"I'm not celebrating Canada Day this year. Harper's killed it for me."
My husband blurted out these words the other day when I saw a Canada Day advertisement in the newspaper and asked what we-as a family-might want to do Sunday to celebrate our nation's 145th birthday. I've become more patriotic since becoming a mother and want my children to know the history of their country and be excited and proud of where they live.
So his words bowled me over. I actually felt sad that he felt so sad.
I doubt anyone would describe my fella as political. We've had our fair share of "discussions" over political matters, but I'm the most politically annoyed member of our family on a regular basis. Not him.
My husband is the first Canadian I know boycotting Canada Day because of the sitting prime minister. Wow.
But don't worry folks. No Maple Leaf flags or effigies of Stephen Harper are going to get torched. Not our style and I don't want to frighten the children. I try to choose my words carefully if my children are within earshot of political or religious discussions, which is difficult, given I was raised Roman Catholic by Scottish immigrants in Quebec where we ate politics for breakfast. It's why I left la belle province, though I heartily encourage Canadians to spend a year there to better understand Canada's other solitude. Or forgo that Mexico or Hawaii trip and visit Montreal and Quebec City instead. They truly are unlike any other cities in the country.
As I digested my husband's antiCanada Day sentiments, I began to feel as he does. Deflated.
I have voted for every major federal political party in my more than 25 years of visiting the voting booth, but no prime minister has left me as despondent over the future as Stephen Harper. Jean ChrÃ©tien and Brian Mulroney ticked me off but good many times, but not quite in the same daily way Harper and his Tories manage.
The Canada of 2012 just doesn't feel like the Canada of even two years ago. What happened? There is no one thing, but an accumulation of so many illogical decisions and disturbing acts of prime ministerial hubris that have simply worn us out. We should all be concerned for our parliamentary democracy given what has gone on the last few years. Our PM governs for corporations, not the people, which makes it hard to celebrate a country's independence day. Harper may have won his firstpast-the-post majority (of which only 39 per cent of 60 per cent of Canadians actually voted for the Tories), but his democratic disdain for Canadians started prior to the 2011 election. Proroguing parliament twice, breaking about 100 promises, including fixed election dates, demonizing his opponents with negative attack ads, being found in contempt of parliament, withholding documents essential to parliamentary oversight. How soon we forget. His majority, however, has given the man the rocket fuel to gut environmental protection legislation, kill important programs with the omnibus budget bill, silence his own MPs (if not terrorize them) if they voice a smidgen of disagreement, disregard science in favour of ideology, put forward a futile tough on crime bill etc.
Harper's oft-quoted words to a group of Conservative Americans a number of years ago keep ringing in my ears. "You won't recognize Canada when I'm through with it."
Is he really what we wanted, Canada?
I can't keep fighting the last election so I need to find hope.
It's time to put fear into our dear leader's heart. An apathetic populace is a leader's strength (or in Dubya's 9/11 era, it was keep 'em stupid, keep 'em scared for control). An engaged and informed populace is a leader's Kryptonite.
This next suggestion may sound farfetched, but so was the concept of universal health care when it was first suggested. It's time for Elizabeth May to lead a winnable party. Laugh all you want. She is likeable, articulate, funny, engaging and has the smarts and the chutzpah to go toe to toe with Harper and Thomas Mulcair, who I predict will lose many of his NDP seats in Quebec in the next election. The floundering and seemingly aimless Liberal Party of Canada needs an electric shock to its system and must immediately nix any idea of Justin Trudeau running and get May to join them. She needn't give up on her Green ideals. Liberals, like many Canadians, will embrace most of them. We must. Endless growth is killing the planet. Heck, even Paul Martin has gone green with his natural capital advocacy. With May, the Liberals could be a force to be reckoned with once more. Best of all-she has a heartbeat and no baggage.
This is not an act of desperation. Nor is it radical. It's an idea that needs to be fully explored. It's time we stand on guard for thee.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @HughesFiona
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