Last year, Xtra.ca counted down 60 reasons to dump Harper. Since then, the Tories have upped the pace of their agenda. Their targets have included arts and culture funding, youth sexuality, harm reduction and more. And keep in mind, they achieved all of this under a minority government.
Over the course of the 2008 federal election campaign, Xtra.ca will give you 37 more reasons to dump Harper. Check back for updates throughout the campaign.
Today's reason to dump Harper:
#1 HARPER LEAVES AIDS GROUPS IN THE DARK
In 2004, the federal government committed to increasing HIV/AIDS funding to $84.4 million by 2008-2009.
But since the Tories came to power in 2006, funding levels have not come close to meeting that target. In fact, the Canadian AIDS Society says $21 million has been cut or redirected from AIDS funding in the past two years.
Worse yet, the Tories won't even talk about their future plans for HIV/AIDS funding. In September, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network surveyed the major political parties about HIV/AIDS issues. But the Conservatives didn't even bother replying to the questionnaire, leaving Canadians and AIDS groups in the dark.
Under pressure from activists and increasing media coverage, the Tories upped the funding for Ontario AIDS groups this year — but it's still lower than promised.
There's need, demand and support for more funding. Ninety percent of Canadians believe that the feds should maintain or increase spending on AIDS programs. So when will the Tories finally end the silence and commit to adequate funding for Canada's AIDS service organizations?
#2 TORIES REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE FACTS ON HARM REDUCTION
In a major blow to the Harper government's tough-on-drugs mentality, a BC judge ruled May 27 that Vancouver's safe injection site can remain open.
Insite provides a place for addicts to safely inject their own drugs using sterile needles, while under a nurse's supervision. The program began as a pilot project in 2003, operating under a special exemption from Canada's drug laws.
A government-commissioned report released early May found that the injection site has saved lives, had no impact on crime rates in Vancouver's downtown east side and has saved taxpayer's money.
But still, the Tories just can't seem to accept the facts. Health Minister Tony Clement says the evidence is "mixed," even though most researchers support harm reduction facilities like Insite. The Harper government has appealed the BC court's decision in favour of Insite. And in August, Clement called into question the ethics of doctors who support harm reduction.
The Harper government's decision to oppose harm reduction is purely based on ideology — and the Tories are playing politics with people's lives because of it.
#3 C-10 FLIP-FLOP: TORIES MAKE BAD POLICY DECISIONS
It's great when progressives can work together and expose the Harperites for their bad policy. Such was the case with Bill C-10.
C-10 was an omnibus bill, close to 600 pages long, that contained amendments to the Income Tax Act. It passed through the Commons unopposed, but news broke in Feb 2008 that the bill contained a clause that would allow the Heritage Minister to deny tax credits to films or TV shows that are "contrary to public policy."
Outrage ensued, and the voices grew louder when Charles McVety, head of the rightwing Canada Family Action Coalition, claimed to have met with Harper government officials to discuss the policy. He later said that he hoped gay films would not be eligible for tax credits because they "proselytize children to be homosexuals."
Dozens of artists, economists and progressives testified at a Senate committee studying C-10. Most called the clause a form of censorship, and said that it would hurt Canada's film industry. Still, Tories stood by C-10. Liberal Senators vowed to amend the bill to remove the clause.
But they didn't get the chance. In the final days of the election campaign, as their support in Ontario and Quebec dipped, the Tories quietly reneged on C-10. But it's not good enough — the Tories have cut millions from arts funding, and if they win a majority, there's no way of stopping them from proposing similar forms of censorship.
#4 TORIES DENY FUNDS FOR GAY RIGHTS CASES
In 2006, the Harper government cut the Court Challenges Program — a fund that helped Canadians fight laws they saw as unconstitutional.
The money was divided between cases that dealt with minority-language rights and equality rights guaranteed under the Charter. Egale used the fund to fight for gay marriage rights through the courts.
But the Tories cut the program, arguing that it was "unnecessary." Under pressure from Francophone groups, the Harper government eventually restored some funding for the program, but only for minority-language rights cases.
