October 25, 2015

Toronto- I used to call Canada ‘the land that time forgot.’  While the rest of the world lurched from crisis to crisis, Canada remained peaceful, humane, prosperous, progressive and famously polite, a sort of North American Scandinavia.

Polls showed that Canada, for all its blandness and low profile, was one of the world’s most respected nations.  The ethos of Canada was to make nice to everyone, aid less fortunate nations, shine at the UN and make peace-keeping a national cause.

That was, of course, until the old political order broke down after a series of scandals in Quebec. The Conservatives, an  insurgent party made up of farmers and other reactionaries from the western provinces (aka ‘Canadian Republicans),  gained power as first a minority government, then  majority.

For ten years, the rightwing Conservatives political leader from Alberta, Stephen Harper, held power in Ottawa.  He rapidly turned once easy-going Canada into something resembling a dictatorship-light in which Parliament was reduced to a rubber stamp, the courts were often cowed, and parts of the media brought under Harper’s control. Nastiness replaced politeness.

The Harper government was  effective at economic management, notably deficit control, but over reliant on income from oil.  But foreign and social policies changed dramatically.   Harper was reported to be a member of an obscure Christian fundamentalist church that appeared to be close to America’s Bible Belt religious fundamentalists.  Unfortunately, Canada’s media never dared broach this subject.  

If it had, Canadian voters might never have keep supporting the Conservative Party’s holy rollers who believe the earth will soon be destroyed, the Messiah will return, and non-born again believers will be roasted alive.  Key to this destruction, known as End of Days, is re-creation of Biblical Israel.

Harper suddenly emerged as the most ardent champion of Israel’s far right Likud government.  Israel’s  Bibi Netanyahu and Harper became best friends.  Under Harper, Canada, once a leader of human rights, told Palestinians they did not deserve a state and were ‘terrorists.’

For me, one of the most admirable features of Canada was its lack of the breast-beating patriotism and  militarism that so defines the United States – to the dismay of even its closest friends abroad.   Harper and his men sought to whip up nationalism and militarism in the public, focusing on “Islamic terrorism” and fear of Mideasterners.  

A cabal of pro-Israel neoconservative academics in Alberta led the flag-waving charge in hope that Canada would one day join Israel in its military efforts.  Harper had advocated sending Canadian troops to the 2003 Iraq War.  He sent a large troops contingent to Afghanistan, where 158 Canadian soldiers died for nothing and C$18 billion were wasted so, as one senior official boasted, “Canada can stand tall at NATO meetings.”

Most lately, Harper sent a small number of F-18 fighter-bombers to join the make-believe war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  Canada has little military power: it was simply Harper playing toy soldiers.

One of the first acts of the incoming prime minister, Justin Trudeau, was to order that Canadian fighters home, a move that met national approval and probably signaled the end to Canadian playing spear carrier to America’s atomic knights.

Canada’s mid-October election produced a near landslide for the opposition Liberal Party. Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney told me months ago that Harper would be thrown out, but I didn’t fully believe him.  Mulroney was right on target.  Harper and his sabre-rattling against Russia, Iran, the Arabs, Muslims, and assorted manufactured “terrorists” were repudiated.  Canadians were too smart to fall for Harper’s claims that their nation was about to be engulfed by “Islamic terrorism.”

“Free, free at last!” as Martin Luther King said.  A pall of fear has been lifted.  The media can return to its key role of questioning government even though the biggest-circulation newspapers, the National-Post/Sun chain is a house organ for the Conservatives.  The Sun carried this writer’s column in Canada for 27 years until ordered to shut it down by the prime minister’s office after I wrote that Canada’s little war in Afghanistan was a total failure and waste of lives.  

Instead of posturing over the Mideast and Ukraine (large number of Ukrainian-origin farmers and Jewish voters in Montreal and Toronto were a major base for Harper), Canada will hopefully return to its former policies of peacekeeping and working through the UN. Netanyahu will no longer be able to give Ottawa its marching orders.

Harper’s fear-mongering even extended to charitable groups trying to spare animals suffering and abuse.  Most were restricted by threats of income tax audits and loss of charity licenses.  Why?  Because Harper kept courting the farm vote which hates animal-rights groups. 

Harper has resigned and his party is for the moment leaderless.  Justin Trudeau and his Liberals appear set on returning the happier days of his late father, Pierre.

As Trudeau the Younger just said, Canada is heading for “sunnier days.” 


Welcome home Canada. 

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2015


This post is in: Canada


  1. margolian_plot says:

    Margolis: you fail to recognize how Peacekeeping or Warkeeping is all the same for America. The real story is how Canada is managed by the United States. Canada can do whatever it wants, so long as it serves America’s interests.

