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Double monovision



When it comes to a country's evolution, there's a difference between vision and monovision. Canadian leaders with true vision brought us universal health care, a new flag, a repatriated constitution and Bill of Rights, national youth experience programs to bolster a burgeoning and inclusive self-identity, and a place on the global stage that came with an enviable role as the world's chief peacekeeper. (There was a time when, as conflicts developed and the UN fretted, "Who ya gonna call?" was answered with three syllables that people from remarkably diverse cultures and backgrounds found easy — often joyous — to pronounce). Canada's visionaries had friends in high places, in all types of governments, with all types of parties. Their words and wisdom and open-mindedness cut across ideology with an ethos that engagement always meant progress, while anything else not only kept problems alive, but incubated more and made it more difficult to re-engage. Visionaries like Pearson and Trudeau garnered respect that, as citizens, extended to all of us. The penny dropped with Mulroney's conservative monovision in the 1980s; his only friends those of similar idealogies: an odious lot headed by Margaret Thatcher, Helmut Kohl and Ronald Reagan. Which brings us to current PM, Stephen Harper, who has exactly zero friends, only "staunch" allies like Israel and Ukraine bought and paid for with rhetoric, policies, and, no surprise, your tax dollars. When it comes to world politics, you are what you can offer, and if that's only cash, antagonism and finger wagging, it engenders short-lived relationships indeed, serving neither national nor international interests.

We're all to blame for our current HarperCon®™ national brand, the collective fault of those too lazy or apathetic to vote, or self-educate, and those who voted selfishly with their wallets and not their heads, ignoring the myriad repercussions on bold display long before the 2011 election. So now we contend with a cabal of low-achieving, self-serving industry lap dogs that don't come close to the best Canada might offer either its citizens or the world. You don't need the latest NDP election ads to understand the HarperCon®™ litany of travails, as the daily news more than suffices: liars and prevaricators, accused and convicted felons, pedophiles, homophobes, xenophobes, right-wing Christian nut jobs, tea-partiers, hypocrites, traitors, jailed electoral fraudsters, unrepentant radical resource extractionists, abusers of the public trust and purse, environmental criminals, and active blockers of all of humanity's attempts to progress past its current ongoing state of unsustainable global impact. A group for whom the best collective dictionary definition appears under the word for a popular domesticated animal: "Informal, derogatory: a greedy, dirty, or unpleasant person."

I'll leave you to figure that reference out, but the latest example of malfeasance from the HarperCon®™ sty is so over the top as to be head-scratching. I refer, of course, to this week's operatic doling out of the much ballyhooed Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) increase — a classic bait-and switch that will buy votes among non-thinkers in the short term, but cost recipients — and all of us — in the long run; i.e., after the election. Let's review. With the enhanced UCCB, parents receive a $720 annual bump for each child under 18, including yesterday's retroactive lump-sum payment — a tantalizing amount that will undoubtedly distract from the fact that on Jan. 1 2015, the day it came into effect, HarperCon®™ also eliminated an existing child tax credit worth $337.50 per year, per child, erasing almost half of the UCCB increase. But there's more: the UCCB is both federally and provincially taxable, such that an Ontario parent earning $50K taxed at a combined marginal rate of 31.15 per cent will shell out an additional $224.28/yr on each UCCB. Combined with elimination of the credit, that leaves $158.22/yr per child, or only a monthly net of $13.18. Most Canadians live in provinces with higher marginal tax rates, and will thus keep even less. Think about it: cheques that mean nothing, don't meet cost of living increases, that you have to pay for later. Compared to the Liberal plan for a higher, non-taxed amount per year to only those families in need (annual incomes less than $150,000/yr), or the NDP promise to keep the UCCB but add a million $15/day child care places (Harper once promised 120,000 child care spaces and has delivered exactly none) and the HarperCon®™ "bonanza" looks like the smoke-and-mirror boondoggle it is.

Worse, since November, we've been bombarded by feel-good television commercials that look like Government of Canada service ads, but actually contain Conservative campaign slogans and visual cues. HarperCon®™spent $75.2 million in advertising this year for a total of some $750 million in partisan advertising since taking office. "In what country does a government take tax revenues and use it to pump out continuous... propaganda to brainwash the citizens with its performance, whether truthful or not? Many would suggest China, Russia or even Zimbabwe," notes Errol Mendes, professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa. Sadly, he concludes, it's now also true of the monovision Canada governed by HarperCon®™.