By restoring funding for language rights cases but not equality rights, the Tories were clearly attempting to keep gays from using the program. The Liberals and NDP have committed to fully restoring funding for all groups.
#5 BORDER WOES UNDER TORY WATCH
Gay porn is still being held up at the border by the Canada Border Services Agency. This summer, CBSA officials confiscated the laptop of an Ottawa gay couple as they were returning from the US. The computer contained some tame gay porn — stuff you could find at your local sex shop.
Only the Greens have committed in their election platform to end CBSA censorship that targets the gay community. Individual NDP candidates have also fought to end the censorship, including Libby Davies. The Liberals were in power for years and took no concrete steps to end the CBSA censorship. But worst of all, the Tories won't even admit there's a problem.
The only openly-gay Conservative running in this election, Lorne Mayencourt, says a review of CBSA's ability to seize materials they deem as obscene "has been done."
But when homos are being harassed by CBSA at the border, there's clearly still a problem. Mayencourt and the Harpercons would be the last party to take action on censorship at the border.
#6 TORIES WON'T DECRIMINALIZE SEX WORK
Although it isn't illegal to sell sex for money in Canada, sections of the Criminal Code make it almost impossible to practice sex work safely and legally.
The communicating provision (section 213) makes it a crime for anyone, sex workers or clients, to publicly discuss an exchange of sex for money in a public place. According to Statistics Canada, 93 percent of prostitution convictions were on communicating charges.
To avoid arrest and police harassment, sex workers often work in secluded areas or meet clients in private places at a detriment to their personal safety.
No party supports the legalization of solicitation. In recent interviews with Xtra, the NDP and Greens committed to "more discussion." NDP MP Libby Davies has been a vocal supporter of legalization, and leader Jack Layton says the laws "need reform."
Liberal MP Hedy Fry says her party stands for decriminalization of solicitation, but there's no commitment in the Liberal platform. Leader Stephane Dion told Xtra in 2006 that he's "open to review" but not there yet.
What about Harper and the Tories? Silence, mostly. As part of their anti-sex agenda, they introduced a bill that would ban foreign exotic dancers from entering Canada. And when Xtra sat down with the parties to discuss queer issues, including sex work, Conservative representative Lorne Mayencourt said he and his party are firmly opposed.
— with files from Julia Garro and Rob Salerno
#7 MILLIONS CUT FROM ARTS FUNDING, CONTROVERSIAL WORKS TARGETED
In recent months, the Conservatives have slashed $45 million in arts and culture funding. While the Tories claim the programs were cut after a "strategic review" for "efficiency and effectiveness," there are some not-so-subtle signs that the government is simply opposed to funding projects that don't meet its social conservative agenda.
Toronto rock band Holy Fuck lost funding to tour overseas, largely because of the group's controversial-sounding name.
Montreal's Black and Blue festival saw its funding cut soon after the Tories took power in 2006. Canadian Heritage officials claim it's because the event isn't "family oriented" enough.
And films like Young People Fucking were debated at Senate hearings on Bill C-10, legislation that would allow the Heritage Minister to deny tax credits to "offensive" films and TV shows.
All of the cuts were made in the name of "efficient" use of tax dollars — but really, it's the controversial, edgy recipients that lost their funding first.
#8 TORIES 'DON'T GIVE A SHIT' ABOUT REFUGEES
Earlier this year, the Conservatives passed an amendment that gave the immigration minister sweeping new powers to decide who gets into the country, especially on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and which groups or countries won't be considered. The result, say immigration lawyers, is that applications from gays and lesbians facing imprisonment or death in their home countries could be ignored.
We've already seen how badly Immigration Minister Diane Finlay has handled queer refugee cases, from Alvaro Orzoco to Kulenthiran Amirthalingam. Toronto immigration lawyer Robert Blanshay says the Tories just "don't give a shit about refugees."
Read more: Immigration is hot election issue — Krishna Rau
#9 HARPER CRIMINALIZED YOUTH SEXUALITY
Under the rhetoric of "protecting" kids from predators, the Tories introduced legislation to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16. The legislation was a ploy to appear tough on crime — studies have shown that sexual exploitation is most likely to occur in one's family, and the law already protected youth in those cases.
