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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper

With former Prime Minister Stephen Harper

The main reason that has led to the downfall of the Conservative Party of Canada is the unbridled (and utterly shameful) persecution of Canada’s Muslims by the party's leadership during the run-up to the federal elections. Harperite politics will go down in Canadian history as a period that will be remembered as a time when the government tried hard to change a vibrant democracy into a closed society

I came to Canada in 2008 with my wife Mahrukh and my son Che. It was the time when the global recession had kicked in, and the economic situation in Canada was precarious. We rented an apartment, worked hard, saved a bit and found our feet in Canada.

As newcomer Canadians, we were all able to emerge from the crisis largely unscathed because of the policies of fiscal prudence of Prime Minister Stephan Harper’s government. Soon, I began working with the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) and had the opportunity of pursuing Harper’s policies from a close quarter. 

I admired him for his proactive foreign policy, especially in promoting trade relations with major economic powers, both existing (such as the European Union, and China), and emerging (such as India).

In fact, almost single-handedly, Harper resurrected the moribund relations between Canada and India, and tried his utmost to fast-track the comprehensive economic partnership agreement with India. He visited twice during his nearly decade-long tenure.

As a newcomer, and as a person of Indian origin, it was difficult for me to not like Harper. And we also had Jason Kenney, the multicultural minister, the man who was fondly called Jason bhai by all Indo-Canadians. I found myself, for the first time in my life, looking at Conservative values from an unbiased perspective, and I actually liked some of what I saw.

The Harper Conservatives were playing a shrewd game of appearing to be reasonable on issues important to the people, and at the same time concealing their true intentions till such time as they were able to muster a majority in the parliament.

It was then that the true (and ruthless) nature of the Harper Conservatives emerged into the open. And it was frightening.

The Harper Conservatives saw no need to give freedom to Canadian scientists; abandoned the long-form census; didn’t believe in changing – even in a small way – the policies on environment; it was unapologetic over the inhuman treatment of the indigenous people. Harper Conservatives ignored norms and manipulated the Senate, turning it into a scandalous cesspool, manipulated the appointments on the Supreme Court, changed Canada’s traditional role as peacekeepers to interventionists and combatants.

Surprisingly, Harper didn’t lose his popularity or his authority, primarily because he continued to steer the economy steadily, making it possible for common Canadians to enjoy the fruits of Conservative fiscal discipline.  

So, he went into the elections confident of returning to power. It was in the run-up to the polls that the Harper Conservatives totally misread the mood of the average Canadian. The vile campaign against the Muslims of Canada – whether it was the unnecessary controversy over the niqab, or the dangerous proposal of a neighbourhood watch over barbaric practices, giving greater powers to the government in the name of curbing terrorism, deporting immigrants who are citizens after they are deemed terrorists.

Canadians didn’t accept this persecution of a section of Canada’s population merely because they worshiped a different god. Canadians proved to the world that they are tolerant, decent human beings who have internalized multiculturalism. Rising above narrow interpretation of national ethos, Canadians have rejected the man who had transformed himself from a fiscal disciplinarian to a diehard chauvinist.

The main reason that has led to the downfall of the Conservative Party of Canada is the unbridled (and utterly shameful) persecution of Canada’s Muslims by the party's leadership during the run-up to the federal elections. Harperite politics will go down in Canadian history as a period that will be remembered as a time when the government tried hard to change a vibrant democracy into a closed society. 

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