'Mother Canada': Harper builds another monument to himself

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For those who still don't fully understand the game, the "Mother Canada" controversy should provide some enlightenment.

The discovery that Parks Canada has furnished $100,000 to the project -- after swearing that the statue in Cape Breton Highlands Park was a purely private project -- blows the lid off the scheme.

The political engineering on this comes from the Prime Minister's Office. This is Stephen Harper building yet another monument to himself.

It's not just the money. The fact that the rules governing national parks have been casually trashed to accommodate the project has the PMO's fingerprints all over it.

No use hollering at Parks Canada bureaucrats. Like everyone else in government, they've been reduced to yo-yos of the PMO, detached from their guiding principles.

And as in other branches of government, my firm guess is that most of them are a seething mass of resentment at seeing the carefully evolved policies governing national parks over the decades chucked in the garbage. And as with other branches of government, I'm just waiting for someone with knowledge of the inside to come out and spill the details.

Further, it fits a monument-building pattern. There's the $25-million exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Immigration in Halifax, unveiled this week, while the government pursues essentially an anti-immigrant, anti-refugee policy.

There's the huge, ugly "victims of communism" memorial (now scaled back under public pressure) in Ottawa next to the Supreme Court building that seems designed as an affront to the court and to the rule of law itself.

And this: a war memorial which, if it impressed anybody, would nicely camouflage an absurdly war-mongering foreign policy in which Harper goes around threatening Russia with tough talk while armed with wet noodles.

And there's a problem with some of the "patrons" of this thing. Despite his contempt for the media and his continuous efforts to manipulate it, Harper has had an unusual power to seduce the big egos of the TV networks, with Mike Duffy being only the worst example.

Now we find CTV news anchor Lisa Laflamme and CBC's Peter Mansbridge and Rex Murphy signed up on what is essentially a political project dressed up in private garb. I suggest the CBC brass not relax quite yet in their quest to straighten out the journalistic ethics at the top.

And keep in mind that monuments are only a small part of the whole that, perhaps, will at last get fully exposed to a distracted public before the upcoming election.

Throughout the Harper Conservatives' nearly 10 years in power, there was hardly a time when you couldn't round up, within the past few weeks' news, a full bag of new scandals, subversions or just dirty tricks meant to undermine the rule of law, parliamentary processes, the environment, the integrity of the electoral system, the tax system, federal scientists and more.

It has been a measure of Harper's genius as a master of political control, manipulation and propaganda to keep this, until now, from visibly adding up and inflicting deserved political damage.

For last week's news, you wouldn't have to go much further than former Harper point man Dean del Mastro being sentenced to prison time for electoral fraud. The judge said his crime was an affront to Canadian democracy. Del Mastro responded that that was the judge's "opinion."

That's the Harper government talking -- they're above the law and have the right to defraud the electoral system. In fact, they have pretty well done so with their so-called Fair Elections Act, that may disenfranchise as many as 100,000 voters and has crippled the Chief Electoral Officer's power to watch for fraud.

But there's, in fact, more. There was scientist Ron Macnab explaining in the Chronicle Herald last week how Harper messed up a decade of scientific work on Arctic boundaries by simply redrawing the boundaries on a political whim and demanding the scientists justify them. It may cost $100 million or more to set this right.

Or, there was an Ottawa Citizen investigation on the $2-billion Conservative infrastructure fund, of which half went to Quebec and some Ontario municipalities that didn't qualify got the money anyway. The program was applied "with little apparent oversight, regulation, auditing or attempt to disperse the money evenly," said the paper.

We have here the revelation of a little truism. Ideology breeds incompetence. As surely as trying to run a society with Mao's little red book ends up in disaster, so will ruling with Harper's little blue agenda, intended to bend the nation's soul to his will.

The evidence is all there in spades and need only make it into the distracted public mind. Sustaining the myth of his economic competence has in fact been Harper's greatest achievement.

Amid all this, at least the way forward is clear. This bad movie must come to an end if the country is to move forward.

Ralph Surette is a freelance journalist in Yarmouth County. This column was first published in the Chronicle Herald.

Photo: pmwebphotos/flickr

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