The Flag: Our National Symbol
There are many things about Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party that irritates me. I will be very uncomfortable for the next four years of a majority Conservative government in Canada.
One of the most annoying things about Stephen Harper is how he has commandeered our National symbol, the Flag as his own. It dawned on me gradually during the election until I realized there was never a chance for a Harper's Conservative Party's sound byte that he was not standing in front of a Canadian Flag. No other leader of a party did this. This wrapping yourself in the flag is foreign to Canadian politics. You see it often in the US where I think Harper got the idea.
The flag belongs to the whole Nation and all Canadians. While Canadians often do enjoy waving the flag, it is never to the exclusion of others. We witnessed this at the past Olympics where the flag waving left some of us a little uncomfortable even though we recognized it was a symbol of inclusion for all of us. Such overt chauvinistic displays are awkward for some. When I suggested to Lynne that we should get a couple of small Canadian flags to wave when we go to Ottawa for Canada Day, she said , "No". Such a display was not her way. Also it is not mine either, although I do have a flag hung on my house's porch. I am a Canadian nationalist and definitely not of the Conservative kind.
You notice Stephen Harper has even adopted red as his colour. Not any red but the red in our flag. This is ironic as blue is actually the colour historically associated with the Conservative Party, as in "blue bloods", the establishment. The party in Ontario, in my youth was called the "Big Blue Machine". Red is often associated with the progressive end of the political spectrum. Remember the red flag of Communism or Anarchism. Ironically we still speak of Red Tories. These are conservatives that are conservative fiscally but progressive socially. They were very much a part of the former Progressive Conservative Party.
What is going on here.
I think there is a deliberate attempt by the Conservative Party to identify itself with our National symbols. Stephen Harper has relatively recently referred to the Conservative Party as "Canada's Party" , as if it speaks for Canada in ways other parties do not.
In the parliamentary system of government, the Prime Minister and his party has the responsibility of forming the government. It only does so as long as it has the consent of parliament. It does not fully represent the country, in fact even as a majority government it did not receive a majority of votes.
To represent the country as a whole, we have a Governor General, ( the Queen's representative) to represent the Nation. The party in power need to remember it has no divine right to rule. It has a serious and humbling responsibility to do so. It is in the American system of government these two functions: administration and national symbol is unified in the President. There are real strengths to having them separated. It allows one to oppose the government of the day and still be loyal to the country as a whole.
Notice in the Contempt isposter above the large blue "C" of the Conservative Party with a red maple leaf flag in its embrace. It is the same colour and shape of the maple leaf that sits in the middle of our Canadian flag.
The problem with one party taking as its own symbols of the whole country is it indicates that all others are outside the circle of belonging. Those who oppose the Conservative Party and its program are lesser Canadians. When the going gets mean, as iot will, non-Conseratives may even be seen as disloyal to the country, subversives, if you will.
Years ago, when Stephen Harper, got into federal politics he said he not only wanted to defeat the Liberal Party he wanted to destroy the Liberal Party. I am sure in this last election he thinks he has begun its destruction. His vision for Canada was to have basically two parties one of the right, the Conservatives (Canada's Party) and one of the the left, The New Democratic Party, which has replaced the Liberal Party as the official opposition. The Conservatives treat the NDP with contempt as those irresponsible socialists who cannot be trusted with the economy. (In fact, historically the New Democrats where they have formed governments provincially have been very responsible with the economy. In fact, it has been Conservative governments who have run up deficits. And of course, there was a Conservative government in Saskatchewan that was a criminal organization that saw many of its cabinet member go to jail. I think the Conservatives see the NDP as a more vulnerable and less threatening than the Liberal Party, which historically filled the centrist postion on the political spectrum.
Just before the past election the Conservative Party was found in 'contempt of parliament".
This is almost a unique event in parliamentary democracy. The Conservatives shrugged it off as just being outvoted by those who did not like them. It was much more serious than this. Such a dismissive attitude, in itself was contemptous of Parliament. It should have denied them of forming the government but they managed to deflect it's seriousness and convince their attitude to this judgement by parliament as the correct understanding of it.
With the Conservative Party laying claim to being the "Canadian Party", draping itself in the flag, and its willingness to treat parliament with contempt, the are well on the way to attacking a fundamental aspect of parliamentary government, the notion of the"loyal opposition".
I can imagine in the next election the Conservative Party claiming the opposition is out the destroy Canada and only the Conservative (Canada Party) can be trusted to govern. I hope politics does not degenerate to this level of discourse of " us and them". Time will tell. It may depend of the revival of the Liberal Party which is more representative of the political center in Canadian politics.