Sunday, September 27, 2009

When did Socialism become a bad word?

My children attend public schools, paid for by taxes and run by the province of Ontario. When I go to the doctor or hospital, the services I'm provided with are invariably paid for out of the public purse. The police who enforce various laws, and the courts and justice system which uphold them...the entire apparatus is financed by levies, charges and taxes collected by various levels of government.

And yet I am constantly being bombarded with messages about the evils of socialism.

The U.S. media is full of them now due to Obama's continuing efforts to reform the world's most expensive health care system, a system which leaves tens of millions with no health coverage whatsoever. Well, costs may be out of control and millions of American children may not have access to even basic medical care...but at least its not "socialist".

I want to be clear on one point here, I do not view pure unadulterated socialism as a panacea for all of society's ills, far from it. Likewise I don't consider unfettered capitalism the answer either, we've been down that road before with work houses and child labour. There are areas of vital public importance that are best removed from the sphere that is dominated by the need for profit. And there are entities under government control that would benefit from the discipline market forces impose.

So why is our Prime Minister fanning the rhetorical flames against socialism, while at the same time making modest improvements to EI, a social program? Why is socialism suddenly an evil word? the case of Stephen Harper, he only seems to speak his mind when the doors are closed or when the microphones are off. Thankfully in this modern age some of his musings sneak through the cracks, I say thankfully because so many of his public utterances are little more than political pandering. Candid remarks seem only to come when the Conservative leader believes his words to be safe from public scrutiny.

Such was certainly the case recently when he railed against separatists and socialists at a closed door rally. And also back in 1997 when he was VP of the National Citizen's Coalition, speaking to a right-wing U.S. think tank called the Council for National Policy. It is thanks only to this neo-conservative group that the Prime Minister's words have been saved for posterity, and can be read on CTV's website:

That speech offers a wonderful little window into the mind of Stephen Harper, and given the lack of microphones or media scrutiny I assume these words to be a much more accurate reflection of his views. I would suggest anyone with even the slightest interest in Canadian politics to give it a read, here a few direct quotes:

Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it.

In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-and-a-half, don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance.

But the important point is that Canada is not a bilingual country. It is a country with two languages. And there is a big difference.

What the House of Commons is really like is the United States electoral college. Imagine if the electoral college which selects your president once every four years were to continue sitting in Washington for the next four years.

The NDP could be described as basically a party of liberal Democrats, but it's actually worse than that, I have to say. And forgive me jesting again, but the NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men.

(Of the LPC) In the last Parliament, it enacted comprehensive gun control, well beyond, I think, anything you have. Now we'll have a national firearms registration system, including all shotguns and rifles. Many other kinds of weapons have been banned. It believes in gay rights, although it's fairly cautious. It's put sexual orientation in the Human Rights Act and will let the courts do the rest.

(Of the old PC party) They were in favour of gay rights officially, officially for abortion on demand. Officially -- what else can I say about them? Officially for the entrenchment of our universal, collectivized, health-care system and multicultural policies in the constitution of the country.

So there we have our current Prime Minister's views, spoken in private...away from cameras and microphones. No doubt they resonate with a small but committed core of Conservative party followers, which is why they're only spoken when the doors are closed. Give Harper a majority mandate however, and I suspect we would see these ideals being positioned more prominently.

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