This was originally supposed to appear at The Mark, as part of a series called "Who Owns Canada?" I ran into a few editorial snags, so I'm posting it here instead.
The Mark asked for short pieces answering the question, "Who Owns Canada? Which person, organization, or idea wields more influence than any other?"
Here's my answer.
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When The Mark asked "Who owns Canada?" I immediately considered the question in reverse: "Who doesn't own Canada?" The answer: Canadians.
A democracy should reflect the will of the people, but current Canadian policy reflects only the will of the Conservative government and its supporters. A majority of Canadians did not vote for Stephen Harper's Conservatives. Yet we are held hostage to his anti-democratic agenda because he has so successfully exploited an antiquated, first-past-the-post electoral system and a pitifully weak opposition.
The majority of Canadians do not support the war in Afghanistan, but the Harper government extended Canada's military involvement past its original deadline and hints at continuing it even after next year's planned withdrawal date.
The majority of Canadians want to protect our magnificent environment, but the Harper government continues to stand with climate-change deniers and industrial polluters. This is, after all, a government that tried to let polluters reclassify tar-sands tailing ponds as "lakes". (What is it about the Conservatives and fake lakes?)
Canadians want fairness in all things, including the treatment of immigrants, war resisters and refugee claimants. The Harper government continues to defy two motions passed in Parliament by harassing and deporting US war resisters. It has interfered in the process of the supposedly independent Immigration and Refugee Board and demanded that immigration officials conform to government ideology.
Fairness is, at bottom, the reason Canadians want to retain the long-form census – so this country’s policies reflect reality, not ideology. Fairness is why Canadians want a fully funded court-challenges program, so that all Canadians can defend their Charter rights. Fairness is why Canadians want the government to repatriate and defend all Canadians – including those accused of terrorism and those on death row in every country. And while it's not a life-or-death issue, the government denying a Member of the British Parliament entry into Canada because of his political opinions is not only unfair – it's downright embarrassing.
Canadians care about their country's standing abroad. By aligning Canada with US military policies, and by putting corporate oil interests ahead of action on climate change, the Harper government has sullied Canada's international reputation and tainted the country's moral authority. And it could be much worse: if Stephen Harper had been Prime Minister in 2003, Canadian soldiers would have been dying in Iraq for the last seven years.
Canadians want to live in a democracy – a real democracy. They don't want the Prime Minister to shut down Parliament to avoid losing power, to fire civil servants whose politics he doesn't like, to instruct MPs on how to disrupt Parliament, and to refuse to open the military record to the highest elected body in the land. They don't want dissent criminalized by pre-emptive arrests, jailing of peaceful protesters and tactics more suited to a police state than "the True North strong and free".
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have hijacked this country and we want it back.