AN OPEN LETTER TO STEPHEN HARPER: DO YOU KNOW WHAT ARE THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES UPON WHICH CANADA WAS BUILT, AND CONTINUES TO BE SUPPORTED?
Dear Right Honourable Sir,
First off, let me congratulate you on your recent electoral victory. You and your family and your team have worked long and hard, not just these last five years, but essentially for a lifetime to arrive at what amounts to a crowning achievement: Uniting a traditionally fractious political entity, infusing it with a renewed sense of purpose, and marching headlong to victory, after having doggedly and shrewdly pursued every angle possible, from a tactical and strategic perspective, to cobble together enough votes to get a sizable majority. You have indeed done well, Sir, and deserve all of the plaudits and rewards that come with acceding to the highest political office in the land.
However, this now gives me reason to pause and reflect. Do you and your team truly understand the nature and the broad-ranging scope of what, I am to understand you and your government truly intend on doing with and to this country in the next four to eight years, seeing that the opposition is now so utterly divided that you may now find yourself comfortably ensconced at 24 Sussex Drive, swimming in Pierre Trudeau’s pool at that, for many moons to come?
Do you truly understand the fundamental principles of the role that the Crown has played, and needs to continue to play in the edification and survival of this country as a sovereign nation-state? Or have you inhaled the Libertarian Americano-centric Neo-Conservative ideology of ‘the less government the better’, and ‘let the private sector take care of things’, and ‘don’t infringe on liberty’ etc…?
The origins of the American and Canadian nations are in fact quite different in nature, if you take the trouble to study them in any sort of depth. The Americans founded their country by mostly fundamentalist Protestant religious dissenters, who argued with the Anglicans, who themselves had argued with the Catholics. So these were not very conciliatory and compromising people from the get go. Their descendents ended up pursuing an agenda which in the practical sense of things, meant allowing common men of property as much freedom and liberty to arrogate to themselves as much wealth as they possibly could, in as short a period of time possible, free of the constraints of Royal fiscal restraint or servitude of any kind.
They also had an emerging market and a burgeoning population which allowed them to pursue such an agenda, with a more favourable climate in which to carry it all out. They even went so far as to wage a war of Independence from the Crown, after said entity had had the foresight and fortitude to expulse its longstanding rival France from the Continent in 1763. The American colonists didn’t see it that way and rather saw instead Royal highhandedness in levying taxes on their trade and commerce without their prior consent to pay for the reimbursement of this war’s debt. Questions must also be raised as to whose ‘liberty’ was truly being served by such a war, seeing that George Washington and his friends were big land speculators in the Ohio Valley, precisely the land where the Crown had reserved a lot of land after the Peace of 1763, for the Indians to continue trapping fur so as to keep the economy going. Washington and his friends wanted to make money seizing that land, and dividing it up and selling it and profiting from bringing in colonists and selling them supplies to farm and live.
So essentially, the notion of ‘Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness’, had a lot to do with late 18th century Adam Smith-style notions of anti-monarchical, anti-state-interventionist, anti-mercantilist notions of bourgeois liberal capitalism, and the secular disestablishment of the institutional control of the propertied interests of the Crown and the Church over that of the increasingly dominant and aggressively expansionist bourgeoisie.
Contrast this with Canada, and you get a completely different picture. The English-speaking elite which founded what is today English-speaking Canada were the Loyalists, precisely the people who wanted to have nothing to do with the afore-mentioned notions of ‘Life Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness’, and who wished to remain loyal to the Crown, not to mention its more traditional forms of social hierarchy, and continued commercial connections with the London financial markets in Britain.
These people arrived here in what was to become our country as refugees, and quickly adapted their more traditionally Conservative mentality with that of a harsher climate, smaller market, and far more vast geographical space, all of which conspired to making them much more painfully aware of the necessity, and desirability of maintaining good relations with the Crown. They needed a safe and predictable source of financing for their commercial and, later, industrial ventures. They also, in many cases, aspired to affect the airs of upper-middle and upper class British aristocrats, some being born there, others being not too long removed from their origins in the Mother Country, and very much aware of the ascendant nature of the Empire, and the desirability of trying to continue currying favour with the Old Country, and aspiring to ‘do well’, so as to possibly be elevated to the Peerage, and perhaps be lucky enough to one day affect the lifestyle of an English country gentleman on a large estate, who spends his time hunting and so forth.
The climate, geography, and smaller market/demographic conditions, also shaped their mindset. They quickly realized that these factors made it far more difficult to make money, much less make it quickly in this country. Distances made the transport of goods over long distances without proper transportation systems very risky and costly. The HBC and NWC (Hudson’s Bay Company and North-West Company), engaged in a fierce struggle for supremacy over control of colonial commerce in the hinterland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, only to see the NWC be gobbled up by the HBC in 1821, leaving them with a giant monopoly over trade. So much for competition and ‘free enterprise’.
