Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Who’s Who in the Harper Regime: a people’s guide

Despite the “modern” and “inclusive” image the Conservatives tried to push during the elections, Harper’s cabinet is overall rich, white, rural and male. It is unlikely any of these people have ever had to worry about paying the rent or how they were going to pay off their student loans since they come from backgrounds of wealth and priviledge: lawyers, bureaucrats, CEOs, businessmen and corporate flunkies. Let’s take a closer look at a select few of the Conservative Party’s “best and brightest”:

Minister of International Trade
A former bureaucrat and CEO of a bank, airport, and logging company, Emerson revealed both his own lack of principles and the minimal differences between the Liberals and Conservatives when he jumped ship to Harper government immediately after the election, keeping the same cabinet position he had under Martin. This from the man who less than a year ago referred to the Tories as “blatantly opportunistic, partisan and misleading the Canadian people.”

Minister of Public Works
A wealthy banker, lawyer, and backroom Conservative organizer in Quebec, Fortier couldn’t get elected to the House of Commons so Harper appointed Fortier as a minister and Senator, meaning the person in charge of the multi-billion dollar Public Works ministry won’t have to face questioning by opposition politicians in the parliament. So much for Harper’s talk of “democratic accountability.”

Minister of Health
Clement got his start as a conservative student “activist” when he invited the ambassador of apartheid South Africa to speak at the University of Toronto. He went on to play a key role in drafting Mike Harris’ “Common Sense Revolution”. His role as health minister in the Tory government earned him the nickname “Two Tier Tony” for his support for the privatization of health care, closing of public hospitals, and laying off thousands of nurses right before the SARS crisis.

Minister of Public Safety
The person now in charge of the government’s secret police (RCMP and CSIS) believes that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time as humans. Day showed his diplomatic skills when he refused to send condolences on the death of Yasser Arafat because David Frum, George W. Bush’s speechwriter, speculated (without foundation) that the Palestinian leader may have died of AIDS. Day calls himself “pro-life” but he criticized the then Martin government for not joining in the US’ bloody war of bombing and occupation in Iraq. His greatest achievement was turning the Alliance Party into a laughingstock during the 2000 federal elections with his awkward media stunts. Anyone remember the jet-ski incident?

Minister of Finance
One of the most right-wing members of the former Mike Harris provincial government, Flaherty oversaw budgets that slashed services to working families while giving massive tax cuts to the rich. During the 2002 PC leadership campaign Flaherty proposed throwing the homeless in jail, tax credits for private school tuition to undermine public education, and privatizing the LCBO.

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Solberg’s qualifications? He owns a meat packing plant in south eastern Alberta, an almost entirely white rural riding. This means that not only does he have no experience with the issues that immigrants face, he also won’t have to face the backlash of outraged constituents directly impacted if his policies hurt newcomers to Canada.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
A former lawyer and Minister of Labour in Manitoba, Toews is known for his anti-worker, proprivatization policies. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to violating elections laws by overspending during his 1999 provincial election campaign. A vocal homophobe, Toews opposes same sex marriage and giving gays and lesbians protection under hate crimes laws. He is also against decriminalizing marijuana, so we can look forward to seeing more youth in jail and more tax dollars going to chasing down potheads instead of dealing with real crimes that harm communities.

Minister of the Environment
In a time of climate change, environmental degradation, and the highest rate of species extinction since the dinosaurs, who does Harper pick as the head of the ministry of the environment? An MP straight out of the Alberta oil patch with no record on environmental issues and little experience in general, other than having been an advisor to Ralph Klein’s government (which opposes the Kyoto protocol). Her only claim to fame is for her opposition to providing working families with an affordable national daycare program on the grounds that “working women want to make their own choices, we donʼt need old white guys telling us what to do.” Way to stick up for the sisterhood, Ms. Ambrose.

Minister of Defense
Former occupation: Lobbyist for the arms industry, including such defense contractors as Airbus Military, United Defense, General Dynamics Canada and BAE Systems. Current job: in charge of “rebuilding” the military (in other words buying guns and bombs from the same people he used to work for so that Canada’s military will be better equipped to help the USA occupy Third World countries). Harper is against politicians becoming lobbyists, but lobbyists becoming politicians is apparently just fine.