Sunday, 1 April 2012
Stephen Harper: Fanning the flames of xenophobia
In a single national party,compromises have to be defended as party policy, which tends to drive dissenters out of the fold.If cooperation is ever to work, the fragments of Canadian conservatism must recognizethat each represents an authentic aspect of a larger conservative philosophy. Reformers will have to realize that there is something genuinely conservative in the Tory penchant for compromise and incrementalism. Tories will have to admit that compromise, to behonorable, must be guided by underlying principles, and that Reformers are not extremists for openly advocating smaller government, free markets, traditional valuesand equality before the law. And both will have to recognize that Quebec nationalism,while not in itself a conservative movement, appeals to the kinds of voters who in other provinces support conservative parties. The Bloc Quebecois is strongest in rural Quebec, among voters who would not be out of place in Red Deer, except that theyspeak French rather than English. They are nationalist for much the same reason that Albertans are populist -- they care about their local identity and the culture that nourishes it, and they see the federal government as a threat to their way of life.This is a penetrating point and one that I've realized for quite some time - take away the language barrier, and rural Quebecois blue nationalists are quite like rural Albertan blue Tories.
Harper's attention for detail is also noticeable when it comes to public messaging to new Canadians or "very ethnic voters" - as his party tactlessly new Canadians and first or second generation descendants of new Canadians. Winnipeg's own Elmwood-Transcona was listed as a "very ethnic" riding - due to a high Ukrainian Canadian population.
While the strategy resulted in marginal improvements, it's at the margins where the difference between strong minority and majority is made.
Harper - solely among the leaders, defended multiculturalism against Gilles Duceppe's shameless attempt to pander to the more prejudiced blue nationalists in his province. After the election, when inroads with new Canadians were made, CON minister Jason Kenney typecasted the Liberal Party as the party of "flippant secularism of the Annex" . The Annex is a sorta Wolseley-esque, professional class, politically progressive neighbourhood in Toronto, FYI.
Aside from the stupid anti-secular government comments, one could applaud Harper for accepting immigration and avoiding the typical rightwing tactic of pandering to bigots. Until one sees this Quebec-only radio ad the Conservatives ran.
Stephen Harper is fully aware that - for all it's ups - cultural pride can also lead to a dark side, a side of xenophobia. His party is shamelessly taking advantage of the fact that prejudice can motivate blue nationalists. Moreover, the immoral yet savvy tactics displayed by Harper says something about the ugly side to certain conservative separatists in Quebec.