In Canada today: More than just cronies

Posted 07.01.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | With the Senate expense-claim scandal focusing our attention on the Prime Minister's appointees, we may be missing a larger point.

Although most prime ministers have misused their power to appoint, Mr. Harper's blatant use of appointments to reward big donors, party workers, or his party's losing candidates seems, well, shameless.

Not only is this practice outrageous -- no matter who practices it -- it populates our government, the Senate, and very important offices and boards with cronies, hacks, and good old boys -- not with the best and most experienced Canadians available.

Not only is this poor governance, it's a practice that Mr. Harper cynically claimed he would ‘clean up’ if he was elected. To have him then turn around and exceed the machine-appointments of his predecessors is very disheartening.

A bigger picture, however, is not our assumption that most appointees are crooked. There is something more insidious at work. And we had better pay attention to this, at least as a possibility, if we want to protect our democratic institutions from the under-the-radar assault they now face.

Harper's drive to win elections at all costs and to construct a Conservative majority for future elections no matter the damage done to the country and our traditions, is bad enough.

His plan to shift Canada from its once progressive, internationalist, and helpful-of-others stance and policies is his legacy so far. Political appointees can be a sort of time bomb, left to do their damage for years afterwards, to guarantee or police this shift from our democratic values to corporatist ones.

If this sounds conspiratorial, just look south of the border. This is where much of Mr. Harper's ideological agenda originates. Take, for example, the effect of the Bush appointees to the US Supreme Court. In fact, this is the best example of this long-term strategy to move a country Rightward.

The two Bush presidents basically stacked the Court with an eventual right-wing majority. Two cases makes this clear -- the ‘Persons decision’ has given corporations many of the rights of persons, of American citizens. Now corporations can donate as much as they wish, without identification, to buy election committees (PACs) and make elections so expensive, only well-funded people can run; corporations essentially can buy an election. This has already turned many state legislatures over to corporate control, with the federal government the current target.

Second example, just last week, this Bush-packed Court declared it legal for these states to use voter suppression requirements to limit who can vote (many states now have requirements which effectively prohibit poor citizens from voting in state elections). This Tea Party strategy is to create a winning constituency -- a goal clearly shared by Mr. Harper. His use of strategic appointees to achieve this goal is unsettling.

It could happen here -- these ideas and tactics are already filtering across the border, with the people, funds, and planning already arrived.

Appointees must be carefully checked. They can be more than cronies.


Copyright © 2013 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/07.13