Yet the Tories rammed the legislation through as part of an omnibus bill, and the spineless opposition parties couldn't work up the courage to oppose it. Queer youth, health groups and civil libertarians argued that the increase was bad policy. It would create barriers for sexual health education, and it would drive youth sexuality underground, they said. And youth themselves said they didn't want it!
The new rules came into effect May 1, but especially frustrating is the fact that the bill did not get rid of Canada's age of consent for anal sex. Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs tried to amend the consent bill to bring the age of consent for anal in line with other sex acts, but their attempts were blocked at the Commons justice committee by Conservative MP Art Hanger.
Age of consent: it's yet another example of Tories putting their social conservative ideology ahead of evidence and rational thinking.
#10 GAY ORGANS BLOCKED UNDER TORY WATCH
In Dec 2007, Health Canada quietly changed its regulations to forbid organ donations from men who have had sex with another man in the past five years. The new policy also forbids prisoners, IV drug users and sex workers from donating. Strange policy, especially considering Canada faces an organ donor shortage.
Gay guys can donate if a doctor and the organ recipient go through a special "exceptional release" process, but the policy itself is based on outdated, offensive thinking.
NDP and Liberal MPs came out against the policy, but the Tories have supported it. Health Minister Tony Clement has defended the policy and has rejected calls to reopen the discussion.
The organ policy, along with Canada's ban on gay blood donors, continues to fuel stigma against the affected groups. Don't count on a Harper government to change it.
#11 WHERE'S HARPER'S PLAN FOR THE ECONOMY?
Despite growing economic uncertainty, Harper says Canada just needs to "stay the course." During the leaders' debates, Harper appeared relaxed and even smiled a few times as his opponents noted the Conservatives' lack of financial plan.
The Tories have still not released a platform outlining their economic plan for Canada. Yet Harper has accused Liberal leader Stephane Dion of trying to create "panic" and claims the only way to ensure the country's economic stability is for Canadians to give the Tories a majority. That's awfully hypocritical because scaring voters into supporting the Tories sounds a lot like fear-based tactics and panic to us.
Canada needs a strong government through financial difficulty, but we won't find leadership in the Tories.
#12 HARPER SUPPORTED WAR IN IRAQ
Harper and foreign policy have been in the news a lot this week: first, there was the revelation that the Tories plagiarized Australian Prime Minister John Howard's speech on Iraq. Then, at the Oct 2 leaders' debates, Harper admitted he was wrong about supporting the Iraq mission.
In 2003, Harper was leader of the Canadian Alliance, and his party was the only one to support US president George W Bush's war in Iraq.
When hounded by Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe at yesterday's debates, Harper admitted "It was absolutely an error."
Let's not give Harper the chance to make such an error in judgment as Canada's prime minister.
#13 MAJORITY OF TORIES SUPPORTED C-484
Harper said Sep 29 that he would not reopen the abortion debate, and that he would tell his cabinet they could not support private member's bills that seek to do so. Catholic Insight magazine is now calling on voters to defeat Harper in his Calgary riding, because he has "betrayed" social conservatives.
But would Harper really stop any future attempts by Conservative MPs to reopen abortion debate?
According to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, 74 percent of Conservative MPs have an anti-choice track record. There's nothing stopping a Tory MP from introducing a private member's bill seeking to restrict abortion rights.
MP Ken Epp did just that with Bill C-484, the proposed Unborn Victims of Crime law. C-484 have chipped away at women's reproductive freedom, but following public outrage, the Harper government withdrew its support of the private member's bill.
As xtra.ca columnist Ariel Troster notes, gays should worry about any attempts at policing pregnancy. C-484 had the potential to create a dangerous precedent for state control over our bodies, she says.
What's the easiest way to protect a woman's right to choose? Don't vote for a Conservative.
#14 TORIES SKIP CANDIDATE DEBATES, SILENT ON QUEER ISSUES
Today's reason is perhaps not so surprising, but it reveals the true dirty politics of the Harper Conservatives.
