Aside from taking to the streets in protest, there is little the general public seems able to do between now and the fall federal elections to stop the Stephen Harper government from steamrolling through whatever bills it has left that will continue to change Canada into the right-wing conservative model this administration envisions for this country.
With each piece of controversial legislation carried into law by the Harper government, we slip further into uncharted territory as a newly remodeled Canada. When the Conservatives moved from minority government to a majority in 2011, it was their signal to finally roll out their full agenda, knowing that they would no longer have to compromise with the opposition.
Understanding, therefore, what has happened to this country under the leadership of Harper in this majority position should be warning enough about the decision voters have to make in the not too distant future about the direction in which Canadians would like to see this nation evolve.
During the decade that Harper – formerly a key member of the even more right wing Reform Party – has directed the affairs of this country, our profile on the world stage has changed significantly. As evidence, we can look at the reaction to Canada’s current participation in military activities in Iraq where one Canadian soldier has already been killed and others wounded reportedly in a friendly-fire incident. Whatever Harper may have said about sending Canadian soldiers to Iraq for the purposes of training Iraqi soldiers, that decision has resulted in Canadian soldiers on the frontline fighting Islamic State (IS).
Harper has also paid more attention to military spending and military hardware, than to soldiers whose lives have been irreparably damaged by Canada’s involvement in voluntary military action.
The latest cause for concern is that the new anti-terror bill C-51 gives more power to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to monitor not only those involved in Islamist terrorism but also any group protesting against government initiatives and government decisions.
If some time in the future a group decided to protest against unfair treatment of women or visible minorities by the RCMP for instance, its members could be considered by the government of the day a threat to national security under this law.
While the government says this bill will provide greater safety and security to the nation, it is actually driving up fear for many. That is because the wording of the bill also leaves the matter of free speech unclear as to what is punishable and what is not. Furthermore, it raises a question of infringement of Charter Rights.
Among the first groups within society to suffer from such legislation will be the most vulnerable.
We want a government that takes decisive action to address the pressing concerns that affect the nation, but it appears this government’s agenda is self-serving, with little regard for the pressing concerns of the average Canadian.
It would appear for the most part that the government in Ottawa is cut off from the greater reality of the rest of Canada and is putting its energy into creating a Canada that exists only within their small circle.
In the coming months voters will have to consider the path this government has taken over the past four years and determine if it is one with which they are comfortable. Have the matters that engaged the Harper government’s energies helped to develop the well-being of the nation as a whole? Is this the Canada that they know and love? Is this the kind of Canada they want to leave for their children and grandchildren?
The answers should help voters decide if they like the direction this country is taking or if they feel we need a new direction and a different party to lead us.