By Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail, March 6, 2012
The jackasses at Elections Canada are out of control.”
In 2001, Stephen Harper was president of the National Citizens Coalition. That was his opening line in a fundraising letter.
His loathing for the election overseers was almost pathological, recalls Gerry Nicholls, the conservative commentator who worked with Mr. Harper at the NCC. It was a “blood feud,” he says, one that appears to be “never ending.”
The Harper letter in 2001 came in defence of a citizen in the Maritimes who posted Nova Scotia election results on his website, before the polls were closed in B.C., and Mr. Harper argued for "freedom of speech," to prevent the control of information by the government.
Nevertheless, the contempt he held for Elections Canada is likely still as real today as it was in 2001.
However, ironically, it is now the Harper government that has shown itself to be one of the most "information-controlling" governments in Canadian history. Just last week, the magazine Nature called on the government of Canada to let the scientists in Canada speak freely about their research.
And this week, the question of the control of information about who made these vote suppression calls during the election of May 2011 seems to be focused on the Harper government.
Is this a sign of pay-back by Elections Canada? If it is, the Canadian people are, so far, on the side of Elections Canada. Sorry, Mr. Harper.
There is really something quite basic here in both human development and, similarly, in organizational development.
"We become what we hate!"
This is an axiom well known and well documented among those whose field encompasses human relationships, human propensities, and individual human Gordian knots that complicate and sabotage individuals' lives.
Unfortunately for Mr. Harper and his government, he and they are not immune to this inevitability.
We have already seen considerable evidence of Harper's contempt for anything smacking of the Liberal Party of Canada. It is of the kind of bigotry that used to haunt relationships between Roman Catholics and the Orangemen of Northern Ireland. Each was so contemptuous of the other that killings were not "off the table" in the decades-long violence that hung over Northern Ireland for decades. It is the kind of bigotry and contempt that says to itself, "All evidence of your existence must be removed from the earth!" in a manner similar to the current president of Iran in his attitude to Israel. This is not to suggest that Harper would use the military in any of his political acts. Far from it; he is much to sophisticated for that. He would much rather find political and imperceptible ways to "make the country permanently Conservative" in a phrase that has been attributed to Harper himself.
However, in this case, the country must not be held hostage to the Harper contempt either for the Liberals or for Elections Canada. We must pull this demon out of the Harper closet, (thanks to Mr. Martin for this piece today, and for others pointing to Harper's contempt for anything Liberal!)
We must also watch carefully for other tactics deigned and delivered to emasculate the public's access to legitimate information, including the long form census, the freedom of the scientific community to publish and to discuss their research findings and the people and their strategy and tactics behind the recent spate of robo-phone calls dedicated to keeping voters away from the polls.
I wonder what it must be like to wake up in 24 Sussex and look in the mirror and see that letter to Elections Canada written by the then head of the NCC, and now carried in hundreds of thousands of copies of today's Globe and Mail.
We really do become what we hate, Mr. Harper, and you are not immune from that.