In a public opinion survey released in November by Abacus Data only Stephen Harper is preferred by self-identified Conservative voters over Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer. The poll neglected to measure the relative support for Scheer against the much-touted Rona Ambrose or Jason Kenney, for examples, but curiously included both Mark and Caroline Mulroney as possible leadership candidates for the Conservative Party of Canada.
According to David Coletto with Abacus, “Our test of potential alternatives to Mr. Scheer finds none, except for Mr. Harper, are preferred over Mr. Scheer among those who voted Conservative in the last election. This should give him some comfort, especially since Conservative members will ultimately decide whether to initiate a leadership election.” Scheer could find some comfort in these numbers if Stephen Harper was firmly committed to Harper & Associates and his new role as an international business and public affairs consultant – but I’m not convinced the former PM is out of partisan politics quite yet.
Chairman of Abacus Data, Bruce Anderson, is also the Chairman of Summa Communications where “he offers communications and campaign counsel and strategic advice to clients.” The link to Summa Communications goes nowhere but the Summa Strategies website boasts that “A new partnership with Bruce Anderson adds communications counsel to the services available to public affairs clients.” Summa Strategies is home to Tim Powers, the nominally-conservative voice on CBC’s “Power and Politics”, who playfully describes Scheer as a “little kid baby brother.” It’s also home to Jim Armour who calls Harper “a natural prime minister.” According to his online profile, Armour “was Communications Director for two Leaders of the Official Opposition and helped brand the launch of both the Canadian Alliance and the Conservative Party of Canada.” One of the conservative leaders Armour worked for was, of course, Stephen Harper.
Andrew MacDougall was also formerly Director of Communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. MacDougall lashed out at Andrew Scheer in a Tweet on Saturday after Scheer announced his decision to fire his chief of staff and director of communications. MacDougall came as close as one could to calling for Scheer to resign, without actually saying it. It’s absolutely standard practice for political leaders to replace staff, especially after a failed election, and MacDougall certainly knows this.
On August 14, 2019, Rachel Curran, senior associate with Harper & Associates, publicly questioned Scheer’s ability to capitalize on Trudeau’s breach of the Conflict of Interest Act over his interventions on the SNC-Lavalin corruption case. In an interview with CBC Radio after the election, Curran was less delicate with her language saying “real mistakes” were made in a “winnable election.”
Several Harper-appointed Senators have left the Conservative Caucus and joined the new Canadian Senators Group in the Upper House, citing discontent with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Senators Jean-Guy Dagenais and Josee Verner both criticized Scheer’s view on issues like same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005 and Scheer was clear that he has no intention of changing that law. Rather than defend the leader of their party against predictable attacks, the Senators instead repeated Liberal talking points that Scheer is hiding a secret agenda.
It is also worth noting that Stephen Harper sits on the Conservative Fund of Canada, the money branch of the party, so he has not cut official ties to the CPC.
Pressure is clearly mounting for Andrew Scheer to resign on his own or for Conservative delegates at the next convention to force him to resign by demanding a leadership vote – and this pressure is coming from many key Harper supporters.
The Abacus Data survey is not the first time the former Conservative Prime Minister has been mentioned as a possible replacement to Scheer. In fact, over the last two years there has been what looks like a quiet campaign to set the stage for Harper’s return.
In October 2017 – just months after Scheer narrowly won the Conservative Party of Canada leadership election – a professionally produced click-bait ad was being promoted on Yahoo & Google search engines asking Conservatives to vote “Yes” to Stephen Harper and “No” to Andrew Scheer. Scheer was still working to establish his personal brand and increase his national profile, but Conservatives were already growing frustrated by his perceived inability to make an impact on the polling numbers despite a blundering Trudeau. It is unclear who is behind this ad campaign, but it can be traced back to Calgary.
On August 23, 2018, hope of any post-leadership race unity in the Conservative party was shattered when failed leadership candidate and high-profile Conservative Member of Parliament, Maxime Bernier, left the party to start the People’s Party of Canada. Bernier took aim directly at Scheer when he said “I have come to realize over the past year that this party is too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed.” While partisan Conservatives were mostly critical of Bernier’s decision to leave the party, they also felt the failure to keep Bernier happy and occupied was a failure of leadership that landed squarely on Scheer. It is worth noting that Bernier did not directly criticize Harper when he left the party despite their well-known hostility to one another.
