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I have a few other beefs with Mr. Harper. One is his party’s decision to cut funding to over 100 climate change programs across Canada, pending review. It doesn’t matter if those programs were successful or not, it’s just that Harper never was a fan of Canada’s decision to sign on to the Kyoto agreement. He prefers the U.S. approach of dangling carrots to industry, or the Australian "do our best, but set no targets" scheme to the hard greenhouse gas reduction targets required by Kyoto.
Harper has also dropped a plan to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, despite the fact that it would free up more police time for his party’s heralded crackdown on crime. The ill-conceived war on drugs and criminalization of addiction continues…
Harper did resolve the softwood lumber issue, but did so by agreeing to a system of tariffs in exchange for free access to the U.S. market – a boon to raw log exporters and a punch in the face for the whole concept of free and fair trade. The agreement basically set aside dozens of court rulings in Canada’s favour, not to mention $5 billion in tariffs already levied, by legitimizing American protectionist policies.
To be fair, not everything Harper has done has been negative. His government cut the entry fee for new immigrants in half, while streamlining the process for adopted children from abroad to get citizenship. A lot of families also seem to like his childcare allowance scheme, even if it doesn’t create any more daycare spots and falls well short of meeting actual costs.
It’s probably also a good thing for Canada that he’s patching up relations with the U.S., but that’s easy enough to do when you were not the leader in power during the start of the unpopular Iraq war and the numerous trade disputes that have arisen since Bush took power.
But I still can’t shake this bad feeling. One reason is Harper’s recent decision to wrap up his public appearances by proclaiming "God bless Canada", mirroring the U.S. Presidential standard of "God bless America".
I’m a firm believer in the separation of church and state. Among other things, that’s what enables us to teach evolution in schools, and gives women the right to seek safe, medical abortions. It’s also easier to unify a country politically when religion is left aside.
Harper won the last election fair and square. But next election he won’t have a Liberal scandal to pick on, or a guaranteed share of the moderate "guess it’s time for a change" vote. His success depends on how well he steers his policies to the middle ground, but so far all he’s making are right-hand turns.