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network released its election survey of political parties Oct 1 — but the Tories didn't bother filling it out. Admittedly, it must be hard to put a positive spin on cuts to federal AIDS funding and rejection of harm reduction programs.
The Tories continue to adopt the silent approach, rather than facing their criticism head on. They skipped two debates in Ottawa recently: one focussed on arts and culture funding, the other centred on queer health issues.
The party can't even defend its own positions — so why should the Tories expect Canadians to support them?
#15 WHAT ABOUT THE CITIES?
More than four out of five Canadians live in cities, yet the Tories are ignoring urban-dwellers.
Check out the headlines on the Conservative.ca “news release” section: “Putting farmers first” and various attempts to catch suburban and rural voters. The Tories know they can’t win in urban cores. In the last election, the Conservatives failed to win seats in Canada’s three largest cities: Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
Meanwhile, both the Liberals and the NDP have stepped up their focus on cities, with plans to improve Canadian transit systems and infrastructure. With the increasing cost of oil and a shift towards urbanization, investing in cities makes sense. They’re where homos live, work and play!
#16 HARPER’S REPEATED ATTEMPTS TO BLOCK GAY MARRIAGE
In the 2004 election, Harper wouldn’t say yes or no on whether he would use the notwithstanding clause in the Charter to block an Ontario court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
In 2006, he finally said no during a televised leaders' debate, but why the hesitation?
Months later, one-year into its term as Canada’s minority government, the Harper government threw a bone to its social conservative base and re-opened the gay marriage debate.
The motion failed, but the debate drudged up all sorts of homophobic wingnuts in the Conservative Party. And after the vote, the Globe reported that Harper was planning legislation that would have protected businesses, churches and justices of the peace to refuse to marry same-sex couples.
#17 HARPER’S RELIGIOUS FANBASE ITCHING FOR A MAJORITY
The Conservative Party has a strong religious-right fanbase, stretching back to its days as the Reform and Canadian Alliance. And the fundamentalists are itching for a Harper majority to rollback queer rights.
Take a look at how the Tories have pushed a social conservative agenda under a minority government. The Tories raised the age of consent from 14 to 16, and there was Bill C-484, a backdoor attempt at restricting abortion rights.
And the Tories have been quietly placing their rightwing friends in positions of power and influence. For example, the PMO’s new policy chief is Darrel Reid, former president of the anti-gay group Focus on the Family.
In Feb 2008, Charles McVety, head of the rightwing Canada Family Action Coalition, grabbed headlines for his connection to the Conservatives. McVety claims that he met with top Tories and persuaded them to include a film censorship clause in Bill C-10. The clause would allow the government to reject tax credits for films that don’t mesh with its conservative ideology. When McVety testified at a Senate committee, he said that gay films like Breakfast with Scot should not receive tax credits, because they “proselytize children to be homosexuals.”
The links between the religious right and the Tories are a lot stronger than you might imagine. Check out Marci McDonald’s investigative feature of how a Harper majority would be dangerous to sexual minorities.
#18 HARPER SCORES WORSE THAN MCCAIN ON ENVIRONMENT
Shortly after the Tories came to power in 2006, Harper announced that the Tories would not honour Canada's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. Worse still, his party created its own environment plan that uses misleading targets for emission reductions.
While the international standard for comparing emission reductions is to use 1990 as a benchmark, Harper's plan uses 2006 levels as a baseline. So in reality, Harper is promising only a three percent reduction from 1990 levels — a far cry from the Liberals' promised 20 percent reduction by 2020.
Pundits and experts are unanimous: the Conservatives' plan is "highly likely" to fail.
Nearly every environmental report card gives the Tories a bad mark: Desmogblog.com gave Harper a 3 out of 10, lower than the score for US Republican presidential candidate John McCain. And the Sierra Club of Canada recently gave the Tories an F+ on environmental issues.
The choice is clear: if you want to solve the climate crisis, stop Harper!
#19 HEY HARPER: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR US LATELY?
The Tories and gays: they're so naturally opposed, that only 10 percent of homos voted for a Conservative in the last election.
