Tag Archives: Stephen Harper

What I think I know about the campaign so far

  • After Nigel Wright and then Ben Perrin’s testimony at the Mike Duffy trial, I am pretty confident that Stephen Harper was lying about not knowing about the payment.  The plausible deniability seems less plausible every day.  Or as Andrew Coyne sarcastically suggests, maybe Stephen Harper is a victim in all of this.
  • Far more Liberal lawn signs visible in Saskatoon since 1993 when Jean Chretien swept to power.  In many ways the shift to the Liberals has to be really good for the Conservatives as I think this comes from historic NDP vote.  That being said, I still think Saskatoon West goes to the NDP. 
  • The interesting race may be Saskatoon Grasswoods and Saskatoon University.  Kevin Waugh has been really quiet so far while everyone is asking where Brad Trost is.   Trost doesn’t even have a website (although he has a web domain that goes nowhere).  It’s early but the Conservatives could go 0-3 in the city.
  • I also found it weird that Jason Kenney was in town last night for a fundraiser for Donauer and Block only and not for the east side candidates.
  • I watched Antarctic Edge: Beyond the Ice last night which is on the rapid global warming that is happening in Antarctica right now.  Winter sea ice has declined by three months and temperatures have increased by 11 degrees Fahrenheit, six times greater than the global average.  Yet the NDP and the Liberals seem nervous about talking about it.  Maybe it is an acknowledgement that Canada is indeed what most of the world is calling us, a petro-state (or to throw it back to the 80s; PetroCanada).  Our entire country has become tied to oil and gas revenue.  To tackle climate change in a serious way, it would cause a serious disruption to the Canadian economy and throw hundreds of thousands out of work.  In a day and age where the “middle class” is king politically, no one wants to take a stand that would hurt them, even if it hurts the globe.
  • Interesting interview on The Current with John Ibbitson.  It’s worth the 20 minutes to listen to it.  You may even want to listen to it again.
  • In some way I feel sorry for the political staffers who have to create election material and use stock photos.  They have no budget and are under time constraints and it never turns out wellNever ever turns out well
  • This won’t come up in the election but I tend to give Stephen Harper a pass for messed up military procurement, especially when the Americans who do it better than we do, also have their struggles.
  • Whoever wins, is going to have a tougher go with the Canadian economy.  Oil prices are to stay depressed for another two years.
  • The NDP minimum wage hike makes claims that it can’t back up.  Hey, a NDP populist economic policy that makes no sense, what a surprise.
  • Of course neither leader has the courage to wade into Saskatchewan’s most pressing issue, what’s wrong with the Roughriders?

After one week of the campaign, here is what I think I know.

As I am at most times early in a campaign, I am struggling with who to vote for.  Here are my thoughts so far after watching the Maclean’s Leader’s Debate and the first week of the campaign.

Conservative Party

  • Stephen HarperStephen Harper lies a lot.  An incredible amount.  I actually can’t think of a Prime Minister that lies has much as he does about his record.  My only comparison might be Tony Blair (who lied over crazy things).  Is what they mean by “absolute power corrupts absolutely”?
  • C-51 really bothers me.  I don’t believe it makes Canadians even safer and it takes away important oversight over our CSIS and the RCMP.  It also creates silos which is the kind of organizational mess that allowed the attacks of 9-11 to begin.  What is even worse, is that this isn’t just my thoughts on security but have been written about extensively but top US intelligence leaders.  Harper could have learned from others but chose not to.
  • The shenanigans over the campaign stops.  I need to be invited to a campaign event to attend?  It’s weird.  I like to take the kids out to see leaders as they pass through town but now I have to be a committed Conservative supporter to see the Prime Minister in an election campaign?  And I can’t post photos on social media?  What kind of thinking leads to that.
  • Stephen Harper’s big promise today?  A travel ban on travelling to tourist areas!  So what happens if I want to do humanitarian work there (I had friends working in Afghanistan long before 9/11 and they were doing good work with local farmers).  What happens if I have friends and family there that are not terrorists?  Since when has any Canadian government told it’s citizens where they can travel.  How does that make Canada safer?  Also since when does where I travel decide if I am innocent or guilty.  This is going down a dark path.
  • Whoever gave Harper the advice that he could just not appoint senators is an idiot.  Again, is he being serious or is he going after uneducated voters that this appeals to.  I just don’t know.
  • Okay, I’ll just call this now, Stephen Harper is a deeply paranoid Prime Minister.
  • Of course his promise to never have a Netflix tax.  Also, anyone else find it a little weird that a law and order Prime Minister likes Breaking Bad.  Anyone think that he actually watches or knows what Breaking Bad is?  I thought so. 

