This week marks seven years since Stephen Harper was first elected Prime Minister of Canada. While the PM took the opportunity to tweet his self-assessed greatest feats on Wednesday, it occurred to some that certain exploits were missing from the carnival of Conservative accomplishments. Perhaps the Prime Minister should reassess his criteria and/or consider these seven success stories as feathers in his conservative cap.
1. Tackling immigration reform. This issue had been festering for years before Harper became PM. His Liberal predecessors did very little to address chronic quandaries in the immigration file. Although some may disagree on policy, find some tactics downright idiotic and/or contrary to long-standing Canadian traditions, the Harper government and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney should be commended for having the fortitude to tackle this touchy, thorny subject. Let's hope the thorns don't end up pricking desirable prospective citizens.
2. Apology for Chinese Head Tax. Unbeknownst to most Canadians are the numerous slights the Canadian government has committed on minority groups since and before Confederation. Clearly racist policies caused undue strife to Asian-Canadians who built the backbone of the Canadian economy of the 19th century. In June 2006, Harper offered a full apology for the Chinese Head Tax and expressed his deepest sorrow for the subsequent exclusion of Chinese immigrants from 1923 until 1947. This long-awaited moment allows Canada to mature as a nation and turn a corner. In 2008, Harper also issued an apology for the residential schools that ravaged many aboriginal children's lives. Perhaps one day the PM will issue a similar apology to the African American immigrants who paid an equally racist head tax in the 1800s, thus conceding another dark chapter in Canada's past that has yet to be recognized or fully reconciled.
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<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/23/toyota-lexus-cambridge_n_2534019.html">Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper shake hands after attaching the final parts to a Lexus SUV</a> at the Toyota automotive plant in Cambridge, Ontario on Jan. 23, 2013.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks with French President Francois Hollande On Jan.16, 2013. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/14/canadian-mission-mali-france-cargo-plane_n_2472597.html">Canada is contributing one of its large C-17 military cargo planes to deliver supplies to the capital of Mali after a request from France</a>. <em>With files from The Canadian Press</em>
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/16/stephen-harper-meets-with_n_2491152.html">Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with the winners of the Quebec reality show 'Occupation Double'</a> on Jan. 16, 2013.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a photo opportunity with Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism Maxime Bernier and entrepreneurs at CBC headquarters Jan.14, 2013 in Montreal.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper listens to a question during a news conference, Monday, January 14, 2013 in Montreal.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/12/stephen-harper-david-chen-community-service-medal_n_2464256.html">Shopkeeper David Chen (centre) stands with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario's Lieutenant Governor David Onley after receiving his Diamond Jubilee Medal</a> for outstanding service to his country in Toronto on Jan. 12, 2013. Chen is a Toronto grocer who was charged in 2009 but later acquitted for chasing down and detaining a shoplifter.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/11/harper-first-nations-meeting_n_2459305.html">Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with First Nations leaders</a> in Ottawa on Jan. 11, 2013.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/08/harper-thomas-boni-yayi_n_2433191.html">Prime Minister Stephen Harper greets the President of the Republic of Benin Thomas Boni Yayi</a> in Ottawa on Jan. 8, 2013.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper hangs a photo of his mother, Margaret, on the 'Nonna Wall' at Ritorno Restaurant in Oakville on Jan. 4, 2013.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is reflected in the glass door of an electrical panel as he speaks at Ford Motor plant in Oakville, Ontario on Jan. 4, 2013. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/04/automotive-innovation-fund-canada_n_2410319.html">Harper announced renewal of the Automotive Innovation Fund</a>.
3. Concluding trade agreements with South American nations: As Canada's #1 trading partner has been struggling economically for some time, the logical alternative would be to diversify trade partners, to reduce dependency on a single country (i.e. the USA). The multiple trade agreements with emerging economic markets in South and Central Americas give Canadian businesses greater access to Hispanophone opportunity and expansion. ¡Eso esta muy bien! While PM Harper failed to conclude a trade deal with Brazil, he is grovelling in the right direction. These agreements will cement a legacy that will remain once Harper's reign concludes.
5. a) Celebrating Black History Month on Parliament Hill in a grandeur never before reserved for Canadians of African descent. In the 1990s, the federal Liberals took ethnic votes for granted, handing them crumbs here and there. Thanks to Liberal MP Jean Augustine (first African Canadian woman elected to Parliament), a motion was passed unanimously by the House of Commons to recognize Black History Month in 1995 -- 400 years after Africans arrived in Canada. In 2002, then Minister of Heritage Sheila Copps formally recognized the historical significance of Africville, Halifax's oldest and largest black neighbourhood bulldozed by the province of Nova Scotia. No formal apology was issued. The Harper government took the mantle of BHM and enhanced it. Minister Kenney's well-researched launch ceremony allocutions have gone beyond the platitudes and the common colloquialisms. The Harper government has leveraged underused instruments to unleash previously-unknown chapters of our shared history. To some, this might be a small step. But it remains a giant leap towards bridging the gap between the lip service paid to multiculturalism and the actions that rarely follow. Ironically, it is a gap that party that "invented multiculturalism" has yet to address. Who would have thought the Reform Party MP who was once Harper would lead in that ambit?
