Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Harper crackdown on dissent - where will it end?

The Stephen Harper government has launched an open assault against dissent that it says is being fuelled by foreign money.The project at issue is the Enbridgen pipeline that is being proposed to deliver gas from the oilsands in northern Alberta to the Pacific ocean for transport to the booming Asian market. The hearings that will determine whether or not the project gets the federal rubber stamp begin today in Kitimat B.C. The feds clearly intend to jump start the process by clamping down on debate and painting anyone who is speaking out against the project as a radical.
It is another step in what appears to be the inevitable Americanization of Canada. In the U.S., debate, discussion, negotiation and decision are no longer a part of the public discourse. The lines are drawn one side is right the other side is wrong. This past year it seemed to be one ticking economic time bomb after another threatening to bring down the self proclaimed world's greatest democracy. There is no room for compromise when the two side are diametrically opposed. Each defined as left and right or liberal and conservative or Republican or Democrat and never the twain shall meet.
Unable to make decisions collectively that represent all the voices of their nation, the people are left behind as the corporations maintain the only ones with influence on both sides, which may the point of the whole thing.
In the past federal election we saw very clearly how the debate can be reduced to the lowest common denominator in a series of incessant attack ads. There is no time for a discussion of issues when the political process has been reduced to a state of siege. That was just the beginning, the negative ad campaign style perfected in the U.S. brought Harper his first majority, there is no end to it now.
It is stunning that a government that has taken it's lead from the neo-con movement south of the border has the stones to accuse someone else of foreign influence.
Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources published an Open Letter to Canadians in which voices of dissent were characterized as foreign sponsored radicals. The minister wrote, "These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada's national economic interest."
The message was echoed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who commented that "Growing concern has been expressed to me about the use of foreign money." Coincidentally, in a speech on Tuesday to defend his government's brutal crackdown on dissent, Syrian President Bashar Assad put the blame on the uprising on a "foreign conspiracy." That's one of the oldest moves in the dictator's playbook, blame the actions of your citizens on outsiders.