And for good reason: how often do you see a Conservative make a public statement in support of queer Canadians?
Harper has never attended a Pride parade. But Liberal leader Stephane Dion had a strong presence in this year's Montreal Pride parade, and NDP leader Jack Layton has attended more parades than most gays.
Remember when Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski's past anti-gay comments were revealed earlier this year? Harper said the comments were "unacceptable" but he stood by Lukiwski. Harper managed to speak about the issue without even saying the word "gay." Wouldn't that have been a perfect time to make a statement encouraging all Canadians to fight against homophobia?
Harper says he's a leader, but he sure isn't a leader for our community.
#20 GOOD LUCK TALKING TO A TORY
The Tory election machine is adopting an old strategy to deal with criticism: silence.
An Ottawa debate on arts funding drew candidates from the NDP, Liberals, Greens and Bloc. The Tories? They didn't even bother to show up and defend the government's decision to slash arts funding.
So where were they? Well, apparently Tory candidates are only supposed to talk about local issues.
It's a measure aimed at preventing further gaffes, notes the CBC, who also point out that "local access has been an issue for the party since the 2004 campaign when candidates [mused] about official bilingualism, abortion and the Charter."
It seems like the Tories are afraid of what their rightwing cadidates might say if they were unleashed and free to talk to the media.
#21 HARPER THINKS HE SPEAKS FOR "ORDINARY CANADIANS"
Stephen Harper thinks he knows you. He thinks you're getting more conservative, that you don't care about arts funding, and that you fear Canada is becoming more dangerous.
At least, that's been his message track this past week, as he claims to speak for "ordinary Canadians."
Harper defended his arts and culture funding cuts, saying that "ordinary Canadians" don't care about arts funding. Tell that to the thousands who have joined Facebook groups such as Ordinary Canadians DO SUPPORT the arts, Faceless and an anti Bill C-10 group, all in protest of Harper's cuts to arts and culture.
After Harper announced more tough-on-crime measures this week, criminologists blasted his plan. They say it will only increase prison costs and do nothing to deter crime, which is on a downward trend anyway. Harper's response? "We're listening to ordinary people."
Who are these "ordinary people" anyway? Harper is simply ignoring facts and pandering to people's fears and gut reactions.
To top it off, he says your average Canadian is "more conservative these days." On Oct 14, let's prove Harper wrong and show him just how progressive Canadians can be!
#22 HARPER AN INTERNATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT ON ABORIGINAL ISSUES
The Tories got a lot of press when they apologized on behalf of the federal government to former students of the residential school program. But don't be mistaken: the Conservatives are no champions of aboriginal rights.
When the Tories came to power in 2006, they scrapped the Kelowna Accord, a $5.1-billion plan to improve education, employment and living conditions for aboriginal peoples.
During the 2006 election campaign, Monte Solberg — now a Tory MP — said that the Kelowna Accord was "something that they [the Liberals] crafted at the last moment on the back of a napkin on the eve of an election." In his ignorance, Solberg seemed to forget that the Accord followed 18 months of formal talks.
Canada's treatment of aboriginal peoples reached an embarrassing low in 2007, when the Harper government refused to sign the United Nations' Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada is one of only four countries in the world to oppose the document, which sets out human rights standards to which states and indigenous people should aspire to.
Harper even ignored the will of Parliament, when former prime minister Paul Martin introduced a private member's bill in 2006, seeking to implement the Kelowna Accord. The bill passed with support from the Liberals, Bloc and NDP — but the Tories simply ignored it.
#23 TORIES WEAK ON ECONOMY
During the 2006 election campaign, Harper made a promise to cut Canada's GST.
Although a GST reduction is popular with the average voter, nearly every economic expert argued that Canadians would benefit more from reductions in personal income tax cuts.
But of course, nobody likes paying GST — and Harper painted himself as a tax-cutting champion, out to save Canadians money. The tactic worked, unfortunately.
So the GST came down: first to six percent, then to five percent. But Canadian government revenues came down as well, costing the feds $11 billion a year.
