• Ted Fraser

Editorial: Harper Government Has Been Unethical, Oppressive and Incompetent

With the federal election fast approaching, all eyes are on the three main leaders -- Justin Trudeau, Thomas Mulcair, and Stephen Harper. Support for the Conservatives stands at around 33 percent countrywide, with the Liberals hovering around 32 percent, and the NDP coming in last with 28 percent. The other remaining percentage points are attributed to other parties, such as the Green Party, Bloc Québécois, or independents.

But despite the somewhat equal support, there is a disproportionate amount of attention focused on the incumbent, Stephen Harper. He has been touring the country since the 78-day election campaign began in July and is showing no signs of slowing down. However, the hard work and dedication displayed by Harper at his daily rallies and TV commercials by no means tell the whole story.

A piece in The New York Times in August highlighted all of Harper's failings over the past 10 years, and held Harper accountable for what Stephen Marche calls "The Closing of the Canadian Mind".

He argues that by Harper not appearing on mainstream TV channel debates, getting his minions to rigorously vet journalists at his "notoriously short" news conferences, placing Canadian environmental scientists and National Research Council members under gag order to not share any snowfall or climate change research, ending the long form census, preventing the chief executive of Elections Canada from promoting voting, and more, Harper has created a Canada that is "bland and purposeless".

After reading this article, I was amazed and frankly a little frightened that someone so ignorant and dishonest could lead one of the most important countries in the world. For the most part, I strive to be unbiased and open-minded. However, when you look at the facts and Steven Harper's history of ethical and environmental failings, cynicism and dishonesty, you can't help but hope that Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair will replace him.

Harper's main supporters live in oil-rich Alberta. This is why he so vehemently defends the oil sands and muzzles climate scientists. Indeed, in an article last month by David Suzuki and Jeff Rubin in The Globe and Mail, they cite that Harper has gone to drastic measures to avoid the legitimate truths of global warming.

They state the Harper government has "cancelled Canada's agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, suppressed political obstructions to Canada's petroleum path, shut down environmental programs, laid off hundreds of government scientists, discarded scientific information from government libraries", and, perhaps the biggest slap in the face of all, "has decreed that the Conservative government must vet all research before scientists are allowed to talk". That doesn't really sound like the transparent, honest democracy we supposedly live in at all, does it? It's oppressive.

To kick off the election in his characteristically cynical fashion, he called it extremely early to manipulate a law that his party had introduced earlier, so now parties can spend up to $51 million, instead of the previous $25.5 million. This benefits the Conservatives massively, as they far outspend the other opposition parties. It allows the Conservatives to be able to pummel the Liberals and NDP with attack ads from multiple fronts, 24/7, for the entire campaign.

The Mike Duffy trial in late August once again highlighted some more of Harper's negative qualities: dishonesty and recklessness. Mike Duffy is a former senator who was appointed by Harper. Senators make up the Senate, an unelected, appointed body of mostly older, former politicians that must give their stamp of approval to any law that the House of Commons -- the lower body of Parliament that is composed of elected MP's (Member of Parliament) -- proposes. Stephen Harper promised in the 2011 election that he would not appoint any more senators, but ended up going back on his word and appointed fifty-nine more.

Back to Duffy. He allegedly claimed $90,000 of taxpayer money while being a senator. The Prime Minister's Office tried to cover it up after it was revealed by the media, and Nigel Wright, Harper's former chief of staff, personally wrote a check for $90,000 to Mr. Duffy. However, Mr. Duffy claimed that he himself had paid it. Last year, he was charged with 31 offences including fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

Harper's tenure -- in addition to the environmental and ethical issues listed above -- has experienced two economic recessions (one which we're currently in), six budget deficits that have added more than $120 billion to Canada's debt, rising inequality & an unemployment rate that has been largely stagnant. At the moment, Canada is the only G7 country in recession.

Speaking of the budget, numbers recently released from the Department of Finance showed that Canada posted a small surplus of $1.9 billion in 2014-'15.

However, from a recent article in The Ottawa Citizen, it is revealed that the federal government left $8.7 billion unspent last year, presumably in order to post a surplus. Figures by the Parliamentary Budget Office "suggest hundreds of millions [were not spend on] new military equipment, processing refugee applications, First Nations communities and transportation infrastructure." Kevin Page -- the former Parliamentary Budget Officer -- says he has no doubt that Harper ordered senior public servants to “put the brakes” on spending to make sure that they could post a surplus in time for the election.

This purposeful, massive lapse in spending is not only manipulative but irresponsible. It not only hurts those affected by the cuts, like refugees and First Nations, but could have potentially worsened the already sluggish growth in the economy. $9 billion is not a huge chunk of Canada's $280 billion budget expenditure, but it definitely would have made a difference.

Furthermore, in a study by Jim Stanford of Unifor, using publicly available data such as Statistics Canada, he came to the conclusion that out of the nine governments since World War Two, the Harper Conservatives have the worst overall economic record. They placed last in job creation and exports and second last in personal income growth per capita, business investment, youth employment, and government debt. Despite his self-labelled title as a "steward of the economy", Harper's economic track record would not suggest anything remotely close to that.

The current Conservative government under Stephen Harper has been unethical, oppressive, dishonest, and incompetent. Whether it's Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair, Canadians must find a way to get the country back on track before it's too late.

This is an editorial and in no way represents the views of Citadel High School or the HRSB.