I recently watched the season finale of The Newsroom on HBO. The news anchor, Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels), read off a list of the characteristics of the American Tea Party. Now, we here in Canada do not have a "Tea Party" per se, but the list led me to make some obvious comparisons to the Conservatives that currently form the government. Here's the list of those characteristics he read, you can mix and match as you like:
- Ideological purity
- Compromise as weakness
- A fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism
- Denying science
- Undeterred by facts
- Unmoved by new information
- Fear of progress
- Demonization of education
- Need to control women's bodies
- Severe xenophobia
- Intolerance of dissent
- Pathological hatred of government
Upon reaching the end of the list, McAvoy says this, "They can call themselves the Tea Party, they can call themselves conservatives, they can call themselves Republicans, but what they really are is the American Taliban."
Tough stuff. And though it's only a TV drama, it makes a point. The Conservatives are not the Taliban but do their policies and ideology lead us in that direction? We know how government scientists have been muzzled by the necessity to have anything they say approved by the PMO communications people. The National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy was shut down for releasing scientific information that was counter to the Conservative agenda. Minister John Baird admitted at the time that they were not going to fund groups that don't tow the line and speak contrary to government policy.
During the 2011 election campaign, Michael Ignatieff was vilified as an "elitist" because of his educational accomplishments. Climate scientists and environmentalist have been called "extremists" whose intentions are to undermine the Canadian way of life and forever ruin the economy. Funding for women's groups and women's issues, the arts, environmental groups, abortion in third world countries, has been reduced or eliminated while funding to religious organizations has increased. Dissenters are public berated, abused and humiliated simply for speaking up - whether it's about budget issues or the torture of Afghan detainees. Two huge omnibus bills were driven through parliament with limited debate in the house or in committee and without nary an amendment. So much for compromise.
Draw your own conclusions but Stephen Harper's promise to change Canada so much you wouldn't recognize it when he's done is being kept. The country is divided region against region more than I have ever seen - even during the years of René Lévesque. Policies and actions of the government are returning us to more Dickensian times. More and more, it's every man and woman for themselves. We're on the wrong road.