5. b) Lifting Asian Heritage Month to new heights. While it was the Liberal Senator Vivienne Poy who proposed May as "Asian heritage Month" in 2001, it is the Harper government which has made its launch a marquee event on Parliament Hill. The Conservatives have effectively elevated the happening to new heights as the annual soirée allows Canadians of all backgrounds to learn, to appreciate and respect the contribution of Asians to the mosaic we call Canada. The Minister of Immigration's speech at the event always reveals a new, poignant yet unfamiliar chapter of the Asian-Canadian experience that leaves no one unmoved. This new tradition is sure to remain a staple long after Harper retires.
6. Several Senatorial Firsts. Stephen Harper was painted as a redneck with racist friends. Although those racially insensitive undesirables still tend to breed in his Party, Harper has appointed a record number of visible minorities to the Upper Chamber. More than any previous government, Harper has increased the Senate's resemblance to the country it is meant to serve. As the tenure of senators outlasts premierships, Canadians will benefit from this jolt of spice for years to come. While the Supreme Court and the Federal Court remain achromatic, the light of hope has not been extinguished.
7. Keeping a tight lid on the crazies. Canadians know all too well about the fringe element in the rightmost wing of the conservative contingent. The Tea Party, which remains the black eye for the Republican Party in the USA, provides a glimpse into the hollowed minds that deliver a cancer of hatred. Harper was successful in keeping a lid on his doltish deputation and hiding the dunce caps long enough to garner a majority government. Wrestling a majority government out of the Canadian electorate might still be PM Harper's masterstroke.
Keeping this list to just seven items has proven to be a challenge. No, I am not being sarcastic. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. The Harper Administration has been described as a dark cloud, but it does boast a silver lining. A thin one.
Majority governments are by definition strong and stable, so this talking point essentially means nothing. Do the Tories really think they'll win another majority by reminding us they already have one?
Curious about the questionable campaign fundraising done by Tory ministers <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tag/peter-penashue">Peter Penashue</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/dean-del-mastro">Dean Del Mastro</a>? Well the Conservatives have an answer for you. The NDP is much, much worse. While the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/27/ndp-union-sponsorship-donations-returned-elections-canada_n_1834802.html">New Democrats did pay back nearly $350,000 in sponsorship money from unions</a> after Elections Canada found the party guilty of violating campaign finance laws, that doesn't give the Tories the right to ignore legitimate questions about their own fundraising practices. Then again, why answer questions when you can just blame the other guy?
When NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice asks the government something in question period he usually already knows the Tories' answer. 'Remember when you were a separatist?' <a href="http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Politics/2012/06/08/19854701.html">Boulerice has long since admitted he used to sympathize with separatists</a> and it's time for the Tories (we're looking at you Pierre Poilievre) to let this one go.
Instead of answering questions about allegations of misleading robocalls during the 2011 election, the Tories generally pivot and remind people the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/24/liberal-robocall-fine-guelph-crtc_n_1827915.html">Liberals are the only party that has actually been found guilty of phone-call shenanigans</a>. While this is true, it doesn't erase the fact that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/robocalls-scandal">Elections Canada's investigation seems to have a fair bit to do with the CPC</a>. Canadians deserve to know what really happened on election day, but the Tories seem content to remind us of their rival's misdeeds. Let's hope all that ends in 2013.
No answer regarding the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/f-35">now-scuttled acquisition of the F-35</a> is complete without reminding the audience that no money has been spent on the purchase. Well, as long as you don't count <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/06/05/opposition-parties-hammer-conservative-government-over-f-35-press-conference-that-cost-taxpayers-47000/">all the cash spent on the flashy press conference in 2010 when Peter MacKay got to sit in the cockpit</a> right? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say plenty of money has been spent trying to replace Canada's ageing CF-18s, it's just that none of it has actually been on new planes? The Tories aren't fooling anyone here. It's time to admit mistakes were made.
Concerned about a housing bubble? Worried about Canada's shift toward a more resource-based economy? Put those fears to rest, things are much worse everywhere else. At least, that's what the Tories keep telling us. But are they really? Two problems: 1. Were the Tories responsible for the relative stability of Canada's banking system after the crash? Not so much. The <a href="http://m.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/top-business-stories/ban-on-bank-mergers-helped-canada-withstand-crash-imf-says/article4600686/?service=mobile">IMF has credited regulations introduced by former Liberal finance minister Paul Martin in the 1990s</a>. 2. Things are now <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/12/01/canada-us-economy-gdp_n_2220164.html">better in the U.S., at least in terms of GDP growth, than they are here</a>. The U.S.'s GDP grew nearly 5 times faster than Canada's in the third quarter of 2012. It's time for the Tories to admit that while Canada weathered the economic crisis well, the country now faces new problems that will require new solutions and not more tired talking points.
Even though the <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/09/21/a-rough-guide-to-the-conservatives-carbon-tax-farce/">NDP has never proposed a carbon tax</a>, the Tories continue to hammer this talking point home every chance they get. Got a question about the F-35? Remind them about the carbon tax. Allegations of misleading robocalls? Did we tell you about the carbon tax? The phrase has become such a predictable refrain that it has <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/08/conservative-ad-carbon-tax-video_n_2092524.html">inspired one of the most dangerous drinking games in Ottawa's history</a>. Let's hope this one evaporates in 2013.
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