    When Cretien boasted in Parliament that Canada would not enter the Iraq war militarily, he immediately ran to the US embassy to ask what else Canada might to do help the US in its efforts. Canadian politicians are peons. Justin Trudeau lacks the intellect and personality of his father. He is a puppet. He may dance to a tune you prefer, but he’s no politician. After all he voted to strengthen the surveillance state in light of the very propaganda Harper was pushing. Whose interests is Trudeau serving?

    This is a weakness in your analysis, as you focus almost exclusively on foreign deployment of troops as a measure of character.

  2. papasha408 says:

    Let’s see. Under the Conservatives my personal income tax has never been lower. Canada has a green house gas contribution of 1.6% of all emissions in the world. Yet because of this tiny amount of GHG’s, this young imbecile is going to introduce a carbon tax. This tax by the way will do nothing to lower emissions, but it is a good money grab. The Islamic State which can best be described as psychopathically evil is now let off the hook by this booby. He would rather send there victims parkas while they are being slaughtered. He is going to run three massive deficits to supposedly jump start the economy. He just may jump start it into another Greece. The media did it’s best to liken Stephen Harper to Attila the Hun and they succeeded in convincing a huge number of voters to do something incredibly stupid. But, Mr. Margolis is part of that liberal and leftist Media. It isn’t surprising he wrote this nonsense. What is wrong with Canadian Liberals? Apart from historical and cultural self loathing, political correctness and naivete, practically nothing.

    • oldcanuck says:

      Stephen Harper was and is the opposite of any concept of “conservative”. In tone and content, Eric’s writing generally reads like a continuation of Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France”. Conservatives believe in honest folk paying their taxes, and doing their public duty to preserve peace, public order, and good government.

      Conservatives pay what is needed to care for their veterans wounded in their Wars.

      Conservatives do not squander a billion on clownish goon squad public farce ‘Summits’ in downtown Toronto when $75 Million would have had a superb and utterly secure summit in Whistler.

      Conservative are not flat earth doltish science denial ideologues peddling divisive twaddle laissez faire positivism as medicine. Bob Stanfield was indeed probably the finest PM Canada never had. Justin is not PET. Douse the bong papasha408. A good night’s sleep is all you need.

  3. Wow, that’s a sunny outlook and needless to say I’m skeptical. Firstly the “happier” days of PET included the FLQ crisis, the resurgence of Quebec Nationalism (1976 PQ victory), the “Trudeau salute,” and the 1980 election where PET won no seats west of Manitoba.

    You can make a strong case that PET was responsible for Western alienation that led to Reform and later the Conservatives under Harper. Hopefully Junior with his mother’s Western roots will have a better understanding of the West.

  4. Liberal platform:
    permanent annual deficit in billions of dollars
    reducing TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account) contribution to $5,000/year from the current $10,000
    eliminating split income for pensioners
    higher taxes for the rich (200,000 CDN and up)
    legalized marijuana
    mandatory voting
    more action on climate change (carbon tax?)
    a quota for women in the cabinet
    tougher gun control (a new long-gun registry which was eliminated by Harper; return to stupid ATT for restricted guns and a few other things)
    dropping the previous government’s efforts to ban niqabs in citizenship ceremonies
    loosening restrictions on euthanasia and prostitution
    and a few more.

    Better Canada? You must be kidding.

  5. KeninCanada says:

    The great untold story of Canadian politics is the take over of conservative political parties in Canada by Evangelical Christians. Motivated by the american Seven Mountains Movement, Evangelical Christians are active at all levels of business, government, media, arts & entertainment, education, family and religion (the seven mountains). Add in police and military and you have the police state Stephen Harper is creating to impose Evangelical Christian values on the rest of us.

  6. Once again Eric has hit the nail on the head. Could not agree more. I am not usually a Liberal voter but Justin got my vote – just could no longer stomach the Harper government. Give the boy a chance.

  7. In addition to his Sun newspaper columnist position, Eric was removed as a regular guest on TVO’s weekly ‘Foreign Affairs’ segment when he started to question the Bush administration’s faulty intelligence claims prior to the Iraq War.

  8. I say this as someone who traditionally thinks Alberta has more in common with Ontario than Idaho or even Montana. Last week’s federal election results really started me on a train of thought, questioning if this part of the literal Canadian nation-state that I live in is apart of a figurative Canada that fits the narrative of what Canada is.

    If you look at Western Canada’s election results, a large chunk of people, especially in Saskatchewan and Alberta, voted overwhelmingly for the CPC, despite their track record spanning 9 years. They also took up a decent number of seats in BC and Manitoba, though obviously less so.

    But, if you hear the rhetoric being pumped out by many centrist or left-leaning Canadians following Trudeau’s win, the impression is that the Harper years were an anomaly and that Canada will go back to itself and introduce policies that fit better with supposedly core Canadian ideals. Yet, many Western Canadians, including a majority in two of the provinces, voted against the Trudeau (or Mulcair) platform.