Now, the Liberals accuse the Tories of hiding a budget deficit, just like Mike Harris' Progressive Conservatives did in Ontario before they were booted out of office. So much for the Tories being the party of sound fiscal policy.
You have to wonder: if Harper gets reelected, where will he find the extra cash to throw kids in jail and fight wars on the other side of the world?
#24 TORIES TARGET THE CBC
The Tories recently sent a fundraising letter to its members, with a list of loaded questions such as this one: "The CBC costs taxpayers over $1.1 billion a year. Do you think this is (1) a good use of taxpayers' dollars or (2) a bad use of taxpayers' dollars?"
When reporters asked Harper about the CBC question, he simply said that as the PM, he will "always support the government's budget." That's a vague answer, and it's frightening that Harper didn't come out in support of Canada's public broadcaster.
So what lies in store for the CBC, if Harper gets a majority? Take a look at the rightwing National Citizens' Coalition's website for an answer. Keep in mind that Harper was president of the NCC from 1998 to 2002.
In the NCC's "Agenda for Canada," the group poses a question, worded almost exactly like the Conservative fundraising letter: "The CBC costs taxpayers about $1 billion a year, yet its audience share continues to dwindle. Are taxpayers getting their money’s worth?"
The NCC says "no" and then suggest that the feds "privatize the CBC."
Recent arts cuts have shown that the Tories are willing to slash funding for Canada's cultural institutions. So it's not hard to imagine Harper taking some advice from his former buddies at the NCC and axing the CBC.
#25 HARPER SEEKS INFRASTRUCTURE PRIVATIZATION
More than four out of five Canadians live in cities and towns, according to Stats Can, yet our urban infrastructure is crumbling. The Conservatives' answer? Privatization.
The 2008 federal budget quietly announced the creation of PPP Canada Inc — a new Crown corporation that seeks to create more public-private partnerships (known as P3s). These "partnerships" are a way for government to contract the private businesses to build and operate infrastructure projects.
But evidence suggests P3s actually cost more in the long term, and union leaders have blasted the secrecy that often surrounds P3 contracts. And by entering into a P3, government surrenders control over the quality of the service or project. Private companies will always be interested in keeping costs down, even at the expense of quality.
Canadians need better transit, roads and hospitals, but privatization is not the answer.
#26 NEW NAME, SAME OLD RADICAL ROOTS
In the four years since the Alliance and Progressive Conservatives merged to form the new Conservative Party, the Tories have carefully tried to put on a mask of moderation.
But despite the party's attempts to brand themselves as more centrist and far from their radical Reform party roots — you can be sure those rightwing values still dominate. We've seen the social conservative values of the Tories, even under a minority government. From reopening the same-sex marriage debate to tough-on-crime legislation, there's nothing progressive about the Conservatives.
Conservatives, Reform, Alliance — they're just different names for the same, rightwing party.
#27 HARPER TURNS BACK CLOCK ON GENDER EQUALITY
Representation of women in Parliament has stalled at 21 percent — and the Tories aren't helping to raise that number. Canada ranks 51st in the world for its number of female politicians
In the 2006 election, only 11 percent of Tory candidates elected were women. Why so few?
No doubt they've been turned off by the Harper government's appalling record on gender issues.
The Tories removed the word "equality" from the mandate of the Status of Women Canada. And let's not forget the Unborn Victims of Crime Act and cuts to the Court Challenges Program (more on those later).
A Conservative majority would set the clock back even further on gender equality.
#28 TORIES BEND ELECTION LAWS
Remember back in Apr 2008 when the RCMP raided the Tory headquarters?
Elections Canada accused the Tories of exceeding their campaign spending limit in the 2006 federal election. Allegedly, the Conservatives paid for a national ad campaign by funnelling money through local candidates — a move that breaks Canada's election financing rules.
On Sep 17, the Toronto Star reported that senior Tories admitted that the ads were produced for the party's national campaign and had no relation to candidates or local issues.
The Commons ethics committee summoned Tories to testify about the scandal — but many failed to show up.
