Monday, April 4, 2011

Culture of Control

Source: CBC News: Ignatieff Slams Harper over ex-aide's Convictions
Source: CTV News: PM Wouldn't have Hired Carson if he Knew his Past
Source: CTV News: Harper Says he won't Revisit Abortion, Gay Marriage

I'd like to take a moment today to talk about Stephen Harper; shocking, I know.

There is something that we all know about Stephen Harper, something that all of us have knowing since he became leader of the Conservative Party and since he became Prime Minister: The man does not like to be out of control.

In the 2004 and 2006 Elections, Harper is known to have placed his candidates under 'media gag-orders', but even that didn't stop a few of them from making controversial comments to media and constituents. In government, Harper took this even further, by making press releases and other statements by Conservative MPs subject to screening and approval by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Harper has exhibited an incredible amount of control over his caucus and government, almost to an authoritarian level. There is no doubt in my mind that Harper effectively pulls the strings and holds all of them when it comes to actions undertaken by the Conservative Party of Canada.

We know Harper is a top-down leader, there is no debating that; which is why it makes it harder and harder to believe that all the scandals that have broken under his watch can't be linked back to him.

All of Canada, even some international citizens, know that Harper prefers to the run the show and ensure that he's always in control of situations. Look to this election campaign, and his '5 question limit' from the media. Look at how the media is cordoned off at Conservative campaign stops.

Look at how Harper isn't making random stops along the campaign, but carefully staged and controlled stops that are guaranteed not to produce a situation that could embarrass the Conservative Leader. After all, we all know how one of the campaign stops thus far included an 'entry list'; where if your name wasn't on the list, you weren't allowed in.

No other leader has done this, to their credit. I mean, even Ignatieff has put himself in crowds of people who have told the media later on that they had no intention of voting Liberal. But Ignatieff still took the risk of embarrassment, or finding himself disagreeing with a citizen in front of the national media. Harper doesn't.

So, how can we believe Harper when he tells us that if he knew about Bruce Carson's fraud convictions and mental health status back when he was first hired, he wouldn't have been hired in the first place?

The simple answer is that we can't.

Carson was hired by Ian Brodie, who if memory serves was a college friend of Stephen Harper in addition to being his chief of staff. Carson has since gone on the record as saying that he was upfront about his past when he was interviewed by Brodie for the job; yet Harper continues to deny that he knew anything about it.

Now, Carson was given 'secret' clearance; which, in addition to the interview, would have meant that he would have undergone a criminal background check. Having done one of these myself, I can tell you that a criminal background check will reveal any convictions or on-going investigations into a person's background.

If Carson had a pardon, there's a chance that these convictions would not be on his record, but Carson nor anyone else has stepped forward to say that he had been pardoned for his prior convictions.

So, that leaves us with two options: Either Harper is lying, or Ian Brodie kept this fact from Harper.

But given that Brodie was not only hand picked by Harper, but also a college friend, I highly doubt Brodie would have kept this information from Harper. After all, friends usually tell friends the truth when there's a chance that concealing it will lead to problems down the line...Especially when that friend is the Prime Minister of Canada.

Of course, there's always the chance that Brodie was a sycophant; a handpicked yes-man by Stephen Harper, who had been told to hire Carson by Harper regardless of what turns up in his background check. Why this would happen, I don't know, but it's a question that Harper does need to be asked.

We know that Harper is rarely not in control of his caucus and the decisions made by the Conservative Government. This is established fact. As such, Harper needs to come out with a stronger defence (namely proof of some sort) that he honestly didn't know about Carson's past; or that he was personally not informed of the past.

Frankly, Carson can jump the gun on this one personally by acknowledging whether or not he had a pardon for his convictions when he was interviewed for the job. Furthermore, anyone can jump the gun with Carson's permission to release the criminal background check form that was returned by the police service who performed it.

And if that document shows Carson's convictions, then there can be no doubt that Harper indeed knew of Carson's convictions but dismissed them and hired him anyways, for some unknown reason.

Throughout the life of the Harper Government, dozens of staffers have been thrown under the bus by numerous ministers and Conservative backbenchers for 'scandals' and so forth. Yet only one of these scandals has ever been more or less linked back to a Minister (Bev Oda VS KAIROS); and none of them have ever found their way back to Stephen Harper.

Even Doug Finley, the current embroiled Senator in the the in-and-out financing scandal, has suggested that people who suggest that Harper knew about it personally, or order for it, is an idiot.

Well, Mr. Finley, I guess I'm an idiot; but I'm an idiot with the proof and power of fact on my side. Which is more than we can say for your side.

As such, I think there is no doubt that Harper can indeed be linked back to EVERYTHING that went wrong during his time as Prime Minister; and his own controlling nature is the proof in the pudding.

Now that we've talked about Harper's controlling nature, I'd like to take a small detour to another topic: Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage.

Harper, while stumping today, announced that a re-elected Conservative Government would not go after either of these issues as government policy. However, Harper was 'mum' on whether or not he would support a private member's bill that would address either of these two issues.

I think, to borrow a phrase, Harper's silence is deafening.

I have no doubt in my mind that a Conservative Majority government would move quickly to pass legislation on these two issues; though, I will concede that they will not be government bills but private members bills.

I can, off the top of my head, name quite a few Conservative backbenchers who would introduce such legislation; but I won't go through the bother of naming them here, we all know who are the social conservatives in the Conservative Party caucus. From Saskatchewan alone, there's at least 4 names that come to mind that would draft and second a bill to repeal same-sex marriage and limit or restrict abortion.

As such, this is the scenario I imagine:

2 of the Conservative backbenchers will introduce and second a bill on these issues, and eventually it will go before a vote in the House of Commons. Stephen Harper, and a key few Cabinet Ministers, will either abstain from voting or vote against the private member's bill.

The few socially conservative members of the Liberal Party, as there are a few, will vote with the bill, and the rest of the Conservative caucus will be left to vote as they please. The bill will either pass or fail, depending on the number of Conservatives elected.

Harper himself will probably address the bill in such a manner:

"It's not a government bill, it's not something that this government supports, but it's a private member's bill. As such, members of the House will examine the bill, consult with their constituents, and decide for themselves whether or not they can support the bill."

Certainly sounds like something Harper would say.

Anyone who says a Conservative Majority would leave this issues alone is only partially right; the government may not bring the issue forward, but there a dozens of social conservatives who would see this as their only chance to roll back the clock on these issues and would take the opportunity to do so.

The only way of stopping it would be for Harper to openly reject the bill, which he might do given that he wouldn't want to alienate centrist voters in the future, but that's not a guarantee that it would happen.

There are enough social conservatives in the Conservative caucus that this needs to be discussed and Harper needs to address the issue of what his government would do in the face of a private member's bill designed to restrict, limit or outlaw either of these social practices. Canadians only have half of the answer to the question, which seems to be a trend with Harper, and we shouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt until we have both halves.

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