    That being said, many did vote for the Liberals out west, including most of Winnipeg, and some urban ridings in Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, etc, not to mention the Lower Mainland. Which is why the election results were just the thing to kickstart this train of thought.

    I also started looking into the political history of the country, finding that nearly all Prime Ministers have hailed from Ontario or Quebec, which does lend support for the rhetoric of ‘the East’ calling the shots.

    Looking further, the Liberal party has been called Canada’s “natural governing party”, a party which is very Eastern-focused and whose values don’t always align with Western Canadian ones. Hell, Edmonton was specifically chosen as the capital for Alberta over Calgary specifically because we were more Liberal-leaning.

    Digging a bit further, growing up, we were told that (Anglophone) Canadians were the Loyalists, the ones who were pro-British, juxtaposing the Americans. This is a tale that is built up as if to be something to have defined us as a nation.

    But really, what is now Western Canada was far more indifferent to what the Americans were doing. The West had a good relationship with the US and probably would have been fine ending up as part of their country. The main reason why Western Canada isn’t apart of the Western US (or its own country) is because of early Canadian expansionism and wanting to secure this territory for its natural resources and keep it out of American hands. We were (some would argue that we still are) mere resource colonies for Ontario and Quebec to sink their teeth into, or so it would seem.

    Another thing is that a lot of ‘distinctly’ Canadian things seem to have less relevance out here. The French-English divide, which many would argue is very central to Canada’s existence as a country, isn’t really a thing out here. A lot of culinary items specifically billed as Canadian seem to have stronger backings or origins in Eastern Canada, especially Quebec. Hell, maple trees aren’t even native to Western Canada and yet they are on our flag!

    Yes, one could argue that regional differences can and often do exist in nation-states, and that doesn’t take away from still being a unified entity. But, the impression it feels like is that Western Canadian-derived things aren’t as wholeheartedly embraced as distinctly Canadian things in the same way Eastern Canadian-derived things are.

    It is hard for large countries to remain intact and united, especially on the cultural front, especially when population is so concentrated in one corner, so I guess sentiments of Western alienation and the like were inevitable. The only larger country that seems to this well is the United States, for obvious reasons.

    Now, I’m not saying that Western Canada doesn’t belong in Canada, or that it necessarily makes sense to have it as part of the United States. Western Canada seems like something in-between Eastern Canada and the United States, in my opinion.

    Food for thought.

  9. There was no chance in the wake of the invasion of Iraq that the Canadian government could have not participated on the ground with a (for it) meaningful force in Afghanistan unless it was to go to Iraq.

    The CF was unable able to conduct large scale peacekeeping and the war in Afghanistan simultaneously after 9/11. It lacked the institutional mindset for the effort that large. Peacekeeping was something the army did while waiting for WW lll. It was never close to being more than a minor activity of the CF. When a real war presented itself the army lobbied for as big a role as it (erroneously) thought it could handle- the Province of Kandahar.

    “He [Harper] sent a large troops (sic) contingent to Afghanistan.”

    Harper replaced troops sent by Martin, the Liberal PM, with other troops is the accurate way to state this.

    The first SOF contingent in 2001 was sent to Kandahar by PM Jean Chretien of the Liberal Party. An infantry battalion was sent for five months in early 2002.
    The next mission in Kabul- a battle group, was also sent by Chretien in 2003.
    The next Liberal PM, Paul Martin, sent a PRT to Kandahar in 2005 and signed up for taking over the entire province. That mission was deploying during the 2006 election that Harper won.
    Harper ended the Kandahar mission in 2011 and started an inside the wire training mission primarily in Kabul. It ended in 2014.

    It’s far from clear whether going to Iraq in 2003 would have been more or less costly than Kabul-Kandahar. To make an estimate you’d have to know exactly in Afghanistan the Canadians would have been based. If they had gone to Kurdistan or hung out with the Brits and Aussies in the south they might have got away with a handful. Fallujah would obviously be the opposite but it’s more likely they’d have joined the Brits than the USMC.

  10. I also want to clarify Eric’s comments about the Conservative Party. That party was forged by a merger of the old Progressive Conservative Party and the Reform Party / Canadian Alliance. The Reform Party was indeed an insurgent party that was created in the late 1980s to 1990s by angry, Western right-wing farmers, religious fundamentalists, and other reactionaries, while the old Progressive Conservative Party (which had been around since the beginning of Canada in 1867), declined to minor party status after Mulroney left office and the PC government of his successor, Kim Campbell, was demolished in the 1993 election and the party itself nearly destroyed. The merger of the two conservative-leaning parties paved the way for Harper to come into power in 2006 and later get a majority government in 2011. The Liberals, who were undermined by the sponsorship scandal under Chretien and Martin, then came under a succession of weak leaders and was nearly written off as it entered the 2015 campaign. Justin Trudeau was able to turn the party’s fortunes around during the election campaign itself, while the Conservative and NDP campaigns appeared to stumble badly.

