NDP will take the riding of Niagara Falls Ont.

    great comments, though you should have left out the part Trudeau He championed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. By supporting the CONs, he trashed our Charter Rights and Freedoms, concerning Bill C51. There was NO reason at all for Trudeau liberals to support the con government on this bill...they have a majority. So i'm now suspicious of his motives.

    Great work by the way, you nailed harper to the cross.
  • Ms.

    Nancy McManus
    He was referring to Trudeau senior when he said that he championed our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not young Trudeau who is running now. "Pierre Trudeau had a vision for this country. He energized the young. It was exciting to be Canadian. He championed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. " When commenting about quotes in the article, it is important to pay attention to detail, especially when there are two leaders by the same name. One who was in power, and one who is running for PM.
  • My Eyes r open

    Free in Sauga
    His response to Omar Khadr getting bail was a good display of his bigotry
    Seems they don't want to let this go, Blaney said so already... Wow !!
    Canada will not survive another Harper run, prepare everyone !
    Arm yourselves with facts , tell your family and friends to vote out this hateful creature
    A Canada without freedom of speech is not worth living in
  • Harper's true intentions

    Sam C.
    Here's Harper's vision for Canada in a nutshell: A country where the wealthy appoint the political lackeys to do their bidding (they'll be handsomely rewarded after leaving office, a la Tony Blair), essentially dictating policy in every area. The result will be a massive shift in wealth and income, as tax cuts for the rich are implemented, environmental and other regulations are gutted, social services and payments drastically cut and a security and surveillance state is implemented to watch and intimidate dissidents.
  • Negativity Verboten to Harper

    Tom Tierney
    All PM'S have faced criticism, comes with the job. No other PM has employed a cadre of watchers & writers to dispute negative press. Yet Harper keeps tilting at windmills, promoting a pro neocon agenda. Which goes against Charter Rights & human rights.
  • Re: This election is about Stephen Harper

    Angela Boehm
    Back in the day, when candidates were on the campaign trail to replace Paul Martin, I used to say that Mr. Harper had a hidden agenda that would probably make our hair curl if we were privy to it....this was the main reason I didn't vote for him---ever!! Too scary!! I want someone with a hint of compassion for the country and people that he claims to love and protect.
  • Mr.

    Horst Klaus
    He seems to listen to nobody - Harper just does what he wants, my way or the Highway! Maybe he wants to get involved more in the Middle East After selling Canadian weapons to Saudis, he can now work with the Saudis killing Houdis in Yemen? Wouldn't! surprise me!
  • Ms

    Cheena graham
    Excellent article! I am recommending and sharing it to my circle of friends. Thanks so much!
  • Thank you

    Carmel Suttor
    Thank you for writing this insightful piece. It lays out clearly the fundamental differences between normal political rivalry and the deep contempt that Harper shows towards the electorate, the opposition and the laws of the country. Please make it available for everyone by getting it published.
  • Here we go again...

    Jonathan Westphal
    Is there a full moon tonight?
  • Mr.

    Joe Simpson
    The mocking response in Parliament today by PM Stephen Harper to a valid, serious question by Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair on the issue of the international legality of Canada's intervention in Syria, is yet another example of the man's underlying contempt for the House, as well as his favourite sneaky tactic of isolating a target group (in this case "lawyers") for vilification - the classic schoolyard bully tactic. Quite rightly Mulcair protested to the Speaker about the "idiocy" of that so-called response. Post-9/11 George Bush has his twin alive and well in 2015 election year Canada!
  • Here we go again

    Jonathan Westphal
    Well, here is an article on the legalities of an attack on Syria that you may find interesting:

    But I don't think Mr.Mulcair is all that interested in a debate, since there he appears to be against the use of military force in virtually all circumstances. If you think there is some golden age in the past when there was civil, meaningful debate in Parliament, then I have some swampland in Florida to sell you.
  • Mr.

    Joe Simpson
    The Biter Bit ...
  • Mr.

    Joe Simpson
    Stephen Harper is the embodiment of personal animus against others who disagree with him, can it be so surprising that some of that animus rebounds on him? He who lives by the sword .... (etc.)
  • Mrs.

