Canada’s Boiling Point | Ollie Adamson
The tee-shirt depicts a 2011 event orchestrated by a young Canadian Senate Page named Brigette DePape. The graphic shows DePape holding up a stop sign cut-out with “Stop Harper” inscribed on it. The year is 2015, and the slogan “Stop Harper” is alive and well. Canada is in the midst of its 42nd general election, and there is mounting pressure to oust the Stephen Harper-led Conservative Party who has ruled for nearly a decade. Traffic stop signs in certain parts of the country have been altered and read, “Stop Harper.” The Canadian federal political climate begins to swelter, resulting in a Justin Trudeau-led Liberal Party majority win. It is now 2021, and in a few short weeks from the time of writing, Canadians will once again head to the polls to decide the outcome of Canada’s 44th general election. Unsurprisingly, Canadian unity has further deteriorated under Trudeau’s reign. Slogans of “Stop Harper” have been replaced with the cruder “F**k Trudeau.” The escalating language speaks volumes.
In 2015, the far-left and left-of-centre considered Harper, a despot. An article entitled “The Harper Demolition” laid out many of Harper’s opponents’ views, labelling him an ally of big business, the wealthy, free-market proponents and Israel, to name a few. Harper’s adversaries pointed to his reluctance to focus on the welfare state, indigenous and union rights, and climate change issues. After nearly a decade under conservative rule, the Canadian left found themselves desperate to liberate themselves from conservatism’s yoke. So ideological differences aside, how poorly did the Harper conservatives perform?
Upon being sworn in, Harper immediately set up the “Federal Accountability Action Plan” for conducting government business. The new framework promoted “fairness, openness, and transparency” to curb the systemic waste and abuse long associated with government spending. Efforts to restrain government came as no surprise to those familiar with Harper’s libertarian leanings. From there, Harper worked on federal-provincial relations by formally acknowledging Québec as a nation within Canada – a recognition the Québécois people had long sought after.
The Canadian Dollar reached parity with the U.S. Dollar in 2007, something the “loonie” had not done in thirty years; the global economic crisis of 2008 saw Canada fair considerably better than most of its G8 partners. By 2012, Harper was struggling. The country was dealing with same-sex marriage matters under Canadian law – and conservatives appeared out of touch with an increasingly progressive culture. The following year failed to turn any fortunes, as party scandal hit when it came to light that senators appointed by Harper had abused spending allowances – sadly, power tends to corrupt. During his final year in power, and heavily backed by the Canadian public, Harper joined NATO allies denouncing Russian aggression in Ukraine and deployed Canadian forces to fight against ISIL in the Middle East.
Admittedly, like all political parties, Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party was far from infallible, and the unfurling of previous points does not express endorsement of any personality or party. Those familiar with the author’s works may have previously observed sustained efforts to remain apolitical, something which the author admits is becoming increasingly difficult. Detailing Harper’s successes was employed solely as a backdrop to better judge Canada’s current trajectory: one seemingly headed for a colossal impact. The culminating effect of Trudeau’s aggressively left tacking liberal agenda. Let us now examine what has led to the profanity-laden protest signs currently disrupting the Trudeau campaign.
Trudeau’s liberals defeated Harper’s conservatives in 2015, obtaining enough votes to form a majority government. Upon taking office, and in true liberal socialist fashion, the responsible stewardship of the federal budget quickly evaporated. The liberal government earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars, much of it aimed at building and enhancing infrastructure. Additionally, nearly no demographic group was left out as the “big-hearted” liberals further enlarged the deficit by expanding numerous government programs and benefits. In 2020, a pre-pandemic Fraser Institute report stated, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is projected to be the largest accumulator of federal debt per person (5.6 percent) among prime ministers who did not fight a world war or experience an economic downturn during their tenure.” Not exactly the legacy one hopes to leave for their children. Furthermore, government spending to counteract the economic effects of lockdowns has forced individuals to re-imagine ideas surrounding appropriate deficit spending: great, another blank canvas.
Fiscal irresponsibility aside, the liberals have done a masterful job of marginalizing varying groups, including the Canadian right. Contrasting Harper’s efforts to bring Quebec closer into the fold, Trudeau completely alienated Alberta by dismantling the western province’s pipeline projects to appease his leftist environmental base. Never satisfied, by changing the nation’s anthem to make it more gender-neutral, the self-proclaimed feminist’s gender politics permanently removed a verse that remembered our young war-dead sons from battles past. Trudeau’s liberals continued applying their heavy hands when compelling public servants to restrict their usage of gender pronouns when drafting personal performance reviews. Some flying under the conservative banner have long held fluctuating degrees of progressive views. However, grossly miscalculating, the liberals have driven the right too hard, too fast, and the chickens are coming home to roost.
Today’s Erin O’Toole-led “conservatives” are hardly conservative and are often referred to as “Liberal-lites” or the “Liberals of ten years ago.” For many old stock Canadians and others still adhering to strong right-leaning convictions, the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) no longer represents their values. Canadian conservatism, led by the storied CPC, has been steadily declining, but something new has emerged – like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Since its inception in 2018, The People’s Party of Canada (PPC), led by Maxime Bernier, has looked uncompromising in its defence of conservative values thus far. Though some fear they may split the right vote, many are now beginning to recognize the PPC as the only genuinely conservative option left in Canadian federal politics today.It sounds all too cliché; the stakes on September 20th will be higher than they have been in quite some time. As Canadians wait, the left slanders Bernier and likens him to a fascist, while those on the right label Trudeau, a communist. Following the footsteps of our southern neighbour, Canada seems destined for increasing polarization. Perhaps the sentiments of those most marginalized will lead them to believe that the only way forward is secession, like many in the U.S. now do. We may soon witness Canadian tensions, which have long been simmering, roll over and reach their boiling points.