New Democratic Party

  • Thomas MulcairThe Sherbrook Declaration which says that the country can be broken up with a vote of 50% plus one goes against my core beliefs and the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • The NDP plan to abolish the senate sounds great (well actually it sounds stupid) when said on a campaign trail but why are we making, “re-opening the constitution” a campaign platform.  Did we have so much fun at Meech Lake, Charlottetown and the subsequent Quebec referendum that we want to do this again?
  • I am not impressed with the $15 an hour national wage.  I think it is poorly thought out policy.  Actually it was the kind of poorly thought out but populist policies that the NDP were known for and I had hoped they had left behind.
  • Tom Mulcair talking about climate change is a little like hearing Stephen Harper talk about the economy.  A lot of bravado but not much of a plan.
  • I have always been disgusted that the NDP opened those satellite offices across the country in clear violation of the rules and won’t pay back the money.  Apparently the Liberal Party and the Conservatives aren’t the only one that feel entitled to imaginary entitlements.
  • Linda McQuaig’s comments on the oilsands.  Really the NDP are going to shut down the oilsands and plunge Alberta and probably Saskatchewan into a depression for years?  This is why it is hard to take the NDP seriously most elections.  I don’t trust them to manage the economy.  Of course it’s hard to beat Harper’s economic record but the NDP seem to be trying.
  • I hate the NDP stance of deferring to the United Nations on military actions.  In theory that sounds great but in practice it gives Russia a veto on whether or not you act.  In case the NDP haven’t noticed, there is a madman in charge of Russia and that seat on the UN Security Council.

Liberal Park

  • Justin TrudeauHate that Trudeau voted for C-51.  Just hate it.  Either Liberal Party advisors are playing politics with an important issue or are idiots.  Or both.
  • I know I am the outlier on this but I thought Trudeau was poor in the debates.  I thought it was weird he didn’t tell me what he believed, only what the Liberal Party believed.  It’s not a big thing but I thought it was strange.  According to the polls, I was wrong about this anyways, most thought he won.
  • Trudeau’s faith in the ability of the senate to be restored is noble.  For all of the NDP and the Conservatives rhetoric that it can not, in truth, no one has ever tried.   At least Trudeau is going to try.
  • Trudeau’s foreign policy isn’t so much a thought out foreign policy but just plain naïve.  While Harper’s doesn’t make sense, doing the opposite of craziness doesn’t make it sane.  It is just stupid in another direction.  His views on Syria and ISIS are naïve and goes against any form of common sense.  Of course the US and Harper’s plan aren’t that effective right now either. 

This is separate from all three parties but in the U.S. in both the GOP and the Democratic party, they have adults who spend their lives on making careful and well thought out policy decisions.  In Canada, we seem to leave those decisions to political hacks which is why we get these half baked policy ideas that make no sense to anyone other than pollsters.  When talking about foreign policy, defense, or the economy, those wise voices creating policy, tend to be important and we really lack that here.

I don’t know how  I am going to vote but none of the three campaigns get me that excited and to be honest, seem to be doing what Allan Gregg said after the 1988 campaign.  The Tories went after the really stupid voters.  Sadly that worked and it seems like all three parties are targeting that demographic right now.

The White House’s Extreme Makeover

Some fun history from the New York Times

The White House Under Rennovation

In 1947, the White House was in danger of internal physical collapse. One day, while President Harry S. Truman took a bath upstairs, a great Blue Room chandelier threatened to crash down on his wife, Bess, and her guests from the Daughters of the American Revolution. The president later joked that he might have unexpectedly dropped through the ceiling naked on the ladies below, and he confessed that the incident made him nervous. The upstairs floor, he noted, “sagged and moved like a ship at sea.”