While Scheer was dealing with lacklustre polling numbers and a breakaway conservative insurgency led by Bernier, Harper addressed an audience at the prestigious Stanford School of Business in May of 2018 saying, “I think I probably could still easily be leader of my party if I wanted to. I mean, I’m de-facto the founder of my party.”
In September 2018, exactly one year before the Canadian federal election, Stephen Harper released his latest book, “Right Here, Right Now”, the title of which reads like a campaign slogan.
While Trudeau was mired in scandal at home and abroad – primarily the SNC-Lavalin affair, and blunders on the world stage with his embarrassing official visit to India – and Scheer was dealing with his own inability to capitalize on this in the polls, Harper was enjoying prestige on the world stage. On January 8, 2019, a professionally produced video was released of the former prime minister having a very serious meeting with current Indian Prime Minister Modi. While the video provided a contrast between Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau on what dignified foreign diplomacy and trade talks look like – it also reminded Conservatives that Harper has the gravitas Scheer lacks: Harper is a statesman; Scheer occupied a junior position in the Speaker’s Office. Harper was the leader of the National Citizens Coalition; Scheer was a junior insurance salesman. Maybe.
Throughout the campaign, photographs and video circulated of Harper with foreign leaders like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen. The message was clear: The only person fighting effectively for Canada on the world stage during the federal election was a man not even in the race.
All of this can be easily explained, of course. Those loyal to Harper are disappointed in the performance of the man who replaced him – and they are speaking out. Harper is showcasing his work on the world stage because that’s his new gig. Perhaps, but I find the picture in its entirety too compelling to ignore: Harper has been carefully planning his return to federal politics and is the only person, according to the Abacus Data poll, who can defeat Andrew Scheer.
Additionally, Conservative federalists are terrified by the prospect of a credible independence party (federally and provincially) gaining traction at their expense. Stephen Harper may be the only Westerner with the credibility to pacify its growing base.
I’m going to speculate even further: Over the next six months, we will see a draft Stephen Harper website and social media channels designed to collect data in order to properly message and run a leadership campaign. You might also see Maxime Bernier float the possibility of shutting-down the People’s Party of Canada if Stephen Harper comes back. The PPC has no party constitution or governing council that could prevent such a move. Bringing Bernier back into the CPC family would be a major win for Harper who was the architect of bringing together the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party. A win for Harper here would be a blow to Andrew Scheer, exactly what Bernier seems to want.
If Stephen Harper is interested in returning to federal politics, the universe is unfolding exactly as it should – or maybe it’s being gently nudged in the direction the brilliant strategist and his friends want it to go. If I’m right, it could be bad news for both Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau.
Clinton P. Desveaux is a social thought leader and can be contacted at ClintonDesveaux@gmail.com
SLOBODIAN: Disgraced Catholic priest banned from Northern Manitoba reserves
Father Rheal Forest accused residential school survivors of fabricating abuse claims to cash in on settlement money.
A Catholic priest could land himself in the back of an RCMP cruiser if he steps foot on a Manitoba First Nation he served and lived on for years.
Father Rheal Forest, who accused residential school survivors of fabricating abuse claims to cash in on settlement money, will be considered a trespasser in Bloodvein First Nation, located 210 km north of Winnipeg.
A Band Council Resolution (BCR) barring Forest from the community is being drafted and when signed this week by council will be given to RCMP to enforce, Bloodvein Chief Derek Cook confirmed.
“I know a lot of people are upset. It’s bringing back a lot of the stories they have to deal with and are continuing to deal with from residential schools,” Cook told CBC.
“I hope he abides by the process and respects our decision.”
Despite not having worked in Bloodvein for a few years, Forest continued to visit.
The Archdiocese of St. Boniface also banned Forest from all preaching and teaching for remarks he made about residential school survivors in sermons last month while filling in for a vacationing priest at Winnipeg’s St. Emile Roman Catholic Church.
The sermons that were live-streamed at the time to Facebook have been removed.
“If they wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes, lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” Forest told the congregation.
“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”
Forest also absolved priests and nuns from any abuse and blamed laymen.
Anywhere from $3 billion to $4.7 billion has been paid to thousands of people who claimed they were victims of abuse at residential schools.
Almost 50 churches have been burned and desecrated in Canada since unmarked graves were allegedly discovered on former residential school sites.
Foster also made controversial comments during one mass about the criminals responsible for the destruction.
He admitted to having “thoughts of anger” when he passed by a church that had been vandalized.
“If I had a shotgun at night and I’d see them, I’d go ‘Boom’ just to scare them and if they don’t run away, I’ll shoot them,” he said laughing.
He immediately added: “This would not help. It’s bad to do that. I’d go have a chat with them.”
Forest also made it clear he is not a fan of the “evil” media which he said is controlled by Freemasons.
Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
GIEDE: Happy 150th British Columbia!
“It’s been a tumultuous 150 years, but this province is still the Most Beautiful Place on Earth.”
While everywhere else in Canada it’s simply known as “August long weekend,” technically speaking the statutory holiday is called “British Columbia Day” west of the Rockies. For those of us who enjoy official designations and labels, this will be the sesquicentennial of BC’s entrance into Canadian confederation, a much harassed political project within these pages. Still, a century-and-a-half is worthy of exhortation.
Of course the proper birthday was July 20, corresponding with our joining up in 1871. But no one in BC is interested in a bon fete they cannot properly observe with beverage in hand. Thus, BC Day has been permanently tacked to the first Monday of August to ensure an annual long weekend in perpetuity – which is how all significant non-religious holidays ought to be scheduled from sea to sea to sea.
British Columbia was bribed into confederation by a drunk Scotsman who dreamed of transcontinental railways.
We almost broke out again when the delivery of the Canadian Pacific Railway seemed doomed, and would of likely joined the United States, which had a sizable ex-patriot population here (particularly Civil War veterans from the South.) We stayed on with the reassurance the CPR would be finished, even returning Sir John A. Macdonald to Parliament from Victoria once after he lost his seat in Kingston, Ont.
Of course, our 150 birthday as a province has also been overshadowed by pandemic, then the church fires, and now the wildfires which rage throughout the Southern Interior. British Columbians will still be cracking our famous IPA’s despite the smoke, but perhaps being seen to be celebrating our legacy in such dire times is too much for even our self-aggrandizing political class to bear, let alone the rest of us.
British Columbia is a series of paradoxes. While sovereigntist fervor is most strongly felt east of the Rockies, particularly in Wildrose country, only BC has the surest chance of ever leaving the Dominion with its borders intact: save for minor disputes with America along the coast, our borders are the same as when we took up Sir John A.’s invitation, unlike the rest of the West. Yet this does not motivate us.
If anything, the peculiar history and geography of the Western cordillera makes separation from itself just as likely as a break at the federal level. Outside of the Lower Mainland and South Island, people are far more different than they are similar, despite waving the same flag. Each part of British Columbia is a land entirely unto itself: river valleys, plateaus, and atolls all littered with dozens of siloed cultures.
This is not a new phenomena or collateral damage due to the post rural-urban divide: before contact, a plethora of indigenous languages flourished; after contact, successive waves of development happened at different rates throughout the province – the fur trade, gold rush, railway, forestry, mining, and finally oil and gas, as well as hydro – layering BC with company towns, ghost towns, and peculiar infrastructure.
Our vehicle fleets are by far the oldest of the provinces, just as independent contractors number more greatly amongst our workforce than nearly everywhere else in Canada. Economic cycles strike our province without uniformity, as there’s always some other resource that needs extracting from her natural bounty. Considering the remoteness, BC really could be considered the “fourth Territory.”
Perhaps this latent independence is what makes the manifestation of sovereignty so difficult.
There are more eccentrics per square kilometre here than anywhere else on God’s green earth, and each of them can tell you exactly whats wrong — as well as how to fix the place. Without a central tenet of BC identity, just thousands of caricatures brought to life in every quarter, from marijuana addicts to moral puritans, there is no single point of focus for British Columbians to rally around within the separation agenda.
But perhaps the key to understanding British Columbians lax attitude about sticking it to Ottawa is we’re too busy enjoying where we live, even as costs rise egregiously. While living in a closet west of Hope isn’t my jam, people do it by the thousands just to enjoy the Lower Mainland lifestyle; and in the rest of the province the water and wilderness goes on for eternity, beckoning every kind of adventurer.
Not unlike the wild child we all knew in class, British Columbia cannot be marshalled easily to march in step with her sister provinces, West of Lakehead on the secession question. Until confederation impedes the natural freedoms we enjoy in BC, federalism by convenience will rule the day. No doubt, its been a tumultuous 150 years, but this province is still the Most Beautiful Place on Earth.
Nathan Giede is the BC Affairs Columnist and the host of Mountain Standard Time
WAGNER: The prominent Toronto political scientist who called Communism ‘democratic’
As it turns out, some members of Canada’s Left have a fairly positive view of communism.
