After reading Mel Hurtig’s myth-shattering The Truth About Canada, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of his latest work, The Arrogant Autocrat. Much like his previous book, this is a criticism of corporate takeover, foreign ownership deals, and changes to our social programs, but this time it is focused on the man who is leading the charge to transform Canada into an unrecognizable place — Stephen Harper.
Harper’s determination to remake Canada based on his own values and priorities is outlined in this short, shocking look at what he has done so far to radically alter the democratic, social, and economic fabric of the country.
His support and promotion of oil companies and the tar sands has damaged not only our environment, but also our international reputation. While many Canadians would fashion themselves as peaceful, democratic people who support social programs and fairness, Harper’s agenda is contrary to this image and is gradually being implemented without our knowledge.
Much of what is written about our unfair democratic system, environmental policies, and Harper’s disdain for science was not new to me, but there were some shocking facts and figures that Hurtig revealed which made me shudder.
The most important part of this book is the section about the economy, something the Harper government loves to talk about. The section is split into two chapters to include all the details about how our economy isn’t doing as well as they claim and the way things are skewed. The second chapter, subtitled “Federal Deficit Voodoo,” contains three pages of facts showing how our economy has worsened under Harper’s leadership.
With short chapters and succinct writing, Hurtig summarizes all the reasons that Harper is not our hero.
SFU Adjunct Professor in Communications Donald Gutstein has also written an eye-opening book that demonstrates the way Harper, with the help of neoliberal think tanks and colleagues, is systematically transforming Canada to suit his ideological vision. Harperism shows how Harper is pushing his agenda in the vein of other neoliberal leaders, such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
The term Harperism is used to label this ideology that encourages a weakened labour movement (ideally the disappearance of unions), reduced government scientific research and data collection, and lower taxes. The overall idea is that the role of the government is only to support the economy, not to provide services and to intervene in public life as little as possible.
Stemming from neoliberal economic theories first popularized by the Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek and his associates, these are the same ideals that inspired Thatcherism and Reaganism, but Gutstein argues that Harper has taken his neoliberalism further in many areas.
I was fascinated to learn about the underlying ideological basis for many of Harper’s strategies, and disgusted to see how successfully he has been able to implement many changes without question. Harper’s level of success has not been accidental. Gutstein expertly shows the links between the politicians, think tanks, journalists, academics, and researchers who have collectively promoted these neoliberal ideas so far that they have almost become common public consensus. These links are not surprising, but realizing just how many and how effective they are was astounding.
The view of the market economy as all important above democracy, freedom, the environment, and general quality of life is not something I’m interested in seeing as our country’s political agenda, and I hope that this information can be taken into account as we prepare for an election this fall.