Upon investigating the situation, Truman was told that hasty renovations, demanded by various impatient presidents in the past, had led to the weakening or removal of load-bearing walls and other supporting structures. Beams were “staying up from force of habit only,” he was informed, and the mansion had become a firetrap. Truman later wrote that with so many thousands of visitors and presidential guests, “My heart trembles when I think of the disasters we might have had.”

The following year, his daughter Margaret’s piano broke through the floor of the family quarters. In August, Truman recorded in his diary that with his wife away, he had been “moved into the Lincoln Room — for safety — imagine that!” He wrote to his sister that the White House was “about to fall in.” That November, after the president won a full term over Thomas E. Dewey, the first family was whisked across Pennsylvania Avenue to reside in the presidential guest quarters called Blair House.

Had someone other than Truman been president, there might be almost nothing left of the original White House today. The cheapest, most efficient solution was to build a whole new presidential mansion. Some even suggested a different Washington location on a tract of land larger than the current 18 acres, as would befit the commanding new post-World War II stature of the United States.

As one of the most voracious readers of history ever to serve as president, Truman recoiled from that prospect. He also felt that witnessing the old White House being torn to the ground would wound Americans’ psyches. He instead approved a plan to shore up the outer walls, tear out everything inside and install a new internal steel superstructure (“of skyscraper strength,” The Washington Evening Star said) above a large new, poured-concrete basement. (The basement included a shelter from nuclear attack, where President George W. Bush was taken on the evening of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.)

The historian in Truman consoled himself with the expectation that after the gut renovation, much of the original mansion — paneled walls, hardwood floors, ceiling fixtures and other decorations — could be grafted onto the new steel skeleton so that the White House would remain authentically historic.

Of course like all renovations, it went over budget

With his renovation over the original budget, Truman and the commission that ran the project made a deal with the New York department store B. Altman & Company to fill the empty rooms — “at absolute cost” — with reproductions. As for other spaces of the mansion, ones away from public scrutiny, little effort was made to disguise the fact that they were completed in 1952. When Jacqueline Kennedy toured the mansion in December 1960 after her husband’s election victory, she became distraught. Referring to a dreary chain of city convention hotels, she observed that the ambience of the reconstructed White House was “early Statler.”

As Mrs. Kennedy pointed out, the White House is “the setting in which the presidency is presented to the world.” Thus she obtained expert help and appealed for donations of money and historical artifacts to help make the building, or at least its public floors, a treasure chest of American history. Her efforts were so successful (and enhanced by the work of later first families) that it is no wonder that someone visiting today’s White House might presume that the mansion has always been meticulously redolent of early American history.

But Mrs. Kennedy’s restoration left some backstage spaces in the White House untouched, and to this day those spaces look much as they did when created during the Truman renovation.

For example, adjoining the second-floor Treaty Room — which presidents from George H. W. Bush through Barack Obama have used as a home office — is a small, brightly lighted bathroom with exposed plumbing and a green-and-white checkerboard tile floor that looks as if it belonged to a 1952 hotel.

I really hope that Prime Minister Harper does the same with 24 Sussex Drive.  It is in serious need of repairs according to the National Capital Commission.  I know there are politics at play (and there should not be with 24 Sussex Drive) but I think the Prime Minister’s Official residence should reflect our country’s pride as well.

Eve Adam’s Floor Crossing

There is nothing noble about Eve Adams floor crossing according to Murray Mandryk

If you are looking for the slightest bit of nobility in Eve Adams’ decision to abandon Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and move to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, you would be well advised to quickly move on.

About the kindest thing to be said is that it represents just the latest episode of self indulgence that has defined the soap opera political career of the Mississauga-Brampton South MP.

Far worse, however, is that it’s this kind of cynical manoeuvre that feeds the public’s appetite to stay as far away from politics – and polling booths – as possible.

