Canada's Christian fundamentalist Prime Minister tells millions of poor no need to protest
by Perry Bulwer
Today, October 17, is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. I doubt Canada's fundamentalist Christian Prime Minister is even aware of it given his refusal to implement any kind of poverty reduction program let alone one that eradicates poverty, which is possible to do in such a rich, stable country as Canada. Here is what Stephen Harper said when asked for his comments on the Occupy Canada protests that began here on the 15th.
"Canadians understand that Canada has performed very well during the global economic recession," he said. "We've managed to create more growth and more jobs than just about any other industrialized country. We are extremely focused on the needs of Canadians and the needs of the middle class. We obviously have a very different situation here — we didn't bail out our banking sector. Our banking sector was the strongest in the world."
As is the habit of demagogues, they always mix in some truths to disguise the lies. That is especially true for Harper, who manipulates or ignores facts that contradict his ideology. That is something that has occurred over and over again in various positions taken by the Harper government, including drug policies, maternal health policies, crime and punishment policies, fishery policies, as well as in its undermining of one of the most respected statistical gathering agencies in the world, Statistics Canada.
Harper's comment on the current global protests is no different. Breaking it down sentence by sentence, here is how I see it. In his first sentence he presumes to know what all Canadians understand. After ruling with a minority government for so many years, the recent parliamentary majority he won has gone to his head . He seems to actually think the majority of Canadians are conservatives who voted for and support him, when that is far from the truth. Only 60 percent of Canadians voted in the last federal election and only 40 percent of them voted for Harper's party. Clearly, only a minority of Canadians support Harper, but more than that, those statistics show that forty percent of Canadians obviously feel voting is a waste of time. It seems to me that those who do not exercise their right to vote are protesting against the inertia and inequity of the current financial and political systems just as much as the Occupy protesters are, since the status quo remains regardless of which political party is in power. Small protest crowds in Canada do not indicate the true numbers of Canadians who feel disenfranchised by the present system. Mocking and dismissing those protests is a foolish mistake.
The claims Harper makes in the second part of the first sentence and the second sentence of his comment are probably true to an extent, but when he says "Canada has performed very well" and created "more growth and more jobs" he means in comparison to other countries. It is true that the unemployment rate has recently dropped slightly, but that is small comfort for those still without a job who may lose their homes, let alone those without a home. So who exactly has benefited from Canada's good performance? It is definitely not the four million citizens living in poverty, including 300,000 homeless.
Neither is Harper focused on the needs of the middle-class, as the evidence below illustrates. Harper's final claim in that comment on the Occupy protests is that the situation in Canada is very different from that in the United States, because of our superior banking system. This is a perfect illustration of mixing lies with truth. While it is true that the Canadian banking system didn't need bailing out and is recognized around the world for that, it is not true that the situation in Canada with respect to the Occupy protests is different than in the United States. In fact, the situation is worse.
According to the recent report, "World Income Inequality", by the Conference Board of Canada: "The increase in income inequality has been more rapid in Canada than in the U.S. since the mid-1990s." Anne Golden, president and chief executive explained: “Even though the U.S. currently has the largest rich-poor income gap among these countries, the gap in Canada has been rising at a faster rate,” adding that high inequality raises both “a moral question about fairness and can contribute to social tensions.” The conclusions in that report are supported by the December 2010 study by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, "The Rise of Canada's Richest 1%".
The Rise of Canada’s Richest 1% looks at income trends over the past 90 years and reveals the 246,000 privileged few who rank among the country’s richest 1% took almost a third (32%) of all growth in incomes between 1997 and 2007.
“That's a bigger piece of the action than any other generation of rich Canadians has taken,” says Armine Yalnizyan, CCPA senior economist and the report’s author.
“The last time Canada’s elite held so much of the nation’s income in their hands was in the 1920s. Even then, their incomes didn’t soar as fast as they are today. It’s a first in Canadian history and it underscores a dramatic reversal of long-term trends.”
Post-war, Canada became more equal with the rise of the middle class but by 2007, the richest 1% reversed equality trends, amassing incomes gains reminiscent of the 1920s.
Among the report’s findings:
From the beginning of the Second World War to 1977, the income share of the richest 1% dropped from 14% to 7.7%;
By 2007 they’d made a comeback: the richest 1% held 13.8% of incomes;
Since the late 1970s, the richest 1% has almost doubled its share of total income; the richest 0.1% has almost tripled its share of total income; and the richest 0.01% has more than quintupled its share of income.
