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Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance

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Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker recently announced that he would reduce the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to little more than an “umbrella organization” mediating interstate squabbles.

In a July 27 interview with The Washington Examiner, Walker said, “I’d shift that power and money out of Washington and basically just leave in place an umbrella organization that really is limited to mediating interstate conflicts over, say, where a body of water or piece of land goes through multiple states.” He added, “I’m all for a sustainable environment, but you have to balance it with a sustainable economy, and I think in our state [Wisconsin] we’ve shown you can do that hand-in-hand. Given the opportunity, I think states can do it all across America much better than the federal government.” [1]

It’s a sentiment heartily shared by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who eviscerated federal environmental regulations after winning a majority government in 2011.

In fact, little known to the prying press, Scott Walker secretly met with Stephen Harper in Ottawa in mid-June – just days before he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) kept the meeting utterly hush-hush, with no media advisory or press release issued.

As PostMedia News finally reported (July 9), “The only notice of the meeting came in a press release from Walker’s office that was picked up by a few political blogs in the U.S.” [2] Even at that late date in July – almost a month after the secret meeting – PMO spokesman Stephen Lecce “would not say who attended the meeting or what specifically was discussed.”

Well, it certainly sounds like an intimate tryst between adoring soul-mates, with the PMO doing everything in its power to ensure privacy.

There’s little question that Scott and Stephen are an ideological match made-in-heaven. Not only do they share similar views on limiting federal protection of the environment, but they also are “tough on crime” in the very same ways – endorsing mandatory minimum sentences, limiting parole for many offenders, even creating new criminal offenses. But more importantly (when it comes to compatibility), they are both vehemently anti-union.

During his first term as governor of Wisconsin, Walker gained international prominence with his 2011 battle against public sector unions over collective bargaining rights. That fight led to a recall election, which he won. Walker now brags that he took on “big government union bosses” and made “big, bold reforms” – phrases likely to set Stephen’s heart racing.

The Harper government over the past six years has fired more than 25,000 unionized public servants (including thousands of environmental scientists) and it has recently passed legislation that will be financially costly to all unions across the country.

Scott and Stephen also share profound exasperation over climate change regulations. Wisconsin is one of 15 states suing the EPA over a proposed plan requiring states to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. [3] Of course, it’s well-known that the Harper government has refused for years to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions from the tarsands. [4]

Like all good matches, Scott and Stephen have mutual friends. Indeed, the billionaire Koch brothers may have been the match-makers for this bromance.

The Koch brothers happen to be the largest land-holder in the Canadian tarsands – the apple of Stephen’s eye – and many Canadians have long wondered if Harper’s political rise to power was funded by Koch money. For his part, Walker’s political career has had “enthusiastic” backing from the Koch brothers.

As thinkprogress.org recently noted (April 21, 2015), “Walker has enjoyed the Kochs’ enthusiastic support for much of his political career. Koch Industries was one of the largest contributors to Walker’s first gubernatorial campaign, giving him $43,000, his largest out-of-state contribution. And Walker’s 2014 reelection campaign was one of the top recipients of Koch Industries cash.” [5]

Indeed, David Koch told the press in 2012, “What Scott Walker is doing with the public unions in Wisconsin is critically important. He’s an impressive guy, and he’s very courageous.”

But it wasn’t just union-busting that caught the Koch brothers’ attention.

As thinkprogress.org notes, Walker “also embodied the Kochs’ profit-driven goals when he began cutting environmental regulations when he took office, to the benefit of Koch businesses which are known to emit thousands of pounds of toxic pollutants in the state. Walker also quietly worked to allow Kochs’ many Georgia Pacific paper plants to pollute Wisconsin by pouring thousands of pounds of phosphorous into the water.” [6]

Courageous, impressive, collaborative, quietly working to help industry – those are exactly the character traits that Stephen would find endearing in a soul-mate. After all, the Harper government has cut lots of environmental regulations to help out industry.

In January 2013, Greenpeace and the CBC revealed a December 2011 letter from the oil and gas industry requesting that the Harper government make changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the National Energy Board Act, the Species at Risk Act, and the Migratory Birds Convention Act. Within six months time, it was being done! Just like that! – by means of two 2012 omnibus budget bills that rolled across those pieces of legislation like a bulldozer.

As Walker told The Washington Examiner in July: “Fundamental reform happens when you shift the entire base of power, not just pass a few laws.” It’s a talking-point that could have been given to him by Stephen himself.

Tim Phillips, president of Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, told Kira Lerner of thinkprogrerss.org, “The difference Scott Walker has made with his policy achievements is as transformative as any governor anywhere in a generation.” [7]

Well, the same thing is being said of Stephen Harper and his astonishing transformation of Canada.

Did Scott and Stephen celebrate their mutual achievements during that Ottawa tryst? And did Stephen lovingly encourage Scott to run for the Republican nomination? David Koch had already told the crowd at a New York State Republican Party fundraiser in April that Walker should be the Republican nominee. [8] But sometimes it just takes a few supportive words from a trusted soul-mate to make a big decision like that one.

And with Harper potentially winning re-election in October, did they dreamily speculate on the possibility of the two of them, Scott and Stephen, both running their mutual countries in less than two years’ time? A new bromance like this could lead to amazing developments on both sides of the border.

Needless to say, the chemistry between Scott and Stephen must be awesome.

Footnotes/Links:

[1] Sarah Westwood, “Scott Walker: How I would cut Washington down to size,” The Washington Examiner (July 27, 2015).

[2] http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/harper-met-with-controversial-wisconsin-governor-scott-walker-last-month-and-didnt-tell-anyone

[3] Scott Bauer, “Walker says EPA should be limited ‘umbrella organization’,” Associated Press, July 27, 2015.

[4] Joyce Nelson, “Tar Sands and Cognitive Dissonance,” Counterpunch, October 10, 2014.

[5] http://thinkprogress.org/election/2015/04/21/3649458/koch-scott-walker-endoresement/

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

Joyce Nelson’s sixth book, Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism, can be ordered at: http://watershedsentinel.ca/banksters. She can be reached through www.joycenelson.ca.

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