Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Imperiled Canadian Soul

Although it has been many years since I read Bram Stoker's Dracula, I recall that it was a far more subtle and eerie depiction of vampiric activity than the generations of films that it spawned. The latter almost invariably portrayed Dracula as a charming yet unholy creature who pounced swiftly, gorily, and mercilessly upon his victims; the novel, on the other hand, depicted a creature that, while driven by an unslakable thirst, did not deprive Mina Harker of her life in one fell swoop, but slowly drained her of her life force, leaving everyone bewildered as to the cause of her demise. If anything, this Dracula, with his endgame in mind, had the patience and self-control necessary to see his goals through.

In many ways, Stoker's original creature serves as an apt metaphor for the unholy political practices that have been underway these past several years in Canada under Stephen Harper. For those with any sense of history, it is obvious that there has been a gradual yet systematic exsanguination of the values and programs that have been a proud part of our identity for many many years. While I have no intention of offering a comprehensive list of those depredations, as others have done a far better job in analyzing them than I ever could, a few will suffice to demonstrate how far we have fallen under this regime and, to be fair, under previous ones, who paved the way for our current unhealthy state:

The Erosion of Progressive Taxation: At one time, there existed the notion that as people's income rose, they paid proportionally more. Like the corruption that the vampire represents, the Harper regime has seduced Canadians into believing they deserve to keep more of their earning (pension splitting, TFSAs, reduction of GST, record low corporate taxes, etc.) without a thought given to the services they pay for, the social safety net that keeps people from truly hitting bottom, the egalitarian nature of our health care, etc.)

The Progressive Destruction of The Environment: The strident calls of this corporatist government would have us believe that muzzling scientists, closing research facilities, aggressively pursuing tarsands development are all but innocent cost-saving and revenue boosting initiatives that have little to no impact on the climate crisis currently engulfing the world.

A Degree of Government Secrecy Incompatible With a Democracy: Canada now ranks No. 55 among 93 nations when it comes to the law that allows journalists and others to get access to federal government documents. As reported in The Star, this ranking by the Centre for Law and Democracy puts us just ahead of Angola and Thailand, but one place behind Slovakia. This is a huge drop from 31 years ago when Canada’s initial legislation on access to information (ATI) was hailed as world-leading.

When a government regulars denies its citizens and parliamentarians access to the information that allows for informed discourse and thoughtful decisions, the illusion of a free and open society wears very thin very quickly. The ongoing very secret negotiations around the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) trade deals are probably one of the most worrying indicators of further Harper destruction, as many claim it will give the same power that NAFTA does to investors to sue governments if their polices (e.g. environmental) hamper their profit-making ability as well as limit governments' ability to use local suppliers and businesses in contracts.

In many ways, the current Senate expense scandal is but a sensational diversion from the much larger picture of corrupt abuse of power endemic in our current political apparatus. While disgraced Senator Duffy has become a donkey upon whom it is fun to pin the tail, there is a much larger tale to be told and taught to the people of Canada. Yet perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in the almost universal condemnation that Duffy's dishonesty has provoked. Most see his fraudulent expense claims as a grievous insult to all who work hard, many eking out meager existences, and dutifully paying their taxes. In other words, his abuses are something we can all relate to.

Perhaps, like the librarians in Troy Michigan who mounted such an effective campaign to stop the erosion of library services, all who are able, both within and outside of the blogosphere, need to find new, compelling and relatable ways to present the story of our deterioration as a nation in order to galvanize the electorate. Given our collective knowledge and creativity, this should be a task many are well-suited for.

Because let's face it - without widespread citizen engagement and resistance, the Dracula within our midst will only continue to drain our nation's lifeblood.


  1. Children of the night don't make music, Lorne. They create discord.

  2. Those of us who prefer harmony to the cacophony of discord need to shed greater light on the darkness that prevails in Ottawa right now, Owen.

  3. Unfortunately the current scandals in the Senate expose just how venal the corruption has become. Also unfortunate is that nobody seems to be pointing this out.
    The reason petty thieves are so widely detested isn't really because they are thieves. Bold thieves that get away with rich prizes, the real pirates, we tend to admire, even if we still have to punish them.
    The petty thieves we detest more because they are weak and unimaginative. Weak because they were willing to become criminals for petty temptations.

    So if some Senators are willing to risk their position and reputation over such paltry sums of money then what are the other politicians willing to do when the real money is in their faces?

    1. This is a very apt description of those currently caught up in the Senate scandal, Dan. Your question about the other politicians and what they are willing to do is a chilling reminder of the dangers inherent in either not voting or voting with indifference.