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Goodbye And Good Riddance To The Harper Era

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STEPHEN HARPER
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Stephen Harper emerged in May from his self-imposed obscurity to say goodbye. I say good riddance.

The former prime minister who once boasted, "You won't recognize Canada when I'm through with it," lost the federal election last October and stepped down as leader of the Conservative Party, but remained a Member of Parliament.

For months, Harper spottings became a running joke on Parliament Hill as politicians, staff and reporters wondered what he was up to.

It now looks like he was doing what he always did -- meeting in private to cook up secret plans for the future.

That was his mode of operation while in power -- meetings behind closed doors to negotiate such things as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and trade deals with Europe and South Korea. Ousted from power, the secret meetings continued, this time about his setting up post-political life, complete with seats on corporate boards and establishing a foreign policy institute.

For a time, you'd be forgiven for thinking Harper was on his way to fulfilling his dream of making Canada unrecognizable. He won re-elections with his nasty brand of politics, including vicious personal attacks on his opponents, followed up with nasty legislation targeting working people and social programs.

Far from making Canada unrecognizable, the Harper era is quickly becoming a bad dream that Canadians have since woken up from.
Just look at some of the record of what he tried to do, much of it now in tatters:
  • Bill C-525 was a blatant attack on unions in this country, making it more difficult to certify a new union, and too easy for a minority of workers to decertify an existing union.
  • Bill C-377 was another attack on unions that even employers and some of his own Senators told Harper was a bad idea. It would have tied unions up in red tape reporting even minor expenses to the government.
  • He led an attack on facts with the shut down more than 200 scientific programs and facilities, killing the long-form census and shutting the office of the National Science Adviser. Conservative ideology was more important than facts. If Harper didn't like the facts he was given, he shot the messenger.
  • Debate on important issues of the day was halted by a government with little respect for Parliament and democracy, with omnibus budget bills that made in-depth discussion of government policy impossible, and repeated proroguing of Parliament that cut off debate altogether.
  • Disastrous trade deals, including the TPP, were negotiated in private, with the Harper government dragged kicking and screaming to release any information about them after they were signed.

Harper's legacy is quickly being undone. The Liberals have already moved to repeal Bill C-525 and C-327. The long-form census has been restored. Evidence-based research is now being encouraged in Ottawa. Hearings are being held into the TPP.

Far from making Canada unrecognizable, the Harper era is quickly becoming a bad dream that Canadians have since woken up from.

It's as if Canadians, or at least enough to get Harper elected under our current first-past-the-post-election process, and have now decided that his brand of nasty politics based on fear and selfishness is not a good fit for this country.

My hope is that in the coming years the Harper legacy will be amount to Canadian voters remembering what Harper tried to do to this country, and vow never to make the same mistake again.

If that happens, and Canadians vote to keep Canada on a very different path of building on this country's history of fairness and looking out for our neighbours, Harper will have achieved his goal of making Canada a different place.

It just might be what he planned.

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