Tuesday, March 20, 2007

does harper have a split personality?

Will the real Stephen Harper please stand up?
Les Brost, For The Calgary Herald Monday, March 19, 2007

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a man of intellectual brilliance and mental discipline. He is capable of doing a skilful and incisive analysis of issues and he understands the nuances of words.

That's why Harper has me puzzled. There seem to be two Harpers, for the current prime minister uses words much differently than the way he did before moving into 24 Sussex Drive.

How else can we explain the two Harpers whom we have observed since he assumed the leadership of the Conservative party? There are two possibilities. Either the prime minister is having an identity crisis or he has an identical twin brother.

The first Stephen Harper -- the man we observed during the last two election campaigns -- was the nice Stephen Harper. This Stephen Harper chose his words very carefully to avoid scaring Canadian voters. He went out of his way to avoid sparking voter fears of a hidden right-wing agenda. People perceived him to be honourable and decent.

We've seen a different Stephen Harper since he moved into 24 Sussex Drive. Today's Stephen Harper is an ideological street fighter who uses simplistic arguments and emotional images to "sell" positions that don't stand up under careful analysis. His usage of the words "law and order" and "justice" as synonyms typify the sophistry used by this Stephen Harper.

"Law and order" is not at all identical to "justice." Stalinist Russia and Hitler's Germany had "law and order." Were they societies that respected fundamental justice?

Stalin and Hitler created states where the rule of "law" -- their law -- was rigorously maintained by manipulating public fear, racism and xenophobia. There was only one problem -- the "laws" that were enforced were profound perversions of justice. The innocent were punished while the guilty enforced the laws.

The "war on terror" has created situations in Canada that eerily echo that kind of "justice" and give us a hint about Harper's definition of justice.

Maher Arar was taken into custody by authorities and delivered into the hands of Syrian torturers. He was an innocent man caught in the grip of vigilante "justice" in Canada and the United States.

The government of Canada has accepted its overall responsibility. Harper correctly apologized to Arar and his government paid Arar $10 million of public money as compensation. Yet justice in the Arar case is incomplete. Have there been consequences for those whose actions delivered Arar into the hands of the Syrians?

Have any of those directly involved at CSIS or the RCMP walked the plank for their culpability? Does Harper believe that justice is served when those whose decisions and actions put Arar in a Syrian prison get a free pass and taxpayers foot the bill?

There is another hint to the Harper definition of justice in the proposed changes to the process used to select judges.

Harper wants to "right" the leftward tilt of the "activist judges" currently sitting on the Canadian bench. He would include police in the selection panels that recommend potential judges. Civil libertarians, legal experts and some conservative thinkers have united in opposing the proposal.

Why should police be involved in judge selection? Is it because of the temper of our times -- of the war on terror? Is it due to the perception that police and judges are part of the same "justice team" and therefore police views should be represented when judges are selected? That perception is fatally flawed. Police enforce the rule of law. Judges apply the law. There is a fundamental difference between law enforcement and justice. The cases of David Milgaard, Donald Marshall and Maher Arar all clearly define that difference.

So what does Harper really mean when he uses words such as "justice" and "law and order"? What does that tell us about Harper as a leader? Does he intend to govern from the centre, or is he playing to his old Reform base?

Is he the inherently decent man that most Canadians want him to be or is he a court-packing political ideologue like George W. Bush?

Will the real Stephen Harper please stand up?


MAW said...

Broad based tax relief you say, now that's something Ontario's Dalton McGuinty Liberal government should learn how to do like the last guy who did it so effectively, something John Tory is prepared to do when he is elected Premier of Ontario on October 2007.

So while you're waiting for Provincial tax relief, why not read about Stephen Harper’s Fiscal Balance Plan for the Provinces here: