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Harper lets loose his rabid dogs

John Bell

April 2, 2015

Thanks to a monomaniacal devotion to the chimera of energy superpowerdom, Stephen Harper and his Tories have driven the Canadian economy into the dumpster. With the election deadline looming he has one hope: to make you so afraid you won’t risk changing horses in midstream. Terror is the message, 24/7.
Of course it isn’t entirely new, since Harper’s regime has been slavishly pro-Israel and anti-Islam from the get-go in 2006. Militarism is at the heart of Harper’s project, and that requires wars, and those require enemies, and Muslims are handy and easily identifiable. But as the economy has worsened the chorus of fear-mongering has become more frequent and shrill. And that chorus has reached a climax of sorts with the tabling of Bill C-51
Barking on command
Before cataloguing some of the stupid, slimy and downright racist pronouncements emanating from the Tory caucus, it is worth reminding ourselves that none of Harper’s cohort—neither back benchers nor cabinet ministers—is allowed to speak unless they faithfully stick to the message approved by the Prime Minister’s Office.

You don’t have to take my word for that. I refer you to Irresponsible Government: the Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada, written by former Tory MP Brent Rathgeber. Embarrassed by Harper’s bungling of the F-35 fighter jet purchase, Rathgeber criticized his own party in his blog. Almost immediately the phone rang, and a member of Harper’s cadre demanded the blog post be removed. When the MP’s assistant refused, the voice on the phone said: “You don’t understand. I’m calling from the PMO.” In Rathgeber’s words, under Harper the role of Tory MPs is “cheerleading and barking on command.”

There are 3,300 communication staffers working for the Harper government, estimated to cost taxpayers $263 million this year alone. They monitor media of all sorts (Hi guys!), including the social media accounts of Tory MPs. The government that scrapped the census to save money spends a fortune on spin control.

Thats the context. Here’s the particular.
Recently a Tory non-entity like Winnipeg MP Lawrence Toet sent a mailout to all his constituents containing this survey question: 

  • I agree with my MP Lawrence Toet. We must take additional action to protect Canada from terrorism.
  • I disagree. Terrorists are victims too.

So much for serious debate. My point is that, while Lawrence Toet is a little cruder than some of his more noteworthy Tory colleagues, he is right on message, barking on command.
While just about everyone with an IQ above a fence post agrees that Toet’s question is absurd, no such consensus exists over the disgraceful performance of high-profile Tory Diane Ablonczy before the committee debating Bill C-51. Instead of dealing with legitimate concerns over the anti-democratic provisions of Bill C-51, Ablonczy launched into a racist attack on the National Council of Canadian Muslims. She used her bully pulpit (and parliamentary immunity from slander prosecution) to accuse the NCCM of supporting “Islamic terrorist groups”, particularly Hamas. Her performance was rightly described as “McCarthyesque”.

The NCCM is currently suing former PMO spokesperson Jason MacDonald, who made similar accusations in public. They have consistently opposed using violence as a tactic to achieve political aims. Their only “crime” is to oppose Harper’s slavish support for Israel, and to support human rights for Palestinians.

The message and the method is clear: if you oppose this legislation you must support terrorism. You either stand with Harper or you stand with terrorists. The McCarthy style inquisition extended to others groups opposing the Bill. 

When Carmen Cheung of the BC Civil Liberties Association raised concerns about lack of transparency and oversight, Tory MP Rick Norlock responded: “Is there any degree of checks and balances that would satisfy you? Are you simply fundamentally opposed to taking terrorists off the street?”

Then it was Greenpeace’s turn. Tory MP LaVar Payne confronted Greenpeace executive director Joanne Kerr with: “The purpose of the act is sharing for national security threats, so it makes me wonder if your organization is a national security threat?”
Women’s rights
The desperate, cynical tactics of fearmongering, racism, slander and innuendo are not restricted to the Bill C-51 hearings. On International Women’s Day, newly minted Minister of Defence Jason Kenney tweeted: “On #IWD2015 thank you to the @CanadianForces for joining the fight against #ISIL’s campaign to enslave women & girls”. He illustrated his point with photos of Muslim women being paraded in chains.
One problem, the photos actually illustrate women voluntarily reenacting the Muslim equivalent of a passion play. The story celebrates the heroism of women descendants of the prophet Mohammad who faced martyrdom. The photos themselves have been circulating on the internet for years, predating the existence of ISIL. No apology or retraction was forthcoming from warlord Kenney.
The Tory myth that Canada is warring in the Middle East in defence of women’s rights and freedoms jarred with events at home. Here Toronto woman Zunera Ishaq won her court case over Tory demands that she be forced to remove her niqab face covering to take her citizenship oath. The court’s judgment was met with a full chorus of Tory barking dogs. By the way, the insult to Ishaq originated in 2011 with then-Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney.

Pretending to fight to free Muslim women in Syria, while subjecting them to scapegoating in Toronto. Pretending to export democratic “values” abroad at the point of a gun, while trampling them at home. Trying to distract us from the economic disaster they’ve wrought with racism and war hysteria. The barking dogs of Harper’s Tory caucus are starting to foam around the mouth.
If you like this article, register for Rage Against the System, a weekend conference of ideas to change the world. Sessions include “Stopping Harper’s agenda,” “Imperialism and resistance,” and “Secularism, Islamophobia and the new racism.”

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