Coincidentally, Adams’ sudden conversion to Liberalism comes after her failed bid to win a Conservative nomination in the newly redistributed Oakville-North Burlington seat. Adams wanted the seat not necessarily for reasons of having represented the people there. She has been in Oakville for only two years, but had lived in Mississauga for 14 years – seven of which she served on its city council. Oakville, however, is a much easier seat for a Conservative candidate to win.

We are now supposed to believe that after a nasty nomination battle – in which Adams either started or gleefully engaged in the many skirmishes – she suddenly has recognized her problems with the Harper government over matters such as income splitting or, less specifically, its "values" and the PM’s "mean-spirited" leadership.

"The values of the Conservative Party are not the values of the original Progressive Conservative Party and they are not the values that I hold," Adams said Monday, adding she now prefers Trudeau’s kinder, more optimistic style. "I want to work with someone who inspires, not with fear-mongers and bullies."

What sheer and utter nonsense.

Of course Mark Critch has some thoughts

Mr. Trudeau just accepted somebody that Harper thought was too tainted to touch. Think about that for a second. Harper thought she was too dirty. That’s like Rex Murphy accusing someone of "loquaciously rambling in their discourse."

The low point came when Adams met with the prime minister to beg him to spare her. Harper also said that Adams told him she had broken up with his former communications director, Dimitri Soudas. Harper then leaned forward and told her that he knew Mr. Soudas was sitting in the lobby waiting for her.

Can you imagine that conversation? "Oh, did I say we broke up? Yeah, well, we’re not, like ‘BROKEN UP’ over. We’re more like ‘taking a break’ over. I mean, like, he thinks we go out but I’m so over him and, well, my Facebook status says ‘it’s complicated.’ You can totally check that."

I’m actually relieved that the PM knew. When the Prime Minister’s Office was surprised that John Baird was leaving cabinet, I thought "What’s the good of having CSIS spy on everyone if Frank Magazine knows your foreign affairs minister is leaving before you do?"

True North?

So Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have a new ad out.  Canadian politicians since the days of John G. Diefenbaker have been loving the north.  John Turner, Jean Chretien, Stephen Harper all love the north.   It’s expected that Justin Trudeau loves the north as well… and wants to make it better!  That’s it.  

As a voter, I want to hear how.  What is the big strategy.  There is some political room for him to maneveur as Harper has really accomplished nothing as part of his northern agenda.  The Department of National Defence can’t even procure rifles for the Rangers (who arguably don’t need replacements for their bolt action rifles that work really well in the winter).  Plans for a deepwater port?  Umm that has gone nowhere.  

Instead of just matching Harper’s unfulfilled and broken promises with real ideas, Trudeau just floated out some cliches and feel good statements.  In other words, not much has changed.

Past best before date?

Has Harper been on the job for too long?

One of the costs of long-tenured prime ministers is that over time there accumulates a sense of hubris and a complacency that serves the pride and ego of the leader and his cadre, but few others. This mentality is captured well by Louis St. Laurent’s 1949 campaign slogan: “You’ve never had it so good.” While, at the time, St. Laurent had only been in power for a short time, his party had been in power for 13 years in a row.

Another example is Mulroney’s two kicks at the constitutional can. While the 1987 Meech Lake Accord showed fresh, albeit elitist, thinking on the constitution, the 1992 Charlottetown Accord seemed more like an act of great hubris and (and, incidentally, political suicide).

Perhaps my favourite instance of hubris and entitlement, though, is Chrétien’s decision to stay through the 2000 election cycle. It was rumoured that he made this decision, in part, to spite Paul Martin, heir apparent and rival in the style of an epic melodrama reminiscent of Isaac and Ishmael. The long-suffering country returned a Liberal majority, steeped in corruption and in-fighting, and was rewarded with front-row seats to see Chrétien and Martin run the Grits into the ground.

On top of hubris, entrenched prime ministerial tenures also erode the capacity of opposition parties to do their job. As Franks argued, weakened oppositions, who cannot rely on patronage, who do not enjoy the extensive resources enjoyed by the governing parties, and who must constantly deal with rookie MPs are less able to effectively hold the government to account.

