July 6, 2001 Halifax Herald

Canadian Alliance on doorstep of self-destruction

When Preston Manning and associates got together a decade or so ago and launched the Reform Party, many voters believed that a viable political alternative had been created. However, their assumption has proven incorrect because the party, as evidenced today by its self-inflicted wounds, is at the doorstep of self-destructing. That it is on the brink of oblivion can be attributed to the many party faithful who have - displaying an awesome lack of political judgement - promoted, with the resolve of the righteous, narrow solutions for complex social issues.

If these types had, instead, opted to help the party to focus on satisfying the desire of small-c conservatives for political reform, less government interference in their lives and responsible fiscal management, it probably would be governing today. They have, however, proven that moralistic stands on social issues, derived from personal fundamentalist religious beliefs, are not the stuff that win election campaigns.

To the Party's detriment, it was these fundamentalist leanings of many of the Party's associates that caused it to attract many like-minded individuals to serve as MPs. In office, they have shown that they can't appreciate that their social values are way out of sync with those held by the majority of Canadians. For example, instead of accepting that the majority of voters were pro-choice on the abortion issue, they turned many off by promoting abolishing it. If, instead, they had accepted that birth control is a private matter and proposed user-pay for the service, I believe many voters, perhaps the majority, would have bought it. Pierre Trudeau's wise advise that "the State has no business in the bedrooms of citizens" was ignored.

Fundamentalist thinking is also behind another major shortcoming of many party reps - namely, an entrenched belief in the infallibility of the solutions they offer for resolving complex social issues. This trait was at the forefront when MP Herb Grubel commented in a June 1994 Commons speech about the societal problems bedeviling First Nations Peoples. With conviction, fortified by racist stereotype beliefs, he stated that these problems were attributable to the "fact" that Natives were lazy.

Shockingly, his racially degrading statement was later endorsed by Reform by default, because it did not suspend or kick him out of the Party. Unfortunately, this endorsement has set a seedy precedent for other parties to follow. For Example, it has inspired the leader of the Liberals to shrug off the unacceptable behaviour of a cabinet member who made a false cross-burning allegation against a community and a-long serving MP who wrote a rebuking letter to a war veteran constituent, questioning why he would ask him to help him when he hadn't vote for him.

However, when it comes to tolerating excesses that smack of systemic racial intolerance, the Alliance stands alone. The most recent case involving one of its MPs is almost unbelievable. Rob Anders initially blocked a Commons resolution to grant Nelson Mandela honourary Canadian citizenship, alleging that he was at one time a Communist and a terrorist.

If, in fact, the great man was ever a communist, I don't know and couldn't care less. Being a capitalist or a communist doesn't necessarily make a person evil. People such as Anders seem to forget that both movements have, at times, produced leaders that were monsters - the hordes of despotic brutes from both camps who have ruled with iron fists a multitude of Nations around the world. In fact, when Mandela became his Nation's leader, he proved to be the world's foremost democrat.

To dispute the other shocking and baseless allegation, that he was a terrorist, is easy. All it takes to do so is to list the desperate living conditions that the Black South African majority were then suffering at the hands of a "capitalist" minority, white supremacist regime: incarceration without due process, execution without trial, torture, sexual abuse, medical experimentation, severely restricted movement, non-person status, and every other imaginable indignity known. Who, but a fool, would question Mandela's right to fight to end such horrors.

To visualize a white man falsely labelling as a terrorist a person of colour, and then condemning him because he fought to end white supremacist persecution, would be inconceivable if such had not already occurred many times over. For example, white supremacists colonial European regimes decimated the indigenous Peoples of the Americas and then branded them terrorists because they fought back. This false branding is so entrenched in the white mentality that First Nation descendants are still viewed by a great many whites as the progeny of terrorists.

Returning to the self-destruct inclination of the Alliance: The decision by members in 2000 to select an unproven Stockwell Day as leader, plus years of foot-in-mouth problems, are the major factors behind the Party's free fall towards oblivion. In Day's case, his major mistakes, caused by what appears to be a lack of political judgement, are much too numerous to mention here. But the consequences of his stubborn refusal to accept blame for them and step down, and the party's past performance, can be easily laid out: With the Party at one-digit popularity (nine percent), a scenario has been created where the federal Liberals can expect to rule unchallenged until the twelfth of never.

Daniel N. Paul


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