So, there is the evidence that exposes Harper's blatant lie that the Canadian situation is different and better than in the United States. The Occupy protests here, and where ever they occur, are focused on the inequities and corruptions of financial and political systems. That old truism, "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer", has never been so true or so obvious as today in Canada, so Harper is both ignoring the evidence, which he is well known for, and lying to the people he supposedly serves. I think that comes easy to Harper, because of his membership in the fundamentalist, evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance church.
One Canadian situation that is different than in the U.S. is the fact that Harper's religious beliefs and affiliation are not well known in Canada and rarely discussed. I don't think I need to describe just how different that is from the U.S. situation, where religion plays a central role in politics. However, the fact that Harper is an evangelical fundamentalist, or pretends to be one to win votes, ought to be a wake-up call to Canadians. Here is how a former evangelical and co-founder of the Religious Right, Frank Schaeffer, explains the role of Christian fundamentalism in the exploitation of the many by the few in the United States:
As the Occupy Wall street movement spreads across the country and the world, we must bring attention to the enablers of the top 1 percent exploiting the 99. Fundamentalist religion made this exploitation possible.
Evangelical fundamentalism helped empower the top 1 percent. Note I didn't say religion per se, but religious fundamentalism.
Why? Because without the fundamentalists and their "values" issues, many in the lower 99 percent could not have been convinced to vote against their (our) economic self-interest; in other words, vote for Republicans who only serve billionaires.
Wall Street is a great target for long-overdue protest, but so are the centers of religious power that are the gatekeepers of Republican Party "values" voters that make the continuing economic exploitation possible.
Fundamentalist religion -- evangelical and Roman Catholic alike -- has delegitimized the US government and thus undercut its ability to tax, spend and regulate.
The fundamentalists have replaced economic and political justice with a bogus (and hate-driven) "morality" litmus tests of spurious red herring "issues" from abortion to school prayer and gay rights. The result has been that the masses of lower middle-class and poor Americans who should be voting for Democrats and thus their own economic interests, have been persuaded to vote against their own class and self interest.
In Canada, religion does not play such a prominent role in public political life, but that does not mean that the religious right are not active behind the scenes on core conservative values such as abortion and gay rights. Harper has always had to keep tight control over his caucus on those and similar issues, because the majority of Canadians are not conservative and do not agree with Harper's party. And so Harper lies and obfuscates. For example, he says he will not reopen the debate on abortion, which is legal in Canada, but he continues to export anti-abortion ideology and policies through international aid projects, revealing where he really stands on the issue.
If religion does not play such an overt role in Canadian politics or society as in the U.S., then why should we care what Harper believes? Because as Schaeffer explains above, religious fundamentalism helped create and increase the financial, social and political inequities that are now the focus of worldwide protests. Furthermore, it is important to know if our politicians who create laws and policies base those on evidence or ideology. Harper's government has made it very clear that ideology is far more important than evidence. At the end of it's years long fight against InSite, for example, the government's arguments at the Supreme Court of Canada against the facility were all based on ideology or jurisdiction. Government lawyers presented no evidence of harm to counter the stacks of evidence proving that the facility saves lives, reduces harm and produces benefits for individuals and society. Likewise, by building more prisons and pushing a new crime bill Harper intends to pass with his new majority, he is completely ignoring solid evidence that crime has been falling for the last 20 years, not increasing.
I questioned above whether Harper is a true believer or just using religion as a political tool. I think that latter scenario may be more common in the U.S., where it is political suicide not to have a religious affiliation of some sort. There are only 28 atheist members of Congress, but only one of them is willing to admit that publicly, which means the other 27 and probably many other members are hiding or lying about their religious beliefs. I think Harper may actually be a sincere believer, however, because of his consistent refusal to consider valid, scientific evidence in favour of ideological positions, which is a trait of religious fundamentalists. As I mentioned above, that is something that has occurred over and over again in various policy positions taken by the Harper government. Considering the strictly fundamentalist and evangelical tenets of Harper's church, it is really no surprise he discounts scientific evidence when formulating public policy. After all, he chooses to attend a church that believes in creationism and rejects evolution, even theistic evolution, believes the Bible was verbally dictated by God and therefore without error, believes in faith healing, and believes Jesus was born of a virgin and will return any day now. But where does Harper's religion put him in relation to the millions of Canadians struggling with poverty that his politics and policies have ignored? The cries of the poor do not move him, and so his holy book condemns him as a hypocrite:
But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care, how can the love of God remain in him? I John 3:17
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