07/06/2012 08:11 EDT | Updated 09/05/2012 05:12 EDT

Harper Doesn't Hate Women, He Hates Incompetence


In light of Bev Oda's resignation as an MP and cabinet minister, Rachel Décoste asserted in a blog for the Huffington Post that this was a sign of "a disturbing trend" emerging from Harper's dealings with women that might suggest he "harbours hatred" for the female sex.

However the only "disturbing trend" to emerge from the PM's dealings with women is that substantial swathes of the dogmatic left actually believe he hates them. The argument "Stephen Harper hates women" -- besides not being an argument -- should be seen as little more than a rhetorical cudgel used by feminists to bash the PM. But now, seemingly reasonable people are expounding this belief to be true. Actually, not just that it's true, but that it's darkly true and truly ominous.

With the now-standard extrapolation of minor events within complicated greater themes, some shabby threads are woven into a cloth of pure Harperian evil; we're through the looking glass again.

Thus, Bev Oda's political resignation must mean something broader. Surely, it cannot be the old, old, story that a politician flubbed, was called out on it by the press and hounded into resignation. Ottawa insiders insist that Oda competently managed a difficult portfolio for a long amount of time, and political watchers can see the tell-tale signs of "jumping before she was pushed." Therefore it must be because she's a woman!

Never mind that Oda has been a member of the Conservative front-bench since her election eight years ago, both in government and opposition. Nor is it important that "$16 orange juice" is basically part of the Canadian political lexicon. 

But this is only the tip of the Harperian women-hating iceberg. Known woman Helena Guergis was dropped from cabinet in 2010. The government -- ever the misogynists -- said it was because of serious allegations, some of them criminal, which cast a sleazy pall over her and her judgment and made her look bad. 

But no, that cannot possibly be the case; it must be because she was a woman.

Of course it is totally irrelevant that Guergis ran as an independent candidate and lost badly to a Conservative. It is more irrelevant still that the new Conservative MP is Kellie Leitch, who holds a PhD and an MBA, and is a practiced surgeon at SickKids hospital and has been a Conservative activist since she was a teenager. And let us forget that Leitch, a first term MP, serves as a parliamentary secretary in a major portfolio, was a vital part of debate surrounding OAS changes and is often speculated to be in line for a quick cabinet promotion. It is deeply irrelevant that Leitch is a woman.

Wait, there's more though! Cabinet minister (and long-time woman) Rona Ambrose got dumped from her portfolio after spewing rhetoric about the Kyoto Accord that earned Canada a fossil award. It is not germane to get into Kyoto here, but it is hilarious that what gets parsed from this is that Ambrose was a sock puppet for the prime minister. Obviously a woman cannot do the mental math to show Canada couldn't meet the requirements of Kyoto. Of course, this "proof" also ignores two somewhat salient points: first that Ambrose still serves in the cabinet (as minister of public works, and for the Status of Women), and second that three male successors have all espoused the exact same policy that Ambrose so embarrassingly had scripted for her.

Then there always follows the supposed evisceration of the Department of Status of Women.  Apparently those hard-working bureaucrats have been starved of all funding, and that the once-proud jewel of the government has been reduced to supplying aprons and ovens. Where that thought originates is that funding was cut to pay private interest groups to conduct studies on the role of women, and in its place, funding now goes to frontline groups which actually help women -- meaning those who are not professional activists.

When the chips are down, "Stephen Harper hates women" ought to be the territory of a narrow circle of hardened but isolated ideologues, not part of reasonable discourse. This level of identity politics poisons everything it touches, including the truth, and provides no insight.

Maxime Bernier got back into cabinet because he was a boy, not because he was one of the last men standing (sorry!) after the Quebec Conservative MPs were obliterated in 2011. 

Peter MacKay hasn't been cabinet shuffled because he's a boy, not because the cabinet shuffle has yet to take place.

Stephen Harper hates women, but the NDP and Liberals do not. Yet the three female ministers cited above were most doggedly attacked by Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae, Thomas Mulcair, Bill Graham.  

Reforms to healthcare funding for refugees (which previously allowed double dipping between levels of government, and keeps refugees entitled to provincial healthcare like the rest of us), has to be an assault on women refugees, not a tightening up of a widely-disliked loophole. 

The most irresponsible piece of rhetoric of this view is the debate surrounding Motion 312, which, if passed, would strike a committee to examine when human life begins. This is proof that Stephen Harper wants to steal women's control of their bodies from them (there are, of course, no pro-life women). No prime minister can prevent an MP from introducing a private motion, but the same people who denounce Harper as a dictator will turn apoplectically purple that he will not stop M-312. It is not enough that Harper said publicly that he will vote against the motion, and had a trusted colleague speak against the motion as well.

Rather than make the frank admission that politics is usually a rough business in which people of both sexes make mistakes, and sometimes lose their jobs because of it, the view taken by Décoste prefers an irrational and non-factual smear of a politician one dislikes. It does everyone a disservice by cheapening public discourse. 

Max Power is a pseudonym.