Some commentators have noted the silence of Canada’s Left in the face of anti-government protests in Cuba. Why the reluctance to condemn a communist dictatorship?
Well, as it turns out, some members of Canada’s Left have a fairly positive view of communism. One such prominent Canadian leftist was C.B. Macpherson (1911-1987), an internationally-renowned political scientist who taught political theory at the University of Toronto. Among other things, he was especially known for his critiques of capitalism and individualism.
Interestingly, Macpherson also defended Soviet Communism as genuine democracy in action. This can be seen in a series of CBC radio messages he delivered in 1965 that were subsequently published as a book entitled The Real World of Democracy. These lectures argued there were three forms of government that could be legitimately called democracies: the liberal democracies of the West, the Soviet bloc countries, and the one-party states of the Third World.
As Macpherson put it, “democracy is not properly to be equated with our unique Western liberal-democracy.” Instead, “the clearly non-liberal systems which prevail in the Soviet countries, and the somewhat different non-liberal systems of most of the underdeveloped countries of Asia and Africa, have a genuine historical claim to the title democracy.”
Macpherson explained the meaning of democracy has undergone some change over time. It hasn’t always referred to the kind of constitutional system common in the Western countries: “Democracy originally meant rule by the common people, the plebeians. It was very much a class affair: it meant the sway of the lowest and largest class.” Thus, Macpherson argued Soviet Communism and other one-party states can legitimately be called democracies, based on this definition. That is, he used this conception of “democracy” to describe some of the world’s most brutal and repressive regimes.
Karl Marx’s proposed “dictatorship of the proletariat” was an expression of genuine democracy in Macpherson’s view. He noted many people would find it outrageous to consider the dictatorship of the proletariat to be a form of democracy. “But,” he wrote, “to call it democracy was not outrageous at all: it was simply to use the word in its original and then normal sense.”
Macpherson’s analysis gets even worse. Lenin extended Marx’s theory by arguing a revolution would need to be undertaken by a relatively small group of class-conscious people he called the vanguard, which is to say, the Communist Party.
From the Communist perspective, since the vast majority of people in any society are debased by the structures of capitalism, they cannot be trusted to participate in political decision-making. To allow their participation would just perpetuate the problems of the old, capitalist society. Only the vanguard could bring about the necessary reforms. As Macpherson explains: “Lenin, building on Marx, came out for a seizure of power by a vanguard who would forcibly transform the basic relations of society in such a way that the people would become undebased and capable of a fully human existence, at which point compulsive government would no longer be needed.”
In Macpherson’s view, this rule of the vanguard to “forcibly transform” society is democracy in action, despite the fact that it involves politically motivated executions and concentration camps. Democracy, it seems, becomes indistinguishable from dictatorship.
Macpherson evokes what he calls the “broader concept of democracy” to legitimize the Marxist-Leninist state: “Wherever the circumstances are such that no motion towards this kind of society is possible except through the action of a vanguard, then the vanguard state, so long as it remains true to its purpose, may be called democratic.” Thus, in his view, an outright communist state can be legitimately called a democracy. Many of the most brutal, bloodthirsty, and repressive regimes in the 20th Century were democracies in this sense. Who knew?
Using a similar line of argumentation, the one-party dictatorships of the Third World can also be justified as democracies. Invoking Rousseau, Macpherson wrote one-party states can be legitimately called democracies because “there is in these countries a general will, which can express itself through, and probably only through, a single party.” As a result, “opposition to the dominant party appears to be, and sometimes actually is, destructive of the chances of nationhood. In such circumstances opposition appears as treason against the nation.” Thus, a one-party state, where opposition to the ruling party is punished as “treason,” can be a legitimate form of democracy. (Don’t tell Justin Trudeau.)
Macpherson was an internationally known and respected political scientist. The views he expressed were not the rantings of a black-clad activist running wild in the streets. Some elements of the intellectual Left truly believe that a Marxist-Leninist state (or any other Left-wing single-party state) is a genuine democracy. Despite the inescapably violent and murderous nature of communism, some Canadian leftists view it favourably.
The lessons of the 20th Century have not been learned. Ideas that inspired inhuman tyranny – what C.B. Macpherson happily calls the “broader concept of democracy” – seem to be making a comeback.
Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard
SLOBODIAN: Disgraced Catholic priest banned from Northern Manitoba reserves
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