Dismantling Canada

Dismantling Canada: Stephen Harper's New Conservative Agenda

Copyright Date: 2015
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    Dismantling Canada
    Book Description:

    Stephen Harper is the first prime minister to represent the new Conservative Party, and the first to declare that his goals include nothing less than changing Canada by entrenching conservative values and replacing the Liberals as the country’s natural governing party. After nine years of a closed-door governing style, his agenda is no longer hidden. As Brooke Jeffrey outlines in compelling detail in Dismantling Canada, Harper’s agenda is driven by a desire to impose order and tradition at home, and to take firm stands on emerging issues abroad. With only thirty-nine per cent of the popular vote in 2011, his government appears to have gone a surprisingly long way towards achieving those objectives, with little or no concerted public opposition. Illuminating the importance and influence of British and especially American right-wing conservatives on Harper’s strategies, the book explains how he has achieved so much through a combination of stealth, pragmatism, and ruthless determination. Providing fascinating insight into the origins of a new conservative vision for the economy, federalism, and domestic and foreign policies, Dismantling Canada explores Harper’s successes and failures, and evaluates the likely outcome of his long-term agenda to change Canada into a country most Canadians would not recognize.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8250-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    Stephen Harper is a man of many firsts, each more impressive than the last. In 2003 he became the first leader of the merged Reform / Alliance Party and the venerable Progressive Conservative Party, a merger which only a few years earlier would have been unthinkable. In 2006 he became the first prime minister to represent the new Conservative Party of Canada, a victory which would have been inconceivable less than six years earlier. In fact, when the Liberals secured their third successive majority victory in 2000, political scientist Bruce Doern wrote, “Jean Chrétien stands astride the political scene without...

    • 1 Right Thinking
      (pp. 17-43)

      In the spring of 2013, when newly minted Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was asked to comment on the Boston Marathon bombings, he offered a comprehensive response. First he expressed sympathy for the victims and survivors. Then he went on to support police efforts to locate the perpetrators. Finally he mused about the eventual need to consider the root causes of such home-grown violence.

      Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quick to mock Trudeau as unrealistic and dangerously weak. Only days after Conservative attack ads began denigrating the Liberal leader, Harper described Trudeau’s concern with the root causes of terrorism as the...

    • 2 Strategic Thinking
      (pp. 44-80)

      When Stephen Harper’s new Conservative Party formed a minority government in 2006, it was the culmination of efforts by right-wing conservatives over nearly twenty years. When he formed a majority in 2011, their wildest expectations had been met. To say that this victory was unexpected would be an understatement. Only a few years before, the possibility of the former Reform / Alliance Party winning an election had seemed not simply unlikely but impossible.

      In fact the situation for Canada’s right-wing conservatives in 1994 was strikingly similar to that of Republicans in the United States after Richard Nixon’s fall from grace...

    • 3 Stifling Dissent: Bullies in Power
      (pp. 81-117)

      The Harper Conservatives do not simply have an agenda, they are on a mission. As demonstrated earlier, they know they are right. They are convinced that they will face many challenges from “enemies” of their conservative agenda, and they believe they must be ever vigilant if they are to succeed. They must also act quickly, and often by stealth. Faced with this daunting challenge, and given Stephen Harper’s take-charge personality, the only logical outcome is the one Canadians have witnessed since 2006 – a government determined to control and limit access to information, and to sideline all forms of dissenting opinion....

    • 4 Sidelining Parliament: Autocrats on the Hill
      (pp. 118-144)

      When he was a Reform MP in the Opposition, Stephen Harper often demonstrated a very good grasp of parliamentary rules and procedures. What was more, he was not in favour of the populist-inspired fiddling with parliamentary convention favoured by Reform leader Preston Manning. He was more than a little embarrassed by what he termed Manning’s “silly” decisions to rotate his MPs’ seating plan, to refuse to appoint shadow critics, and to delay responding to the government’s budget until he had had time to consult with voters about their views. In the end, Harper resigned from Parliament and headed off to...