Harper, prime minister since 2006, is deeply into the stage of leadership at which his elapsed time in office has become a problem. The extent of his hubris is well-known. Indeed, it has gone so far as to rouse former House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken, who told author Michael Harris, “Parliament can hardly be weakened any more than it already is. Harper can’t go much further without making the institution dysfunctional. He is trying to control every aspect of House business. In fact, it will have to be returned to its former state by someone if we are to have a democracy.”

Why is nothing still being done about missing and murdered aboriginal women?

Scott Reid asks some uncomfortable but necessary questions

Nothing. Not a damned thing. A deliberate and enormous dose of nothing at all.

That is the only accurate description for what the Harper government has done in response to this summer’s killing of Tina Fontaine and the resulting calls for an inquiry into this country’s more than 1,100 missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Nothing. Not hardly even lip service.

For roughly 10 days in August, the nation took a short break from not caring about these women, most of whom linger on the margins of society. The shattering horror of this 15- year-old girl’s murder — the way she was snapped and squeezed into a garbage bag and then disposed of casually — stirred some brief attention. Aboriginal groups, the country’s premiers, opposition leaders and editorialists caused a short-lived ruckus. There were calls for a formal inquiry to examine the root causes of this unstopping tragedy, the adequacy of the police response, and what might be done to better respond to and halt the frequent loss of life. Even some prominent Conservatives added their voices to this cause, including Brad Wall, the premier of Saskatchewan.

Stephen Harper said no.

He insisted that Tina’s death, and all the other deaths and all the other assumed-but-we’ll-probably-never-know-for-sure-what-happened-deaths are a matter strictly for the police. And that was pretty much all he had to say, silently suggesting that either he doesn’t believe there are root causes to such violence and murder or, if they do exist, they are better left to someone else to care about and deal with.

Quickly, others came forward with a host of reinforcing arguments as to why an inquiry would be a dreadful waste of time — that it would divert funds that could otherwise be dedicated to helping aboriginal women or that it would tell us nothing we don’t know already or that it would be an insult to the police or that it isn’t justified because statistics show that aboriginal men are dying at equally alarming rates. Not every argument against an inquiry was dedicated to doing nothing. But in their own way each ended up lending momentum to that cause.

Eventually, someone came up with the less uncomfortable idea of a national roundtable. Less out of a sense of embarrassment than a desire to simply shove the issue aside, the government agreed. It promised to get to work.

Then the news happened, as it always will. Mike Duffy lumbered into our lives again. ISIL released beheading videos. We went to war. Two soldiers were killed on our own soil. Sexual harassment exploded as a topic of national discussion. With every passing day these important matters dominated an increasing share of mind and, by default, Tina moved further and further from our thoughts.

It’s now been 96 days since her tiny, busted body was fished from the Red River. In the competition to respond to that tragedy, nothing is winning. And it’s winning by a mile.

