Federal election raises fear for country

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To the Editor:

In the wake of the May 2 federal general election I fear for my country.

More particularly, I fear for those Canadians who are trying to survive on low incomes. I fear for those organizations that try to help the needy (especially women) or to make this a happier country in many other ways. And for the longer term, I fear for us all because of the disastrous effects of unchecked global warming.

This is not a sour-grapes reaction to the election results. The party I voted for won a small but potentially significant victory in the election of Elizabeth May.

There are also other reasons to harbor faint hope. One, of course, is that the surge by the New Democratic Party may make Stephen Harper hesitant to pursue some of his ultra-conservative policies — although the prime minister may feel, as Jack Layton himself must, that many of the NDP’s gains in Quebec are fragile.

Another source of restrained optimism is that Harper will understand that because more than half of those who voted on May 2 supported parties other than his own he does not have a moral mandate to enact the more extreme of the policies he favors.

But all this is grasping at straws.

For one thing, Harper does not believe in the supremacy of Parliament — witness his constant implying that coalition government is somehow illegal. He seems to believe that a majority of House of Commons seats, however unrepresentative that may be of the majority of voters, gives him a licence to do whatever he wishes and to twist parliamentary rules and conventions to that end.

True, we have had similarly based majority governments before. The difference now lies in Harper’s character.

Granted, he is highly intelligent and, in the sense that the word is generally understood, honest. He is unlikely to condone, let alone indulge in, scandals of the sort that have besmirched governments in the past and have helped to give politics a bad name.

However, his intelligence actually makes him more to be feared because it is combined with a driving ambition and ruthless determination to be in charge. These traits are documented by people who have closely followed his career to date (such as journalist Lawrence Martin, author of Harperland — The Politics of Control) and by a number of those who have worked with and for him.

Harper is presented as a man absolutely convinced that his way is the only right way and bound to have his way by any and all means available.

Here lies the real basis for my fear — firstly, because his way involves as little government as possible and, secondly, because he gives the impression of admiring the American, presidential style of government. The latter worries me because there is no separately elected congress in Ottawa to hold him in check — not even a non-elected senate now that he has stacked it with his own appointees.

So, I hope I’m wrong, but I’m prepared for the reduction, deterioration or elimination of a number of government services and offices — especially those that are expensive or in a position to resist or embarrass him.

Indeed, I hope fervently that I’m wrong about all the criticisms of Harper in the preceding paragraphs. But time will tell whether those who didn’t vote on May 2 will get what they deserve and most of the ordinary Canadians who were beguiled by Harper’s talk of stable government, more jobs and lower taxes will find that they are having to pay a high price for their ballots.

Peter Hepher