January 20, 2006
Stephen Harper is a separatist. Stephen Harper is unpatriotic. Stephen Harper can’t even bring himself to say he loves his country.
These charges, long lurking in the shadows and implied in the Liberals’ recent ad campaign, came centre stage following Buzz Hargrove’s denunciation of Harper’s credentials as a Canadian. Though Hargrove and Paul Martin now distance themselves from such statements, with many the charges will stick. Yet the charges are not only baseless, they have it backwards. No politician in Canada is doing more to keep this country together, whether by pricking the inflated support seen of late for separatism or by building up the case for Canada.
Quebec separatist leader Gilles Duceppe was talking of a sweep before Christmas, so completely had the Liberal government tarnished the image of federalism. Harper’s essential message inside and outside Quebec – that Quebecers would rightly see a vote for the Liberals as pooh-poohing the scandal that had outraged them – trumped the Liberal claim to be federalism’s champion. Quebec federalists rallied to Harper, so much so that polls show him attracting 30% of Quebec’s popular vote, and Quebec’s non-separatist elite – including Quebec Liberal Premier Jean Charest, Action Democratique leader Mario Dumont, and Montreal’s La Presse – endorse Harper. Duceppe now talks of holding on to his party’s existing seats.
Rather than having two solitudes on the perception of corruption – an inevitable consequence of another Liberal victory – Quebecers will instead make common cause with anglophones. The great resentment in Quebec that a Liberal re-election would have created has now evaporated, eliminating a large impetus for a vote for separatism. At the same time, a Harper government would abruptly end that other threat to Canadian unity: Western alienation. With its favorite son at the helm, the West would no longer need to say “We want in.” And without Kyoto or another federal grab of Western resources, Western alienation would not be reviving any time soon.
Canada does have a problem with patriotism, however – one born of our having abandoned our traditions and our history. Our schools teach trivia rather than knowledge of our nation’s military exploits, of our unabashed heritage of capitalism, of our 19th and 20th century desire for reciprocity with the United States, of our embrace of property rights traditions and our rejection of welfare. These are abhorrent to a new political class that despises Canada’s core values and wants to remake this country in its own politically correct image. Little wonder that citizenship tests quiz immigrants on the importance of recycling household waste. Or that young Canadians know more about the United States than about their own country. Or that Canadian athletes think nothing of forgoing the opportunity to carry the Canadian flag at the opening ceremonies of international competitions.
Stephen Harper, patriot, would reverse the slide into irrelevancy that has caused us to lose our way, in the process diminishing us at home and abroad. To give us a voice in foreign policy, he would restore our Armed Forces so that we can uphold our military alliances and defend our own borders, rather than rely on the protection of the United States. He would promote the most basic of human rights by enshrining property rights in the constitution and limiting the growth of government. He would treat the United States as an ally and trading partner, rather than an easy target for scoring cheap political points. In short, he would return Canada to the ranks of a self-respecting nation.
Lawrence Solomon, author of the forthcoming book Toronto Sprawls, is executive director of Urban Renaissance Institute and Consumer Policy Institute, divisions of Energy Probe Research Foundation.; www.urban.probeinternational.org.