Monday, August 31, 2015

Pulling Strings

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," bellowed the 'mighty' Oz as Dorothy and her companions were discovering the secret of his power.

Similarly, Stephen Harper would divert us from his machinations through manipulations and muzzling. Star letter-writers, however, are not so easily fooled:
Conservatives seeking happy vets for TV ads, Aug. 28

Perhaps veterans need to remember the conflict the military had with the Conservative government regarding repatriation of our fallen soldiers. General Rick Hillier had to stand firm against the Harper government in order to have the proper respect shown to the fallen members of our military.

More respect should be shown to all veterans; they are not here to be puppets for the Conservative dog and pony show.

Maureen Spinney, Caledonia

Re: Don't muzzle candidates, Editorial Aug. 28

As a master puppeteer Stephen Harper wants to personally control all aspects and activities of his party and its members and it’s hardly surprising he doesn’t want his candidates (people who supposedly want to be our representatives) taking part in all-candidates’ debates or press interviews where they might say something off-script.

Nor is it surprising that he will only speak before sympathetic supporters at campaign events and has progressed from limiting questions from the press to avoiding them all together.

He appears to have an obsessive need to micromanage every aspect of his party’s activities, with the one exception of his having not been at all interested in the details of Mike Duffy’s repayment of bogus expense claims despite the risk of those details undoing his government, his personal reputation and his re-election.

What a curious oversight!

Randy Gostlin, Oshawa

Your editorial argues that the “informal edict” not to participate in candidates’ debates and media interviews is not in democracy’s interest, so we must infer that it is in the party’s interest. Candidates would have to defend the indefensible in debates and the media. The Tories know they could only look worse, so they’re not taking any risks and counting on their loyal base to win again, even if Canadians want a change.

By parroting lines and refusing to debate, the Conservatives are avoiding critical scrutiny. They’re betting their political lives on fear of instability rather than hope for better government. What are we betting on?

Salvatore (Sal) Amenta, Stouffville

The decision by the Harper Tory leadership to muzzle their candidates is a direct assault on the freedoms that define our Canadian parliamentary democracy. Public debate and participation of the press are among the essential democratic checks and balances that assure those freedoms.

That includes freedom to: learn and be better informed as candidates debate varying priorities and approaches; gather as citizens and publicly declare our own concerns and priorities; assess the commitment of candidates, their integrity of person and their response to pressure and argument; assess a candidate’s responsiveness to reason and discourse beyond the partisan line; publicly challenge the candidates on how truly representative of their constituencies they are rather than being slaves to a party line; challenge the party lines; hear informed challenges to purported statements of fact; and freedom of access.

What’s more, limiting the democratic freedom of its candidates provides suspicious evidence of an insidious readiness by the Harper Tories to limit the democratic freedoms of Canadian citizens.

As the Canadian electorate, we should be very worried about this action of the Harper Tories. Restriction to democratic freedoms is an ominous step backwards for progressive, democratic society and conjures up images of devastatingly dark periods in human history, past and present.

We must say no to their muzzling directive. We must say no to the Harper Tories. We must declare a passionate yes for parliament, for democracy, for freedoms that have been won at such sore cost and which bear the light of hope for so many.

James McKnight, St. Catharines

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