  11. Interesting analysis. Eric’s reading of Harper is pretty much bang on. Just one note of clarification: Canada was very much involved in Afghanistan before Harper became Prime Minister, although he happily backed that mission and expanded it somewhat.

    As for Harper himself, I am convinced that had the Conservatives won another majority government in this past election, he would have moved more strongly to make Canada a police state. But, there would also have been a near-revolt, as many Canadians would have taken to the streets.

    Eric found out first-hand that the Conservative government’s chief stenographers in the Sun Media newspapers would happily take orders from the Prime Minister’s Office while Harper was in command. The now combined Postmedia / Sun Media newspaper chains will continue to be Conservative Party mouthpieces, but they are bleeding money and the combined circulation of their newspapers is continuing to drift lower. The National Post itself appeals mainly to Canada’s Jewish community and depends on it to keep the paper afloat.

    As for the Liberal victory on Oct. 19th, it was not a “near landslide” as Eric says. At 184 seats out of a possible 338, that leaves the Liberals with an effective majority of just 29 (after appointing a speaker of the House of Commons – and he or she seldom casts a tie-breaking vote) against a combined opposition of 154. A comfortable majority, of course, but no landslide, which would have to be at least 220 seats (65% of the total).

  12. Steve Harper was without a doubt, a bigot driven by ideological hatred for those not in line with his neo-con views. He had a particular distaste for Islam and Muslims, who represented (to Harper) the forces of the anti-Christ determined to prevent the establishment of the biblical borders of Israel and the consequent second coming (which curiously ends with the destruction of Judaism). The only reason many Canadians put up with this nonsense was because there wasn’t an alternative leader with the charisma or message of economic, political clout. Watching a photograph of former PM Chretien with our new Justin Trudeau was like relief from fear; the dictator is gone and good riddance.

  13. Well Mr. Eric you really messed up this time. As you should know elections are lost not won. Many voters here in Canada (I am a Canadian born and raised) were fed up with Harper and the Conservatives, and wanted change. Nothing historic, and there is no new Canada. It is the same old, same old. The Conservatives (called Republicans in the USA) have been turfed out and the Liberals (called Democrats in the USA) are back in power. Nothing new, nothing historic, no real change from the tiresome old pattern of transition from one boring establishment party to another old creaky establishment party. To clue you in – Canada at this time is a socialist country, and all the established parties are merely a different blend of nanny state socialism. The present established brand of conservatism in Canada, has lost its way, and is much closer to Liberal than anything. The Harper pseudo-conservatives, were not fiscally, socially or culturally conservative. Harper was just a control freak, who stood for nothing except the pursuit of power. Trudeau learned from Obama, and his campaign team. Trudeau’s campaign was a Northern, Canadian version of the slick smooth talking Obama’s ” hope a dope” or another term to use is ” hopium. ” Just another smooth talking peddler of hope, and the real motive was to get elected and gain power. Just like Obama, Trudeau will not be able to deliver, and like in the USA there are going to be lots, and lots of very disappointed and disillusioned voters. Right now it is a love-in, but like with Obama it won’t last. We desperately need real change in Canada, but all we get from the establishment is cosmetic change.

  14. Captain Canada says:

    Thanks mate. As usual, your comments are dead on. I am an Albertan who looks forward to Canada’s reputation returning. The Harper Cons (perfect description) created a false doppelganger of Canadian values and interests. We cherish our past standing in the international community and our efforts in both World Wars and Korea give us total authority to “Stand Tall” at ANY international meet….military or otherwise. The pandering to the worst of the war mongering elements of the U.S. and Israel (including Harper constantly wearing the “Israeli Blue” tie by the way) was sickening and completely at odds with the majority of Canadians, as the election proved. The loss of our Canadians in Afghanistan was as criminal as our joining the illegal bombing of Syria.
    Justin Trudeau’s first words in his first speech as PM elect were to quote PM Sir Wilfred Laurier…”Sunny ways my friends, sunny ways”
    Politicians home and abroad would be wise to not underestimate Justin Trudeau.

  15. I should have added… just because Harper is almost gone… waiting for him to ‘stuff the Senate’ with Conservatives…
    Just because Harper was terrible, it’s not necessary to embrace someone that could be less evil… Trudeau, the Younger, still has to prove his mettle.

  16. I sincerely hope he is not like pop… but, I’m not sure…

    One of his first orders of business is to fly the Premiers of the provinces to Paris for a meeting…

    Not very frugal… he could have saved money by having the meeting in Canada and that way we would have kept the money, too.

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