Stephen Harper’s gift to Canada

It’s not what he intended but former Prime Minister Harper has emboldened Canada’s Supreme Court and strengthened the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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Harper set out to remake Canada in his own image; a conservative unlike any Canada has seen before. Certainly not like the Progressive Conservative party that his amalgamation consumed; one based the libertarian principles Harper learned from his American professors at the University of Calgary.

Harper considered the Charter, introduced in by Pierre Trudeau in 1982, to be an artifice. But to Harper’s chagrin, the legacy of his nemesis has been strengthened.

It’s not for lack of trying. Harper tried to subvert the Charter by passing contrary laws.  Looking to emulate the U.S. system of making political appointments, he tried to stack the Supreme Court to support his subversion. That backfired as the judges he had appointed struck down laws he had passed, such as those on mandatory jail terms or illegal drugs.

Another approach was to kill of the Charter by a thousand cuts. In changing the law incrementally, he imaged that lots of small increments would add up to big change. Sean Fine, justice reporter for the Globe and Mail explains:

“On murder, he took away the ‘faint-hope clause’ that allowed for parole after 15 years instead of 25. Then he permitted the 25-year waiting period for a parole hearing to be added up in cases of multiple murders – 25 years on each murder. And then he promised life in prison with no parole for especially brutal murders.”

Harper tried to shut down the safe-injection clinic in Vancouver, Insite, where drug users could inject heroin with a nurse present, The Supreme Court ruled that shutting the clinic would severely harm, perhaps kill, drug addicts.

The Supreme Court ruling had the unintended consequence of making it harder for the Harper government to limit the rights of the vulnerable. Undeterred, Harper pressed ahead with prostitution laws, which the court unanimously ruled against decreeing that the laws endangered prostitutes.

More consequences of this legacy played out when the city of Abbotsford attempted to keep homeless people from sleeping in parks by spreading chicken manure.

“B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson, a Harper appointee, ruled for the homeless and against the city. Government should not cause physical or psychological harm to a vulnerable population, he said, citing the Insite ruling.”

Ghosts of a strengthened Supreme Court and the Charter brought in by Pierre Trudeau will haunt the son. Rulings have reduced the ability of all governments to impinge on rights.

Solitary confinement in federal prisons is being challenged based on the Insite ruling. If Justin Trudeau’s new Minister of Justice, Ms. Wilson-Raybould, attempts to defend the status quo, she could find herself taking a position on basic Charter rights similar to that taken by the Harper government.

“The result could be a supreme irony: Unless she moves quickly – on refugee health cuts, on mandatory jail sentences that fall most heavily on aboriginal peoples, on a spate of laws that reduce judges’ discretion – the Trudeau government will find that its justice-department lawyers are in court defending Harper-era policies whose goal was to remove perceived liberal bias from the justice system.”

Trump explained

Seen through the lens of politics, the rise of Donald Trump as candidate for president of the United States doesn’t make sense. It’s more comprehensible when seen as a class struggle.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, United States, July 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTX1KTWT

Contrary to popular opinion, Trump support is strong among liberal voters. A poll by a ABC/Washington Post poll found that 17 per cent of the most conservative voters supported Trump; for somewhat conservative voters it was 24 per cent; and among moderate-to-liberal voters, 27 per cent supported him reports Doug Saunders in the Globe and Mail.

The collateral damage of this class struggle is the Republican Party which faces an existential problem. Republicans lost the last election because of lack of support from visible minorities. Trump’s bombast is driving even more of them away. It’s a losing strategy for Republicans which threatens to hollow out the party.

Trump supporters represent an inarticulate howl from a particular underclass called, for lack of a better term, the Disaffected.

The Pew Research Center defines the Disaffected as mostly male, overwhelmingly white, and especially lacking in education. Bewilderingly, they are lukewarm to the very welfare that they depend on.

“Disaffecteds are only moderate supporters of government welfare and assistance to the poor. They strongly oppose immigration as well as regulatory and environmental policies on the grounds that government is ineffective and such measures cost jobs.” Eighty per cent of them said immigrants “are a burden on our country” nearly double the rate of the general American public.

The Disaffected class go with the political flow. In 2004 they tended to vote for George Bush.  By 2005 they were mostly independent. In 2008 and 2012 they voted for Barack Obama. Now they mostly belong to Donald Trump.

With many liberals among the Disaffected, you would think that the Democratic Party would be in trouble as well. But many support the overtly socialist candidate Bernie Sanders. At the heart of this class uprising seeks retribution for perceived injustice.

More than ideology, what they recognize is an outraged voice. The pack recognizes the baying of kin.

The Disaffected are against integration because it failed them. From the rust belts of America, they peer out at better educated, more entrepreneurial, often Muslim immigrants getting what they feel is rightfully theirs. Saunders elaborates:

“It is perhaps easiest to understand the Disaffecteds as a case of failed integration. As the children and grandchildren of the old postwar U.S. white industrial working class, they have followed a trajectory, and fallen into ways of thinking, that are strikingly similar to those of some unsuccessful low-income immigrant groups in Europe: a low educational-attainment rate, lack of entrepreneurial success, reverse social mobility across generations, a tendency to self-segregate into ethnic enclaves and self-policed neighbourhoods, and, now, an increasing tendency to vote for extremist politics.”

When America was great, in the minds of the Disaffected, they could leave high school and get a well-paying factory job for life. It was no accident that destroyed their life style: it was by design.

American politicians since President Reagan have purposely abandoned U.S. factory jobs. Under the sway of libertarians (Stephen Harper was a disciple), the jobs of the Disaffected were sent overseas.

America is now experiencing the blowback from the betrayal of an underclass.