    • 5 Making the Rules
      (pp. 145-168)

      Significant as it may be, the impact of the Harper government’s agenda on parliament is unlikely to be as dramatic as its impact on the Supreme Court and the judicial system, both of which have long been stalking horses for the Conservatives’ opposition to a number of constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms. Here, too, they have taken note of the approach of their Republican counterparts, who routinely criticize judges appointed to the Supreme Court by Democrats for their “liberal” interpretation of civil rights. Similarly, the Harper Conservatives rail against “activist” judges appointed by Liberal and Tory governments, accusing them of...

    • 6 Shrinking Government: The Economic Agenda
      (pp. 171-203)

      In public-administration theory there is something called a “focusing event.” It is an unexpected and dramatic development, such as a natural disaster or an externally driven shock, which forces a government to take action it would not otherwise have contemplated. Focusing events are considered inevitable; they will affect any government that remains in power for more than a short while. In recent decades, such events have included the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the resulting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the HINI and SARS crises, and the 2008 global economic recession.¹

      Scholars argue that these events can either provide a “window...

    • 7 Restoring Order: The Domestic Agenda
      (pp. 204-238)

      When Stephen Harper addressed his Calgary riding association at a barbeque in July 2011, just months after his May election win, he could hardly contain his delight at finally obtaining the “strong, stable majority government” he coveted. Nor could he conceal his glee at having presided over the apparent demise of the Liberal Party. “I believe the long Liberal era has truly ended,” he told supporters. “As with disco-balls and bell-bottoms, Canadians have moved on.” Then he proceeded to outline the objectives of his government, objectives which he said had not changed since long before his party was first elected...

    • 8 Taking a Stand: The Foreign-Policy Agenda
      (pp. 239-274)

      Foreign policy has rarely been an important issue in Canadian election campaigns, unlike the United States. One reason for this difference has been the engagement of American troops in a series of armed conflicts after the Second World War, while Canada pursued a peacekeeping role through the United Nations. Another is the significant difference between the two countries in terms of their sheer size and clout on the world stage. America was the Western world’s champion during the Cold War years, and assumed the mantle of only remaining superpower after the fall of the Iron Curtain, while Canada followed a...

    • 9 Dismantling the Welfare State: The Open Federalism Agenda
      (pp. 275-302)

      Few Canadian prime ministers have put down in writing their views on the role of government, or their philosophical approach to policy development and democratic institutions, before running for public office. Even fewer have written in detail about their understanding of Canadian federalism. Not since Pierre Trudeau has a future Canadian prime minister devoted so much time and energy to the fundamental concerns surrounding the operation of the federation, or laid out his prescription for those concerns so clearly. Yet long before he became prime minister, Stephen Harper did precisely that. He also made it clear that he had a...

    • 10 Abandoning Quebec: The National-Unity Agenda
      (pp. 303-323)

      Soon after taking office in January 2006, Stephen Harper confounded supporters and critics alike with a series of policy decisions that at times delighted Quebec nationalists and at others infuriated them. From the “highs” of his resolution in the House of Commons recognizing the existence of a Quebec “nation,” and his willingness to allow the province to attend UNESCO meetings independent of the federal government, to the “lows” of pushing for a federal securities regulator, cutting funding for cultural programs, and refusing to provide gun-registry data to the province, the Harper Conservatives appeared almost schizophrenic in their approach to Quebec....

    • 11 Rebranding Canada: The Real Conservative Agenda
      (pp. 324-361)

      When Stephen Harper became prime minister in 2006, he was unique among Canadian politicians. A man of many firsts, he was not only the first leader of the new Conservative Party but the first conservative prime minister to come from a Reform / Alliance background. Mr Harper’s stated objectives were unique as well. Not content to win power and implement his party’s campaign platform, he was the first Canadian leader whose self-proclaimed long-term plans included the destruction of his principal adversary (the Liberal Party of Canada), and the rebranding of Canada’s political culture. Perhaps most striking of all, Harper was...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 362-372)

    Stephen Harper came to power in 2006, promising to change Canada. His Canada would be one that saw citizens rely more on themselves and less on government, a country of free enterprise, where anyone could become wealthy. It would be a country with a strong moral compass, embracing a deep-seated commitment to family values, an appreciation of the importance of tradition, and a renewed respect for law and order. Internationally, it would be known for taking a “principled” stand on difficult issues, regardless of the potential cost, and for pulling its weight in defending freedom and democracy – by force if...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 373-406)
  9. Index
    (pp. 407-418)