Contextless Thoughts

  • After the Saskatoon Transit lockout is done, I can’t see Ann Iwanchuk winning a second full term.  Especially with Mike San Miguel quietly running again.  Her campaign was largely financed by labour and with the city attacking the ATU like it did, her slim margin of victory, her constituents relying on Transit heavily, and a lack of a signature issue so far, it could be really tough to win re-election.
  • It could hurt Clark and Loewen with their base and could mobilize the non voting parts of Ward 2 to really hurt Lorje.  I am not saying councillors will lose their seats but rather could face much tougher re-election races than they would have.  The right opponents will capitalize on this.
  • Despite what people think, this won’t hurt the mayor at all.  That is what the attack ads are targeted to protect (at the expense of councillors).  In many ways he could come out of this the winner, especially if this weakens rivals and empowers his base which to be honest, never rides a bus.
  • Of course the city being the city, coincided the lockout with the Mayor’s Cultural Gala.  You had some city councillors tweeting pictures of the city’s elite having a fun time while lower class people were being kicked off buses and having to walk home.  
  • Why would the city run attack ads against the very union it needs to negotiate with on the first day.  Saskatoon already has laughable communications and that didn’t exactly make the city look good.  Of course the political nature of the ads was bizarre.  Several city councillors swore to me that they never had any foreknowledge of the ads until they ran but both city staff and some others on council say that council saw and approved the ads in an in-camera session of executive committee.  It’s not exactly breaking news that council members lie to me on issues.  
  • Speaking of executive committees, it would be a lot easier for them to lie to me if council and staff stopped leaking what happened in there.  If only they had a way to investigate the leaks…
  • I have had several discouraging conversations with people who are utterly dependent on the bus for work, to provide care for a spouse who is in a nursing home, to get to school.  In Saskatoon we call those people collateral damage.
  • It is weird to hear councillors go all out in defence of their real fiduciary duty but ignore their responsibility to those who rely on a public service.  Empathy for those who have been hurt by this strike has not been something that has been communicated well.
  • I don’t really miss the NFL.  You would think I would after watching it every week since 1987 but I haven’t.   I glance at some scores but other than that, I haven’t really missed it.  I still have some college football, the Huskies, and the CFL but I have never cared about them like the NFL.
  • Brady Hoke needs to be fired from the University of Michigan.  He sent back out a quarterback with a concussion back onto the field.  That should be a fireable offence in any league (including when the Calgary Stampeders did it a couple of years ago in a playoff game against the Riders).  You send out a player with a brain injury, you are fired or suspended, especially in the NCAA.
  • What could Stephen Harper be thinking?  $300,000 courtesy ride for a couple of European diplomats because he wanted to have them at a reception?  Does he just not care anymore?  That does not look like a move by a politician who is planning on re-election.  Not only that but there is still widespread opposition to the deal in Germany.
  • The NFL is talking with Texas head coach Charlie Strong who has taken some strong steps in dealing with player misconduct. “We can’t compromise and sometimes that means getting rid of the best player.”
  • If you are a big company and you want to associate your brand with a strong event, I’d talk to the people behind Nuit Blanche right now.  Over 5000 people were on 20th Street last night for the inaugural event and it was a big time success.  People were partying, shopping, and hanging out all over the place.  What a great event.  Someone needs to step up and get behind it in 2015 monetarily so it can get bigger.
  • After reading this piece by Cathal Kelly, you will realize that the Blue Jays will never get any better than they are now.  So yeah, that kind of sucks.

Harper isolated on NATO defence spending

From Jeffrey Simpson

Mr. Harper’s isolation could be read indirectly into the reporting of last week’s phone call between him and U.S. President Barack Obama. Whereas the Canadian “readout,” or report, of the conversation made no mention of defence spending, the White House reported that “the President stressed the agreement on increased defence investment in all areas is a top priority at the NATO summit.”

A “top American priority” is always to cajole NATO allies into spending more on defence. That priority is certainly not Mr. Harper’s. He has developed an ambivalent and somewhat contradictory attitude toward the military, and it toward him. The Prime Minister and his advisers and the top military brass circle each warily, harbouring their respective reservations about each other.

To put matters aphoristically, Mr. Harper’s government likes the idea of the military more than it likes the military itself.

The idea of the military means history, monuments, medals, ceremonies, parades and repeated rhetorical praise. The military itself means buying equipment, deploying it, dealing with veterans and wrestling with a budget that always seems to go up unless the political masters get tough.

The military has produced some nice headlines to an image-obsessed government, notably from the Afghanistan mission, but it has also delivered headaches and bad headlines, especially over procurement. Delays and problems have beset such purchases as the new generation of fighter aircraft, maritime helicopters, search and rescue aircraft, ships and some smaller gear.

For this government (as for previous ones), the military seems always set on a permanent “ask,” but for the military, this government like previous ones, promises more than it delivers and takes on missions that stretch the military’s means of delivery.

The ideological roots of Stephen Harper’s vendetta against sociology

From the Toronto Star by Jakeet Singh

Stephen Harper really seems to have it out for sociology. In 2013, in response to an alleged plot against a VIA train, Harper remarked that we should not “commit sociology,” but pursue an anti-crime approach. And last week, in response to the death of Tina Fontaine, Harper argued that an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women is not needed, because this is not a “ sociological phenomenon ” but simply a series of individual crimes.

