In every election now, Stephen Harper’s June 1997 speech to a right-wing U.S. think tank in Montreal comes up. You know the one:
“Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term”
“the NDP is simply the left-wing agenda to basically disintegrate our society”
“the PC party were in favour of gay rights officially, officially for abortion on demand. Officially for the entrenchment of our universal, collectivized, health-care system and multicultural policies in the constitution of the country”
“the Liberal party . . . enacted comprehensive gun control . . . believes in gay rights, put sexual orientation in the Human Rights Act”
“a constitutional package which . . . included distinct society status for Quebec and some other changes, including some that would just horrify you, putting universal Medicare in our constitution, and feminist rights, and a whole bunch of other things”
And every election, Steve’s supporters make the same two objections to bringing it up: 1) Harper says he was only speaking in jest, and 2) it’s an old speech and he’s “evolved” since then.
Let’s deal with Steve the funny guy first.
A couple of months after making this supposedly jokey speech, he co-authored a policy paper with Tom Flanagan in which he repeats many of the same points. Celebrating Conrad Black’s purchase of the Southam newspaper chain, Steve looked forward to the end of its previously “monolithically liberal and feminist” stance.
“Public policy reflects the growing conservatism of public opinion. Canada is not the same country it was 10 years ago. Almost everyone in public life now takes . . . free trade, privatization of public enterprise and targeting of social welfare programs for granted.”
And as for 1997 being a long time ago . . . well here’s Steve on the campaign trail 18 months ago, stumping for a majority with the same old complaints about feminism and gun control and social programs:
Meanwhile . . .
Excellent column from Antonia Zerbisias on Friday on how Harper is “targeting” women: both in the sense of wooing their votes with an income-splitting “family tax cut” that will only benefit the wealthiest 13% of Canadian families sometime after 2016 if he gets a majority in the next two elections, while in the meantime cutting programs that benefit the rest of Canadian women and enacting policies that don’t. A solid read.