On the Campaign Trail with Harperman

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a campaign stop at a steel manufacturer in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015.   (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)  MANDATORY CREDIT

Even the person most Canadian leftists dislike—the ex-con, ex-mega-businessman and scholar Conrad Black—wrote recently that “nine years of joyless and sometimes nasty competence under Stephen Harper is an era of ill-feeling.”

Harperman has sucked the oxygen out of the air and left most of us gasping for breath. This guy is grim and mean; he is a liar and an obfuscator par excellence.

No wonder, then, that the political jokes and vulgar talk has started circulating in the blogosphere. We Canadians, well-known for producing humourists, really need to have a few laughs.

Hey, I certainly don’t want to be a shrivelled old leftist, facing my wife’s stern look and raised eyebrows: “Michael, let’s not talk about THAT before we go to bed!”

Let’s start with the story of Tony Turner, a popular Ontario folk singer and scientist at Environment Canada (yes, it does still exist, or did yesterday). His song “Harperman”—which went big on YouTube (and thus caught the Harperman’s hooded eyes)—urged the country to get rid of him. The lyrics are in the grand tradition of protest folk songs.

“Who controls our parliament?/Harperman,Harperman/Who squashes all dissent?/Harperman, Harperman/Who’s the king of secrecy?/Who has slashed the CBC?/No money for PTSD/Accuses good judge Beverly.” The chorus cries out: “We want you gone (gone, gone)/No more con (con, con)/Time to move on (on, on)/ Get out of town (town/town)/Harperman, it’s time for you to go.”

Harperman heard this and moved quickly to suspend Turner from his job and put him under investigation. But the Supreme Leader had to bow to something even more Supreme (the Supreme Court). The Court ruled that a public servant had the right to freedom of speech—just like everybody else.

I have this image: Harperman is seated in a golden chair, awaiting his morning coffee on the silver tray. But it arrives first with a list of those who need to be squashed today with his giant flyswatter before he gets to drink.

Well, the splendid lyrics of “Harperman” inspired others to write doggerel verse to vent their spleens. How about: “Dump the lump in October! He’s a blight on Canada!” Or this wee couplet: “Who lowers taxes for the rich and greedy?/While ignoring those who are homeless or needy?” Hey, we know the answer: It’s Harperman, Harperman. He’s gotta go, go, go.

Howard sent me a few cartoons. My favourite portrays our four candidates for Prime Minister as characters from the Wizard of Oz. Guess which one Harperman is? You guessed it: he’s the tin man (“If only I had a heart”), Mulcair our right-wing social democrat as the lion (“If only I had a smile”), Trudeau as the strawman (“If only I had a brain”) and May as Dorothy (“If only I had a prayer”). For those who don’t know Elizabeth May, she’s the leader of the Green Party.

Trolling the Net, I discovered that someone had fabricated an imaginary poster: “Official member of Harper’s enemies list. Membership requirements: Telling the truth, reporters, MPs, scientists, environmentalists, activists”.

There is lots of funny stuff on the campaign trail. In this sense: the statements by Harperman and his MPs are so ridiculous that we end up rolling in the aisles. Can you believe that the Harperman can keep a straight face while telling Canadians that he is a great defender of the environment? Wow! That’s enough to get David Suzuki rampaging after him (I almost said “with a shotgun full of buckshot”).

Even more ridiculous, if you can believe this, the Minister of Immigration, the frothing-at-the-mouth Chris Alexander (who hates Russia and attended a Ukrainian Independence Day celebration where the Toronto chapter of the neo-fascist Right Sector was present) was “caught in a string of lies in his efforts to defend Canada’s miserable record of refusing refugee applications from Syrian victims of the civil war in that country” (Roger Annis, “Canadian government spins web of lies over Syrian refugee tragedy,” Rabble.ca, September 5, 2015).

Alexander has landed in hot water and like the proverbial frog is having a tough time getting out. We have discovered that this guy turned down an application (brought directly to him by an NDP MP) on behalf of the family whose tragedy has now registered all over the globe. Canadians imagine themselves as a compassionate people and Harperman has dropped in the polls. Harperman, Harperman, you gotta go, go, go.

Good—but we are rather selective about our tears, aren’t we?

The pugnacious Alexander has claimed—get ready to guffaw—that Canada has a fantastic record of welcoming refugees. However, in the last three years Canada accepted only 1300 refugees—a decline of acceptance rates from 2000 (we were fifth in the world) to fifteenth (in 2014).

Only 200 refugees from Syria were sponsored in 2014. This reluctance is probably entangled in the Harperman’s hatred of the Assad regime.

Harperman and his gang proceed through creating miasmic fog around every piece of legislation they try to get past sleepy and dopey Canadians. Allan Gregg, a cranky Canadian pollster of some repute, observes that Harperman obfuscates “the true purpose of laws under the gobbledy-gook of doublespeak.” When governments do this, they are “admitting that their intentions lack support and respect.”

How did Harperman manage to stick-handle serious anti-labour legislation through parliament? Haseena Manek, “Nine years of Harper, nine years of attacks on unions,” Rabble.ca, September 7, 2015) argues that the attacks on the unions and collective bargaining have been “extremely strategic. Ground Zero for these attacks has been the House of Commons, where piece after piece of legislation has taken aim at unions and collective bargaining.”

Bit by bit, piece by piece, stick by stick and the union movement suddenly wakes up one day and proclaims,” Hey, we have been robbed blind! We have lost our power!” I guess this isn’t very funny. It is not only the Emperor who lacks clothes!

The Tyee web-site gathered 70 assaults by Harperman on democracy and the law (“Harper, serial abuser of power: the evidence compiled,” August 10, 2015). Read through this misery-inducing document and laugh outrageously at how corrupt the Harperman’s government actually is.

Section I: “Abusing parliament: sabotage, scandals, corruption and contempt” reveals that at least 31 times the government has lied, flouted rules and stymied democracy to achieve political and ideological ends. Harper has even been found in contempt of court! The PMO meddled in the senate scandals and have been accused of a cover-up, a breach of the public trust, and a whitewashing of a Senate report.

This government won’t share budget information, they granted Conservative cabinet staffers immunity from testimony, they have falsified reports and documents, they lied about the costs of the F-35 fighter jets, Harperman maligned the Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin for alleged inappropriate conduct, the Conniving party abused parliament process with omnibus bills, and they sabotaged the parliamentary committee system. Yikes—you get the picture.

And on and on it goes, where it stops nobody knows. So in the grand words of one blogger, let’s “Heave Steve.” And another: “It’s about time people stood up to the bully Harper and stop being sheep! Let’s get rid of him.”

As I write, the theo-cons are stuttering and stumbling, but the Harperman is well-seasoned in the game of herding sheep and leading them you know where.

Michael Welton retired from Athabasca University.  His recent books include Unearthing Canada’s Hidden Past: a Short History of Adult Education and Adult Education a Precarious Age: The Hamburg Declaration revisited.