"Nothing has done the electoral and moral credibility of liberalism more harm than the failure to take this attack seriously" - Michael Ignatieff, University of Toronto, 1998
When the Reform Party first arrived on Parliament Hill, I never really did take them seriously, and I know I wasn't alone. A common question in the media, was "Who are these yokels and who voted for them?"
When Reform MP for Okanagan-Shuswap, Darrel Stinson; crossed the floor to challenge a Liberal opponent to a fist fight, asking whether he had the "gonads" to take him on; we laughed out loud. But as that scene played out over and over again on the television news, we had to ask ourselves what exactly was happening here.
But challenging an MP to fisticuffs, was only a warm up for Stinson. Fueled by the media attention, and his own convictions, he suggested we take advantage of NAFTA and save money by sending our prisoners to Mexico. And when recompense for Japanese-Canadians who were interned during the War was being discussed, he stormed that the Japanese should be paying recompense to the Canadian soldiers who had been prisoners of war. He also referred to Conservative leader Jean Charest as a "Fat little, chubby little sucker". Quite rich if you've ever seen Stinson. (1)
Racist and sexist comments became the norm for this party, and yet they held in there. Week after week, month after month and year after year; Canadians were treated to some of the most outlandish behaviour and verbal carnage since Archie Bunker. A column in the Toronto Sun referred to them as a "ribald collection of dung-kicking rednecks."
But then Peter MacKay reneged on a promise and written contract, to allow a hostile takeover of the Progressive Conservatives, by this ribald collection of dung-kicking rednecks; and I knew we were in trouble. The party of Sir John A. MacDonald was dissolved in December of 2003, and a century and half tradition was lost.
And what started as a crusade in the 1930's, grounded in anti-Semitism and religious fanaticism; would be running our country by 2006; and though they now call themselves 'conservatives', they are actually neoconservative; which is anything but.
And this is their story.
A Bit of Explanation:
The predecessor of the Reform Party was the Social Credit Party, as confirmed by Stephen Harper in his 1997 speech to the Council For National Policy. And like Social Credit, Reform was based on the infallibility of the Old Testament, the superiority of the Anglo people and their traditions, and the need to rescue our Judea-Christian heritage.
Along the way they picked up elements of neoconservatism and neo-liberalism (Libertarian), but never lost their religious fundamentalism. In the 1930's, Time magazine referred to the Social Credit government in Alberta as the only true theocracy in the Western Hemisphere, and the notion of once again becoming a theocracy, is very much a part of their agenda.
I also wanted to explain why I brought Adolf Hitler* into the story. He was not only a contemporary of both William Aberhart (father of the social credit movement in Canada) and Leo Strauss (father of the neoconservative movement), but his actions directly affected the political landscape at the time, and his rise to power was not unlike the rise to power of both Social Credit and Reform.
But more importantly, he is the best representation of the image politics and information control, that have become the trademarks of this movement.
"His full conquest of the masses came only after [he] had silenced oppositional opinion and had acquired total control of the media." (2) Sound familiar?
My Grandmother Attended the Apocalypse and All She Got Was a Bias Cut Blouse
*When I first published that William Aberhart had fashioned his propaganda machine after Adolf Hitler's (Time Magazine, September 16, 1935), and that it might explain why Stephen Harper is often compared to Hitler, I received an email from a man who was quite upset with me. He suggested that I was "fear mongering" and how dare I. But this was the same man who a few weeks before suggested to me that to solve the problem of " Islamo-Fascists", in reference to the Afghan detainee issue, we should just drop a bomb and kill them all. Hatred is hatred, and if left unchecked can have disastrous consequences.
1. Hard Right Turn: The New Face of neo-Conservatism in Canada, by: Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2, Pg. 304-308
2. Hitler: Profiles in Power, by: Ian Kershaw, Longman House UK, 1991, ISBN: 0-582-08053-3, Pg. 53