Respect. Honour. Fairness. Openness. These are the hallmarks of how Canadians treat one another. But to Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, these are increasingly distant and meaningless concepts.
In its recent years in power, the Harper government has undertaken to divide and marginalize Canadians like no government before, pitting groups against one another to fight for decreasing public resources, using legal and legislative means to suppress and silence legitimate voices of criticism, and punishing people and organizations who challenge its top-down, us-against-them, archaic view of the world.
This is not the Canadian way.
In the 2015 federal election campaign, Canadians United for Change is calling attention to the most divisive, hurtful acts of Stephen Harper and his Conservative party, urging Canadians to weigh them against the type of Canada they believe in and take decisive action to work and vote against the Harper government on election day, so that Stephen Harper and his supporters cannot continue to divide, marginalize, suppress and punish Canadians with impunity.
To Canadians United for Change, the most galling act of the Harper government is its treatment of veterans. Throughout our history, Canada’s government on behalf of Canadians has held in highest regard those who serve our country and sacrifice all for our rights, freedoms and security – a sacred trust built on understanding and respect.
But under Stephen Harper, veterans returning home from Afghanistan have found their local Veterans Affairs’ offices shuttered as part of the Conservatives’ cost-cutting measures, on the basis that providing support for veterans is wasteful spending Canada can do without. Under Conservative cutbacks, injured war heroes face waiting lists of up to 18 months for medical care and counselling. On Stephen Harper’s watch, lump-sum disability payments to veterans disabled while fighting for Canadians have been shrunk to have less value than monthly pensions under the New Veterans’ Charter.
When veterans challenged the cuts to their benefits in court, the Harper government went on the attack against them, arguing it has no social contract with veterans. The government’s lawyer made this statement about the commitment first made to Canada’s veterans in World War I: "At no time in Canada's history has any alleged 'social contract' or 'social covenant' having the attributes pleaded by the plaintiffs been given effect in any statute, regulation or as a constitutional principle written or unwritten."
With that claim, the Harper government turned its back on Canada’s veterans, including the 40,000 who served during the 12-year mission in Afghanistan, 2,000 of whom returned home injured with thousands more attempting to cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have been equally ruthless in their treatment of Canadian government scientists who try to freely share the results of their work. When scientists and researchers have shared independent, fact-based analysis that shows Canada’s economic weakness, or environmental decline especially through climate change, the Harper government has intervened swiftly to suppress their work, then de-funded their programs and fired key leaders in the scientific community. The result has been a culture of fear and intimidation preventing scientists and researchers from doing their jobs for the public good.
This muzzling of some of Canada’s best minds has made headlines around the world and turned the Harper government’s attack on the scientific community into an election issue that should concern every Canadian who values truth, intellectual honesty and freedom of speech.
Canadians United for Change believes scientists paid with our tax dollars should not be intimidated and suppressed by a government that doesn’t like the facts they want to share in the public interest. Canadians need accurate, truthful information on our economy and our environment. Our scientists have a duty to give us the facts we’re entitled to know – and we have a duty to protect their right to speak out freely. In the 2015 election, suppression of Canada’s scientists and researchers is another powerful reason for voters to bring an end to the manipulative, controlling government of Stephen Harper.
Compounding the Harper government’s pattern of intimidating and suppressing Canadians is its campaign against organized labour. In July, the Conservative-controlled Senate passed Bill C-377, legislation designed to make normal day-to-day activities by Canada’s trade unions more difficult and decrease their ability to defend the interests of working Canadians and their families. The legislation demands that union publicly disclose all their normal business transactions over $5,000, reveal the personal details of officers or executives who make over $100,000, and provide that information to the Canada Revenue Agency, which would publicly post the information to its website.
Labour unions and unionized workers are not the only Canadians concerned about the Harper government’s anti-union legislation. The federal privacy commissioner challenged the scope of the bill, it was attacked as unconstitutional by seven provinces, and non-labour advocacy groups concerned about its intimidating, suppressing effects came forward to call for its defeat.
In the 2015 election, labour organizations across Canada are working to inform voters of the dangers to Canadians’ freedoms posed by Bill C-377, and how the bill reveals the way the Harper government attacks Canadians. Canadians United for Change sees Stephen Harper’s anti-labour fight as part of his larger effort to divide and marginalize different groups of Canadians, and silence and suppress those who don’t share the Conservatives’ views.
The Canadian way is to treat one another with respect, honour, fairness and openness. In their treatment of these disparate groups – veterans, scientists and labour unions – Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have demonstrated unequivocally that they are at odds with the values, priorities and approaches of Canadians – at odds with the Canadian way. In this election, Canadians United for Change urges voters to stand against the Harper government and support other leaders and parties who will unite rather than divide Canadians, and respect the values Canadians hold true.