That thoughtful Anglican journalist Mike Valpy helped us to unpack the common good in Canada in an article in the Toronto Star on January 2.
While he was not writing on the common good Valpy outlined the ongoing demolition of Canada as a caring country which historically had a sense of the common good—e.g. Medicare, transfer payments and a progressive tax system. No more burrowing away in cynical micro-segments is the crafty demolition artist Stephen Harper.
Valpy enumerates the gradual elimination of “our common national imagination” and “the rejection of a communal public life.”
Seemingly it is always the margins of our political life that truth bubbles up.Valpy quotes The Living Planet design shop on Water Street in St. John’s doing big business selling posters which deeply understand the damage Harper is doing to this country. One poster read “Attack Harper on All Fronts” and T-shirts proclaimed “I am not Canadian Under a Harper government” and portraying a 1940s wartime little girl asking her father, “Daddy, what did YOU do to stop Stephen Harper?” He also alludes to American Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges describing Harper as “a poster child for corporate malfeasance and corporate power . . . dismantling everything that’s good about Canada . . . a pretty venal figure.”
Valpy names the shocking record of the Harper government—defunding Canadian non-government organizations at home (KAIROS) and abroad deemed to be pursuing goals at odds with government policies, they have attacked unions, “have withdrawn from obligations to monitor employment equity and address discrimination, ended support for agencies that advocate for women’s rights, terminated scientific research, ended health care for refugee claimants, been contemptuous of Parliament and its rules. They’ve fueled a civil society, a polity, of us and them.He also throws in the long-form census, the Canadian Armed Forces newly mythologized as warriors, the one-sided embrace of land-grabbing Israel and our shocking betrayal of the Kyoto Protocol. We are =internationally known as an ecological scofflaw.
Let me add a couple of other considerations. Our Prime Minister appears to be a lover of all things American. He accused those of us who rejected the war in Iraq as “cowards.” He, like Finance minister Jim Flaherty were all in. Canadians were not and as the war dragged on, increasingly so. A costly sop was handed to the USA by PM Chrétien when he agreed to Afghanistan and the falsely named “war on terror.” This was a feel good tag after 9/11. Harper of course owned it and has consistently supported it to the tune of $30 billion, a sum which could have shored up our fraying safety net, saved hundreds of Canadian lives and thousands of innocent Afghanis.
Of course we could add to this Finance Minister Flaherty’s slashing of the corporate tax rate. From 2006, when the Conservatives took power, to 2011 the corporate tax rate fell from 21% to 16.5%. Last year on January 1, 2012 it fell another 1.5% to 15%. We know that each percentage point reduction costs the government about $2 billion a year in foregone revenues, which amounts to a $13 billion tax giveaway this year. Tax breaks it is stated help create jobs. NOT! Unemployment is still around 7.5 % and the tax breaks have been rolled into shareholder dividends.The rich even in Canada get richer. Corporations meanwhile are sitting on $ 500 billion. That’s quite a horde! If this money had been plowed into much needed infrastructure improvements (Hello, Gardiner Expressway) .Thousands of jobs could have been created with this money. Meanwhile to pay for the tax cuts, the Tories are slashing government programs which Canadians need and want. All this incremental pilfering goes on below our radar. We are too busy and too lavishly entertained to take it all in. Yet Canada is vanishing before our eyes as a caring nation.
All of the above are death by a thousand nicks and are contemptuous of the common good.