A curious event in North American history passed with little more than casual remark last year.
In the lead-up to US congressional elections, Canada handed President Bush a campaign slush fund greater than the entire Republican election budget.
The money, $450 million US, came out of the deal that was crafted to end the softwood lumber dispute.
For years the US had posted an illegal duty on Canadian lumber exports, and had accumulated $5 billion to which, according to Canadian and US and international courts, it had no right.
The money belonged to Canadian lumber companies. These were forced to swallow the bitter pill of accepting the return of only a percentage of their funds, even though they won every court battle.
The $450 million was what was left to the US after all the dust had settled.
The agreement placed this money in the hands of the president, for what were described as “meritorious initiatives,” perhaps better known as pork-barrel politics.
Stephen Harper claimed this agreement as the first great accomplishment of his prime-ministership, even though it was so transparently a Liberal work in progress that the Conservatives lured the minister in charge of the file, David Emerson, across the floor practically on election night, because they needed his expertise to complete the deal.
But the $450 million gift did something very important for Harper.
It cemented his relationship with the GOP.
Steve’s love for right-wing America is hardly a secret revealed.
In a speech to the Council for National Policy in 1997 he said, “Your country, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world,” and, “Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.”
Harper has borrowed Bush’s rhetoric — Canada won’t cut and run — has pushed us deeper into the War on Terror, and has worked to hasten the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership, the planned Americanization of Canada. Despite the fact that this project has no support among the public, it encountered very little opposition as CEOs and politicians met and planned the integration of the North American economy, largely because the meetings were conducted in secret and barely reported in the media.
But that was before the talks began to bear fruit. This month Canadians learned what the Security and Prosperity Partnership is really all about. In order to move ahead with the agreement, Canada is set to reduce limits on pesticide spraying, as a first step to “harmonizing” all regulatory standards.
The US permits more chemicals sprayed on its farms than we do, and under the agreement this constitutes unfair competition.
Canadian standards on such hazardous chemicals as lindane and permethrin are already much weaker than the EU permits. In light of the ever-growing cancer epidemic we might some day want to toughen those standards: under SPP, forget it.
Canada doesn’t have the right to make its own rules.
Another thing Canada has quietly bargained away is sovereignty over our energy supplies.
We must ensure American “energy security” before meeting our own needs.
Bulk water exports have been marked as a long-tern project, because they’re too politically sensitive to push on us all at once.
University of Alberta professor Gordon Laxer was in the middle of presenting these and other facts to the parliamentary committee studying the SPP when the Conservative chair, Leon Benoit, tried to shut him down, claiming that his presentation was “irrelevant” to the issue at hand.
Outvoted by opposition members, Benoit stormed out of the meeting and shut down hearings for the day.
What looked like childishness on Benoit’s part turned out to be something more.
A week later we learned that the committee chair had been following the script written by government whip Jay Hill, who circulated a handbook to committee chairs detailing how to disrupt, manipulate, and ultimately shut down committees that don’t tow the Conservative line.
The Conservatives tried to portray the handbook as business as usual in a minority government, where the opposition parties play political games to stall government initiatives.
But these are no games.
The SPP committee is just one example of a case where government members tried to prevent crucial information being brought forward on an issue of deep concern to Canadians.
Another Conservative chair shut down his committee in order to stifle the truth about torture in Afghanistan.
Stephen Harper wants Canada to be more like the US — more open to corporate control, less regulated, more profitable, more imperialist, less concerned with human rights, more able to exert military power and financial influence around the globe.
Parliament gets in the way of this project, and so he has to find ways to get around Parliament.
Canadians, when polled, don’t want to lower our regulatory standards, or to lose our sovereignty over energy and water.
We don’t want Parliament to be undermined by dirty tricks, and we don’t want to be embroiled in brutal foreign wars and implicated in crimes against humanity.
In short, we don’t want what Stephen Harper wants.
So how long will it take for the voters to figure out we don’t want Stephen Harper either?