Climate and geography were another factor. Building anything in Canada in our harsh climate was much more expensive. Doing anything in winter was near impossible. Building the CPR, (Canadian Pacific railway), through our vast expanse of muskeg, mountains and plains, to service such a small market, required Herculean engineering skills, as well as 25 million dollars of outright cash grants from the Crown, and 25 million acres of free land, not to mention a monopoly on all traffic going in and out for several decades, before the CPR would even consider bellying up to the bar to lay a single mile of track
So even to this day, our ‘wealth-creating class’ such as it is, is much less adventuresome than that of the U.S.A. As I’m sure you know, no big project will move forward in this country, no private capitalist, be it Pierre Karl Péladeau, Rogers, Telus, Bell, or anybody in this country who actually has enough hard cold cash in their coffers, will not spit a penny of it into the pot to build anything major, until they have an ironclad guarantee from the various levels of government, that they first will pony up a lot of cash, or in the case of Québec city’s seemingly never-ending hockey arena saga, that they will have a legislated guarantee from the provincial parliament, that the tens of millions of dollars that Péladeau has actually promised to spend managing the place, said guarantee being first obtained by first getting two levels of government to cough up over 200 million dollars, and which said contract has been tentatively entered into without any competitive bidding process, will be immune from any future legal challenge to their exclusivity of their management agreement, otherwise, no deal!
So we basically have a very ‘risk-averse’ wealth-creating class here in Canada. They have a long history, including our big banks, of investing in what I like to call ‘sure deals’: Things like minerals, pulp and paper, timber, energy, and so on. Value-added things like pop-culture and pro-sports are not seen as big money-makers, but rather, big risk ventures which are more platforms for providing a delivery medium for their media empires to deliver consumers to producers of goods and services such as beer, telecommunications products, processed foods, leisure and travel products, home improvement, and other household goods and services such as home electronics and media services such as cable and internet.
So they won’t move forward with anything unless the Crown, through its various levels of government, takes the greater part of the risk away from them so that they can make money off of it. So basically, in Canada, risk and loss are nationalized, and profit is privatized. ‘Twas ever thus’, as my dearly-departed mother always used to say. And she was a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal, and so am I, albeit an increasingly more Progressive-Conservative one.
So basically, Right Honourable Sir, before you start deconstructing too much of what we’ve built here in Canada over the last couple of hundred years, all in the name of some sort of Western-Canadian version of Neo-Conservatively-inspired Evangelical Christian Right-type of Think Tank solution (and I’m speaking from the point of view of a very traditionalistically-minded, moderately progressive practicing Roman Catholic perspective), think hard about where we’ve come from, and how and why we’ve gotten to be where we are today.
Government doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘smaller’ to be ‘better’. Taxes don’t necessarily have to be ‘lower’ to be more efficient. At what point do we stop cutting taxes, and back away from this Canadian Taxpayers Federation rhetoric of ‘we’ve gotta lower taxes!’ Are we going to continue lowering taxes until nobody pays any tax? When are we going to resanctify the notion that paying one’s taxes to the Crown is one’s civic duty, and is a good and honest thing that all law-abiding citizen should do? When are we going to stop enabling this Libertarian, anti-state mentality coming from America which is chipping away at the integrity of our civic-mindedness in this country?
You have a responsibility, Right Honourable Sir, to defend and promote Canada as a going concern and a sovereign Nation, not a loose quasi-sovereign confederacy of quasi-sovereign post-modern Grand Duchy-like provincialist fiefdoms. We are a sovereign Nation State, and you have the moral and spiritual duty to see to it that we remain so, and that these bonds are strengthened not weakened.
In conclusion, you may not ever read these words yourself personally. This letter may never get past the desk of a lower-level aide. But rest assured that the eyes of all Canadians are upon you, especially those in the province of Québec, whom you have specifically and explicitly sought to ignore and marginalize in the pursuit of a more western-centrically based federation. French Canada is the keystone of Confederation. It has traditionally been the swing vote province which has determined the outcome of the governing party.
You, sir, have explicitly chosen to pursue a political and economic and socio-cultural ideology which is overtly hostile to the moral, philosophical, spiritual, cultural, linguistic, and political traditions of what amounts to the cradle of Confederation, a society through whose particular and unique manner in which it was brought into the British realm, and hence into Confederation, has traditionally made all of us as Canadians all the more sensitive to the necessity of opening our arms wide to make room for our French-speaking compatriots at the table, so as to continue to obtain and procure the continuing consent of the people of this noble civilization within our greater Canadian federation.
Such consent is a Sine qua Non for the continued existence of our country, and your persistence in exacerbating this longstanding cleavage at the political level has only served to antagonize and alienate even further large segments of the French-speaking population in my province of birth.
When it comes to fundamental principles, we do have many in this country, Right Honourable Sir. I most sincerely hope and pray that you are now more cognizant of them, as I personally see them through my mind’s eye, so as to enlighten your process of discernment as you embark upon the journey of your next four to five years as our Right Honourable and most trusted servant. God Bless you sir, and I will most certainly keep you in my prayers,