Conservatives bare draconian teeth

Online spying, foreign radicals and faux patriotism – Published on The Vancouver Observer, by David P. Ball, February 22, 2012.

Heavily armed riot police were deployed during Vancouver Olympic protests (shown here) and similarly during a crackdown on anti-G20 demonstrations later that year in Toronto – warnings of the future? Photo by David P. Ball.

“Let’s not talk about statistics. Let’s talk about danger.” Scary words from someone in charge of Canada’s public safety … //  

… The question is not whether Harper can achieve his vision to make Canada unrecognizable to future generations – that much, sadly, seems assured. A better question is, what will it take to stop him?

This is not to be hyperbolic. A glance at Harper regime’s statements recently reveals the gloves are off – and, unsurprisingly, they’re both right-handed. Last week, before his troubles with Anonymous, the public safety minister unveiled a report warning of issue-based domestic extremists promoting “various causes such as animal rights, white supremacy, environmentalism and anti-capitalism.”

Toews had already been defending his government’s wide-sweeping crime bill, which will impose U.S.-style mandatory minimum sentences (which corrections experts warn against) – despite the fact that statistics prove crime is on the decline. But statistics, it turns out, are irrelevant to the Harper government.

“Let’s not talk about statistics,” he told a Senate committee, as he testified about the far-reaching crime bill.
Let’s talk about danger… I want people to be safe.”

Even our natural resources minister, weeks before, got in on Harper’s critic-slandering: accusing environmental “foreign radicals” of “hijacking” the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline hearings. When I spoke to a leading Cold War historian about the comments last month, he warned that the rhetoric of “national economic security” was distressingly similar to McCarthyism.

When I sat down for coffee with New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen, he was even more uncompromising in his description of what’s at stake.

“They’re making it a war between civil society and government,” he warned. “These are not your grandparents’ Conservatives.

“They’re much angrier, more sinister about their politics. They see conspiracies everywhere, under constant threat even when they’re in power.”

So what can we do?

First of all, we’re not powerless. Let’s remember that this is not Canada’s first majority – nor Conservative – government. While the hope for immediate change seems dim, the courage and persistence of millions in the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement are inspiring examples of people defying even the most unjust governments, and if Syrians can defy mortar shells, surely we can defy some nasty insults.

Secondly, we’re not alone. Millions of Canadians – even some Conservative supporters – think the recent ratcheting up of government rhetoric is a bit much. We might not agree on everything, but there are a few common values most of us adhere to. Let’s capitalize on those values, while pushing for something better than what was before.

Thirdly, real power in our world does not lie in parliaments or palaces. It lies with the people – no matter what autocrats and fundamentalists claim. Look at how much public flack the government has gotten over its online snooping bill. Toews is running scared and beginning to backtrack.

We need to start looking beyond reducing our opposition to smug talking points and political platforms, and see the big picture. It’s not about ‘this piece of legislation’ or ‘that outrageous minister’s comment’ – in this historic, global Age of Austerity and Time of Terror, we face a choice of what kind of world we want for future generations.

If Toews is correct in any of the nonsense he has sputtered recently, it is one thing: we do, in fact, need to talk about danger. And we are beginning to see where the danger lies. (full 3 pages text).

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