    Merna Craig
    I am very happy, as an ordinary Canadian, to learn that such a learned part of our citizenry believes and thinks in the same way I do. Please keep up with your goal of putting an end to tyranny of Stephen Harper. Thank you!
  • Ms.

    G Johnson
    You guys are the lawyers My question is - can't someone arrest this egocentric warmonger. Are we not in Iraq and soon Syria illegally? I propose that somehow he is going to orchestrate a "real terrorist" attack in Canada just prior to the elections-and that scares the shit it of me. Harper has no regard for anyone but himself and I don't think t
    what I am proposing would be much of a stretch for him.
  • Mr.

    Romeo LeBlanc
    Canadians are truly being CONNED by this hateful bigot of a racist man named steven harper, he is degrading the good name and reputation of my country called Canada in the eyes of the world by encouraging Canadians to go to war with foreign countries that we have no business judging.
    Here in Canada he continues to deceit us with Bills like C-51 that will take away rights and freedoms that our veterans fought for to preserve. All Canadians including those in the west must work hard and defeat all CONSERVATIVES in our local voting areas on election day,than, we can begin to repair the damage harper has done to Canada.
  • Ms.

    noreen galvin
    Thank you for an excellent article. I think Canadians instinctively know this as media is filled with distrust and dislike of harper.
  • Here we go again

    Jonathan Westphal
    Thanks commenters for illustrating my point. Does it serve any purpose to publish an article that simply leads to a hatefest agsinst the current government in the comments section? Might it not be better to keep the magazine out of politics and stick to discussing legal issues? For the record, if Mr. Trudell were to write an article on what he sees as the substantive issues with Bill C-51 and how it could be improved, I'd be very interested. His personal animus against PM Harper, which appears to be mirrored by many of commenters here, not so much.
  • Mr.

    Horst Klaus
    In my sixty-two years in Canada - 57 of them as citizen - I have never be so disappointed about any of our governments as I am about this Harper war mongering government!
  • Barrister

    Lesli Bisgould
    Thanks for an excellent summary, Bill. To more fully touch on all of the actions this Prime Minister has taken to undermine the fundamental principles of democracy, one would have to write something the length of one of those omnibus bills.
  • Here we go again...

    Jonathan Westphal
    Well Bill, thanks for summarizing the article so well. Anyone whose political views diverge from yours, or Mr. Trudell's, or Ms. Belanger's, is "dumb". Because your views are so self evidently correct, apparently. Thanks for your cogent analysis.
  • conservatives

    Bill Swanson
    if you're a lawer and a Conservstive party supporter you are really dumb and didn't pay attention at all in law school
  • Less Politics, More Legal Analysis Please

    Jonathan Westphal
    Well "Progressive Thinker", I don't know what kind of bubble you live in, but there are plenty of people in the legal profession who aren't knee jerk progressives on every issue. I enjoy much of the writing on legal issues in Canadian Lawyer, but I think it would be better to leave politics out of it and avoid giving partisan shills a bully pulpit to push their political views on the rest of us. If you want to know why, have a look at the toxic swamp that is the comments section of any political article in the Globe and Mail, as an example.
  • Colour mesuprised

    Paul M
    I'm SHOCKED, SHOCKED, that the criminal defence lawyer for the Ontario Liberal Party hates Harper.
  • Informed Citizen

    Chris Budgell
    "Our courts and justice system are the envy of the world." Gosh, where have I heard that before? Which world, we should ask.

    The opening list of eight former PM's includes just one - Lester Pearson - who wasn't a lawyer. How is it that after a succession of seven lawyer PM's, equipped as they all undoubtedly were with the utmost respect for our governing institutions, we end up with another non-lawyer who allegedly demonstrates none of that respect? Can anyone suggest what went wrong?
  • General Counsel

    Jonathan Westphal
    Since when did Canadian Lawyer magazine become an outlet for Mr. Trudell's partisan ramblings? Can we expect more political screeds as the federal election draws closer, and if so will Canadian Lawyer make sure to include those espousing views contrary to those of Mr. Trudell for the sake of balance? Or should Canadian Lawyer perhaps confine itself to commentary on legal matters?
  • Progressive Thinker

    Colette Belanger
    I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who still respects the laws, the courts and Parliament that would express views contrary to those of Mr. Trudell. Everything he has stated above about Mr. Harper is true. This country cannot withstand another stint of Harperism.