On Sep 16, the Ottawa Citizen reported that workers on Conservative campaigns who declined to take part in the money transfer were denounced as "idiots" and a "bunch of turds" by senior party officials.
So much for accountability. Along with reports that the Tories are using taxpayer dollars for partisan flyers (see reason #31), it's clear that the Conservatives like to play dirty politics during election campaigns.
#29 HARPER'S WINGNUTS, IN THEIR OWN WORDS
"The danger in having sexual orientation just listed, that encompasses, for example, paedophiles," Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant told CTV in 2004, talking about including gay men and lesbians in hate propaganda legislation. "I believe that the caucus as a whole would like to see it repealed."
Tory MP Pierre Poilievre said he would also ask Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to withhold from federal transfer payments any money spent by the Ontario government on the sex-change program.
"I think if people want this medically unnecessary treatment, they have that right," Poilievre said. "But taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab for it."
And Garry Breitkreuz, the Conservative MP for Saskatchewan's Yorkton-Melville riding, accused the federal government of pandering to homosexuals in 2000.
"In the 1950s buggery was a criminal offence," he said. "Now it's a requirement to receive benefits from the federal government."
— compiled by Krishna Rau (read the full story: The crazies in Parliament)
#30 HARPER'S TRADITIONAL 'FAMILY VALUES'
You've seen them everywhere: those television ads of Harper in his sweater vest, getting all warm and gushy while talking about his family.
"Time is precious, but being a father is the best experience of my life," Harper says in one ad that doesn't even touch on a single Tory policy. But that's okay, Harper loves spending time with his children — what a likeable guy! At least, that's what the ads would like us to believe.
Heck, even the Conservative's website is plastered with images of Harper's perfect nuclear family: mom, dad, daughter and son. Flick through the website's different sections, and you will see a variety of exciting pictures: Harper and family by the patio window, Harper and family on the sofa, and Harper posing for photos with a family in BC.
The message is clear: vote Conservative to support traditional family values. It's a tactic used by Republicans in the US, as vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin rounds up her kids for photo ops and describes herself as a tough-talking hockey mom.
But Harper isn't a family man. The Tories tried to bury a government-commissioned report that found children do just as well when raised by same-sex parents as they do when raised by opposite-sex couples. And let's not forget that the Tories scrapped the Liberal's childcare program that sought to create more daycare spaces.
Of course, the Tories would love to talk about how Laureen Harper loves cats and gardening. Harper's family values message track is yet another example of how the Conservatives are trying to distract Canadians from real issues.
#31 TORIES USE YOUR MONEY FOR PARTISAN FLYERS
House of Commons rules allow MPs to print and mail flyers at taxpayer expense, for the purpose of informing constituents about parliamentary issues.
But in the weeks leading up the election call, Conservatives have abused this privilege. In Ottawa, Tory MP John Baird sent flyers — paid for by taxpayers — that closely resemble Conservative campaign literature. They hammer the Liberals for their Green Shift policy and accuse Dion of planning to raise the GST. Similar partisan flyers have been sent by Conservative MPs across the country, often to ridings held by opposition MPs: from Vancouver to Ajax.
Further proof that the Harper government likes to play dirty politics.
#32 HARPER MUZZLES HIS OWN MPS
In 2006, two gay Mounties announced they were getting hitched — a first for the RCMP. Shortly after, the Prime Minister's Office sent out a gag order to all Tory MPs, warning them not to comment about the wedding. At Xtra.ca, we're no fans of marriage — or the RCMP for that matter — but what exactly was Harper afraid of? Perhaps the PMO was worried that someone like rightwing MP Cheryl Gallant might make yet another embarrassing, homophobic comment?
And if you're a Tory MP, don't dare question your party. Former Conservative MP Garth Turner spoke out against David Emerson's defection from the Liberals to the Conservatives. Soon after, Turner was turfed from the party.
These are just a few examples of how the Harper government is tightly controlling its message, in an effort to suppress any dissent and hide its rightwing ideology from the media.
