Political collective memory is a concept that’s been on my mind a lot lately. The reason? Besides from a purely academic interest, I am genuinely fearful of where Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are taking Canada. I am having an “I told you so” moment that lasts an uncomfortably long time, to the point that it’s not funny anymore. There are many things that pisses me off about the Harper government, but here are the ones I believe are of higher consequence:
- The robocall scandal. This one may turn out to be our only shot at stopping the government in its tracks, if the Governor General decides to sit on the people’s side once the thing is fully investigated, as Rick Mercer suggested.
- The cuts in funding to Radio-Canada/CBC. This one is not done yet, but will be this week unless, against all expectations, the different efforts to support the CBC bear fruit.
- The commitment to purchase the F35 jets. To be fair, there have been hints that the Conservatives may be backtracking on this one. That would be a very good thing, as this stupid commitment is getting us less for a higher price as time passes. (And why do we even need these?) Several countries already backed down from buying F35’s from the US. We should do the same.
- The silencing of climate scientists and environmentalist groups. The backing down from Kyoto’s protocol. The territorial claims to get the oil under the arctic sea. The Alberta tar sands. The overall climate change denialism that is so not Canadian. Need I say more?
- The complete disregard of accurate information on the Canadian population when the Harper government decided to scrape the long-form census.
I could unfortunately keep going. But all of this wouldn’t worry me if I could completely trust the canadian people to remember what Canada was like before the Conservatives of Stephen Harper. I know how the status quo is a powerful thing. But in order to accept the status quo, we must forget hope for anything else. And this is where our short political collective memory worries me.
The publicly-owned CBC/Radio-Canada is a really good media company. It makes really good original productions and has quality science programming. One of the reason why it’s being bashed on by private media companies and the conservative government is because they give a voice to people who disapprove of the government and disagree with the voices from the other big media companies in Canada. I have outlined this in a previous post. Cutting the CBC/Radio-Canada’s budget is one way among others to effect damage-control about the dissent towards the Conservatives.
We get our feeling of what other Canadians think of the government through our exposure to news stories. This is what the status quo is to us. News stories come to us via various media. A fair and balanced media landscape is not only helping democracy, democracy cannot survive without it. Unfortunately, the center-left looses a little bit of its voice every time the CBC/Radio-Canada is hurt.
I just wish Canadians won’t forget any time soon that we are a pragmatic people, choosing our policies based on what works and what doesn’t. Not on an ideological agenda, like what the Conservatives wished was to be the new status quo. We believe in human rights and we believe in the oversight of government in the free market. We believe in global warming and evolution. Ok, these beliefs are not shared by each and every Canadian for sure, but they have dominated and shaped Canada in the 20th century, and I was very pleased with it. It’s very painful to see the Harper government gradually throwing it all away, hoping that people will get used to it. The outrage over the robocalls scandal is pretty high, but not quite high enough. I’m afraid that we won’t be able to go back if we let this one slip because, let’s face it, we don’t have a long political collective memory and the Conservatives have already been in power since 2006.