Of course, not only is all crime a sociological phenomenon , but also without a broader sociological analysis we can’t begin to understand why the rates of missing and murdered indigenous women are tragically high compared to non-indigenous women. Furthermore, it’s clear that if rates of violence against non-indigenous women climbed as high as those of indigenous women, this government (even with its woeful record on women’s issues) would be more likely to announce not only a public inquiry but a full-scale national strategy. (This double-standard in how we value human lives is what sociologists call “racism.”)

Harper’s two disparaging comments about sociology, however, also need to be understood alongside his gutting of the long-form census in 2010. It is widely accepted that this action fundamentally undermined Canada’s ability to understand its own demographics, long-term social trends, and inequalities — in short, its sociology.

So what does Harper have against sociology? First, Harper is clearly trumpeting a standard component of neo-liberal ideology: that there are no social phenomena, only individual incidents. (This ideology traces back to Margaret Thatcher’s famous claim that “there is no such thing as society.”) Neo-liberalism paints all social problems as individual problems. The benefit of this for those who share Harper’s agenda, of course, is that if there are no social problems or solutions, then there is little need for government. Individuals are solely responsible for the problems they face.

This ideology is so seductive not only because it radically simplifies our world, but also because it mirrors the two social institutions neo-liberals actually believe in — the “free” market and law and order. Everything is reduced to either a simplistic market transaction or a criminal case. In the former, you either have the money to buy stuff, or you don’t and it’s up to you to get more. In the latter, a lone individual is personally responsible for a crime and is punished for it. Easy peasy. No sociology needed.

But there’s yet another reason this ideology is so hostile toward the kind of sociological analysis done by Statistics Canada, public inquiries and the like. And that has to do with the type of injustices we can even conceive of, or consider tackling, as a society.

You see, sociologists often differentiate between “personal injustices” and “systemic” or “structural injustices.” Personal injustices can be traced back to concrete actions of particular individuals (perpetrators). These actions are often wilful, and have a relatively isolated victim.

Structural injustices, on the other hand, are produced by a social structure or system. They are often hard to trace back to the actions of specific individuals, are usually not explicitly intended by anyone, and have collective, rather than isolated, victims. Structural injustices are a result of the unintended actions of many individuals participating in a social system together, usually without knowing what each other is doing. Whereas personal injustices are traced back to the harmful actions (or inactions) of individuals, structural injustices are identified by differential societal outcomes among groups. Sociologists call these “social inequalities.”

And therein lies the rub. Perhaps the key difference between personal and structural injustices is that the latter are only clearly identifiable through macro-level societal analysis — that is, sociology. This is because a) there are no clear perpetrators with whom to identify the injustice and assign responsibility; and b) while structural injustices do generate concrete harms and victims, we often only learn about the collective nature of the injustice through statistical inquiry, or by identifying social/demographic patterns over time.

What should be clear, then, is that Harper’s seemingly bizarre vendetta against sociology is actually an ideological attempt to prevent Canadian society from being able to identify, and tackle, its structural injustices. Without large-scale sociological analyses, we can’t recognize the pervasive, entrenched social inequalities that these analyses reveal. And because structural injustices are actually generated by our social systems, both their causes and solutions are social.

Bruce Carson: Vic Toews Scares People

Breaking news!  People were freaked out when Vic Toews talked of jailing 12 and 13 year olds

Carson gives an entertaining picture of Harper’s first few cabinet shuffles, starting with the story of an attempt to move Jim Flaherty from Finance to Industry, and Flaherty’s dramatic refusal to be budged.

He also relates how Harper decided Rona Ambrose was “spending too much time doing other things than looking at her [Environment] portfolio.

“He [Harper] couldn’t understand the media’s interest in the fitness regime of this cabinet minister, and why she would take time away from work to discuss such ‘trivial matters’ with the media,” Carson writes.

The other problem was Vic Toews in the Justice portfolio, says Carson, adding that Toews scared people when he talked of jailing 12- and 13-year olds.

“The prime minister was quite tired of morning meetings where the main topic was Vic Toews going off message,” he writes.