#33 HARPER'S ACCOUNTABILITY HYPOCRISY
Harper campaigned on a platform of government accountability and Senate reform, promising not to appoint anyone who was unelected to the cabinet or to Parliament’s upper chamber.
But in Feb 2006, Harper did just that: he appointed unelected lawyer Michael Fortier to the Senate and his cabinet.
So much for democratic process and accountability to voters.
#34 BRING THE TROOPS HOME
Since the Afghanistan mission began in 2002, 97 soldiers have lost their lives. The majority of Canadians do not approve of the mission, and rightly so — it's an unwinnable war and it's unclear if our presence is actually changing things for the better.
With the count of dead soldiers likely to hit the symbolic level of 100 within this election campaign, Harper is feeling the heat. He announced Sep 10 that troops would be out by 2011, but he leaves open the possibility that soldiers may deployed elsewhere in the country. And of course, Parliament could still pass a resolution to renew the mission. Could we really trust Harper to keep his word if he gets a majority?
Enough is enough. Let's bring our troops home.
#35 HARPER USES FASCIST LEGAL TACTICS TO SILENCE OPPOSITION
In May 2005, the minority Liberal government faced a confidence vote, and they needed the support of independent MP Chuck Cadman to pass budget amendments. Cadman was ill, but he travelled to Ottawa to support the Liberals, and his vote prevented the Tories from forcing an election. He was living with cancer at the time, and he died a few months later.
Earlier this year, his widow alleged that Conservative party officials offered Cadman a $1-million life insurance policy, in exchange for his help to defeat the Liberals in the May 2005 vote.
The Liberals pounced on the allegations and grilled the Tories in Parliament and in public, alleging that Harper knew of the Cadman deal and personally approved it. In response, Harper took the unprecedented action of launching a $3.5-million libel lawsuit against the Liberals, for statements posted on the party’s website regarding the Cadman affair.
It’s thought to be the first time that a Canadian prime minister has launched legal action against the opposition. Whether the allegations are true or not, the use of libel chill to intimidate the opposition is anti-democratic.
"This use of legal action to silence the opposition is characteristic of authoritarian governments," says constitutional expert and University of Toronto professor Peter Russell, in court documents filed by the Liberal party.
#36 "TOUGH ON CRIME"? WHAT CRIME?
Harper's solution to crime? Throw the buggers in jail!
After a few violent crimes in 2005 attracted national media coverage, Harper played into the fear that Canada was becoming a violent, dangerous place. He campaigned in the 2006 federal election on a "tough on crime" agenda, proposing to "reclaim" the streets for the safety of Canadians.
But in reality, Canada isn't facing an epidemic of violent crime. Statistics Canada reports that homicides have been on a general downward trend since the 1970s.
That didn't stop Harper from ramming his omnibus crime bill through Parliament earlier this year. Only one MP, NDP Bill Siksay, had the guts to vote against the bill, despite facing discipline from his own party for doing so.
Evidence from around the world suggests that mandatory jail terms do not decrease crime rates. Think about it: do criminals really consider the length of their jail term before committing a crime?
One thing is certain though: throwing more people in jail increases prison costs. It's more of the same heavy-handed, Conservative approach to crime and more avoidance of the root causes, including poverty and cuts to social programs.
#37 SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE TOPS THE PMO
A July 2008 shakeup in the Prime Minister’s Office vaulted one of Canada’s most prominent Christian conservatives into the role of Harper’s director of policy. The new policy chief is Darrel Reid, the former president of Focus on the Family Canada.
Focus on the Family – it sounds so squeaky clean and benign! But the group is known for its anti-gay agenda. Reid led the organization from 1998 to 2004, and he actively campaigned against same-sex marriage and what he describes as the "decay of the natural family."
In a 2005 interview, Reid warned Americans against “social radicalism” in Canada, particularly Quebec. He said that “when it comes to marriage, sexual mores and abortion, that’s not reassuring.”
And in a 2002 editorial, he encouraged “social conservatives from all our parties and traditions [to] begin to reinsert their most deeply held convictions into our nation's political discourse."
This guy is already guiding Harper’s policy direction. Let’s get the Tories out of power before he can cause any more damage.