Moving from London, England to Canada during the 1960s offered me the added benefit of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s vision of a Just Society. It was a decade of great social upheaval and turbulent change, but the idea of an attainable "just society" made these anxious years seem refreshing, exciting, and vibrant. For a young person from Britain, a country still steeped in the traditions of a hierarchical class system, Trudeau’s ideas of justice and equality were a breath of fresh air. Thus began my intense relationship with Canadian political life, which has continued ever since.
Trudeau had a broad, inclusive forward looking vision for Canada and he spoke of it with confidence and passion wherever he went. It was this vision that helped guide Canada toward its present course — a nation internationally acclaimed for its tolerant and caring society at home, as well as for championing peace through diplomatic dialogue and interaction. But today, the very thought that Canadian voters might hand over their country’s future to Stephen Harper and his Conservative agenda is tantamount to rejecting Trudeau’s legacy of formative values and vision.
I ask myself; Why is it that human beings are so prone to ignoring the lessons of history? Current events should remind us that the last time Canadians got mad at the Liberals, they let the heat of emotion cloud their judgment and handed our country over to Brian Mulroney and his government soon gave us cause to regret our folly. I confess that I wept when I learned Mulroney had won the election.
Today, when I hear reports, polls, and opinions that suggest Canadians are angry enough with the Liberals to give the reins of power over to Stephen Harper, I worry about the future integrity and survival of our social justice programs, environmental legislation, diplomatic foreign policy, aboriginal rights, the fight against child poverty, immigration reform, human rights, and our positive, effective image on the world stage.
For Canadians the stakes are far too high to let emotion cloud their judgment and ignore Mr. Harper’s hidden agenda on Election Day. While there is still time, we voters who remember history should emphasize the downside of what Stephen Harper’s brand of conservatism really means, especially in Ontario. If Ontarians liked what Mr. Mulroney did to Canada, what Mike Harris did to Ontario, and what George W. Bush is doing to America, both at home and abroad, the danger is that they will love what Harper plans to do to all of Canada.
Just for starters, when Canada decided not to join America in its illegal war against Iraq, Mr. Harper declared on the CBC: "We believe that is wrong." All other options have been exhausted. For twelve years the world has been trying to disarm Saddam Hussein.
When no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were found, Harper’s justification for Bush’s Iraq campaign was: "In our judgment, it was much more fundamental. It was the removing of a regime that was hostile, that clearly had the intention of constructing weapons systems. "There is no upside to the position Canada took," he told the Maclean’s Magazine.
Think about it — if Harper becomes PM, our daughters, sons, fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers, friends, could well be stuck in the military quagmire that is Iraq, dying in a war based on lies and fabrications. And if you believe in human rights, then remember this prophetic statement of Mr. Harper from a few years ago: "Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society – It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff."
And if you care about universal social programs, then you should also heed what Harper said a decade ago in his speech to the Colin Brown Memorial Dinner, National Citizens Coalition in 1994 : "Universality has been severely reduced: it is virtually dead as a concept in most areas of public policy ‘These achievements are due in part to the Reform Party’."
Several years later, he also objected to plans to eliminate child poverty: "These proposals included cries for billions of new money for social assistance in the name of ‘child poverty’ and for more business subsidies in the name of ‘cultural identity.’ In both cases, I was sought out as a rare public figure to oppose such projects."
And I would humbly suggest that if decent health care and lower taxes are important to you, then a recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal should be very relevant to your election decision. The bottom line is that private hospitals cost more than comparable Medicare services.
Canadians must recognize the power of their individual votes and the long term consequences of a Conservative government for the character of their country, especially for our social justice programs and world peace. Why are we being asked to mend what is not broken? This country, its social programs, and its foreign policies do not need "shock therapy" of the type Stephen Harper has in mind. What our great nation does need is tender loving care and a clear vision for the future, just as in the Trudeau era. This is the hope and prayer I offer — for My Canada.