Stephen Harper seems to have torn a page right out of the GOP’s strategy guidebook. For a government that came to power promising a “stronger Canada,” the minority Conservatives have had no problem sowing perceptions of class divide, framing dissent as “elitist” while quiet acquiescence—the supposed political hallmark of “ordinary” Canadians—is the stuff of true patriotism.
Now, as the government tightens its grip, every dirty trick from that guidebook is spilling into play. In the weeks after Parliament’s suspension, Harper’s caucus brushed aside the mounting outrage, dismissing it as trivial. Perhaps an issue for urban “elites,” in their view, but ultimately unimportant to the great, silent majority of Canadians—red states painted Tory blue. “[Prorogation] may not be what the chattering classes want,” opined Tony Clement, minister of Industry, “but we’re not here to govern on behalf of the chattering classes.”
Wedged between Clement’s words, no doubt reflecting the party line, is an ominous autocratic hubris, toxic to the open, represented society Harper once claimed to champion. Indeed, having again denied Canadians a voice in Parliament, the true constituency of the Conservative Party of Canada is shrinking to a handful of exclusive demographics and interests, a base whose membership makes Tory accusations of elitism outright laughable. The rest of the country, chattering or not, “should be even more concerned about Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament for the second time in a year,” writes Irene Mathyssen, the NDP’s member of parliament for London-Fanshawe, “as the latest act of a government that is increasingly unaccountable and dictatorial.” And if a month’s rallying on Facebook is any indication, Canadians—both rural and urban, shattering perceptions of class-based indolence—have moved past concern, choosing action instead.
On Saturday, Torontonians joined cities and towns from coast to coast to coast, amassing by the thousands to remind Stephen Harper of his own words from April 18, 2005: “When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.”
Torontoist will have more coverage of the protest soon.
Photos by Miles Storey/Torontoist.