Political collective memory in Canada

Image by Ray Reaume, from the Rick Mercer photo challenge.

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:

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.

About Michel

Author of the Large Idea Collider! (http://licollider.wordpress.com/)
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5 Responses to Political collective memory in Canada

  1. So sad that you’re so right. The Republican Party of Canada is doing a marvelous job for the separatist mouvement.

  2. suvayu says:

    To add to the good programming list, CBC co-produced a few seasons of Doctor Who. :)

  3. Greg says:

    “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. ”
    Sounds like you are worrying they’ll never leave. ;)
    Don’t worry man, the Conservatives will get a bad case of hubris, rack up scandals, and will be brought down in an election…eventually. It is just a matter of time. Scandals will accumulate the longer the party has been in power. Remember Shawinigate and the Sponsorship scandal under the Liberals? It’ll happen. Robocall might be one of those notches in the belt
    .
    Cutting funding to the CBC does seem petty, though frankly I am disappointed with the product the CBC produces. If they were only a quarter as great at PBS or the BBC…but they missed that mark in my estimation. hahha

    I tend not to see the F-35 cost overrun\procurement as somethingto be specifically laid at the Conservative’s door per se. The developmental and commitment steps toward the purchasing F-35’s were already being made under the Liberals. There were also economic reasons we were participating “a total potential estimated value of Canadian JSF involvement from US$4.8 billion to US$6.8 billion” from wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_F-35_Lightning_II_Canadian_procurement . There were many contracts awarded Canadian companies to build parts of the aircraft.

    [ Also from that article a wooly-head Canadian air force general : Leonard Johnson, a retired Canadian air force Major General and former commandant of the National Defence College said, "It’s hard to see any useful military role for the F-35. The age of major inter-state war between developed nations has vanished, so why prepare for one?". What the hell is this guy thinking? When you are a military always prepare for major inter-state war! I am amazed by this guy's view of international relations. Amazingly optimistic. Nevertheless the F-35 is looking a poor choice for Canada and even the US, maybe he was just trying to leverage some kinda nice-sounding optimistic view of why we shouldn't buy them. Never trust anything any public figure says. ;) ]

    We are sucked into purchasing these overwrought machines by economic benefits (military Keynesianism), international pressures (interoperability with US forces) and a general trend for military hardware to cost more per unit each passing year. Just about every country that was set to buy the F-35 is seems to be experiencing similar ‘buyers hesitation’ as the costs soar. They are deciding to buy less of them or trying to shop around. Japan is going to but they are being squeezed to do so because of their geostrategic position next to China rapidly increasing military budget ( Didn’t China get that peace memo about there being no more interstate wars from General Johnson? Guess not.) .

    I am guessing we would be dealing with this international military spending debacle no matter what government was elected.

    Still the way the conservatives talk they don’t seem to understand the concept of Parliamentary government.

    What really concerns me is that there doesn’t seem to be much opposition to neoliberal market fundamentalism and globalization that is destroying the middle class from any major parties. Mulcair is a sell-out, he’ll turn the NDP into another liberal party in no time. ( As a die hard realist the NDP grate on my sensibilities with their fluffy talk. Still, I might have been able to put up with it.) The Liberals enthusiastically embraced ‘free’ trade, economic globalism and they demolished much of Canada’s welfare state in the 90’s. There doesn’t seem to be any well formed, ideological rallying cry opposing neoliberalism among the centre-left parties in Canada. Or any where in the Western world for that matter. True there are social issues that are contested but economic prosperity for the middle class? All I hear are the crickets…

    If the Bloc make a come back it means the conservatives may be just that harder to defeat.
    If more is revealed about the Robocall scandal the outrage may mount. I sent of a letter and will attend a protest if I am free that day.
    Again how much it will matter if up for debate. We have lost so much sovereignty and control over our own fate to ‘free’ trade, international banks, bond markets, I want to weep. We are on the globalist ride now whether that goes up or down, down, down…

  4. Michel says:

    Hey Greg, always interesting to have you here! It does seem rather clear that this can’t last for long. What I do worry about is how much damage they can do until they loose an election, and how far they will shift the status quo. Even if no one on the political scene is tackling the neoliberal market fundamentalism issue (I really like that description, so much more accurate than blaming things on capitalism, which I think is a much broader concept), Harper is certainly not taking us in the right direction.

    I have to agree that the CBC is pretty far from being as interesting as the BBC or PBS, but it’s the only media company I still have respect for in Canada. Just wondering, what political satire do we have except the Rick Mercer report and 22 minutes? And in Québec, I know of only one other science programme besides what Radio-Canada does, and guess who’s producing it: Télé-Québec, another publicly funded media company that barely attracts any attention. Still, I do know a lot of people who watch the Radio-Canada science show Découvertes. Of course, my opinions here have a very strong Québec bias since I haven’t watched much TV or listened to much radio outside the province… Except of course the two political satire shows I just mentioned which I quite enjoy. Now that the budget is out and the cuts are real, I don’t know man, that won’t help the CBC improve in any way, and the Fox News North of Québec (Québécor Média) will have an even easier time bashing the CBC.

    For the F35, you are totally right, and much more on top of the issue than I am.

    The gutting of the fundamental research division of the NRC is quite an ugly thing too: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/canada/346194/ottawa-abandonne-la-recherche-fondamentale-pour-mieux-servir-les-entreprises. Sorry, I haven’t found an english source yet, but it’s bound to show up.

  5. Greg says:

    I didn’t get an email notification of your response so I am late reply.

    Touché regarding Rick Mercer’s satire. Something that we both cherish on the CBC. Quirks and Quarks is pretty good too.

    That austerity budget rankled me. Especially in light of the ongoing disaster that austerity has wrought various European economies. Shouldn’t the resultant shrinking economies be evidence enough that austerity in a situation of high unemployment and lack of demand isn’t a swell idea? Harper is apparently in the evidence-free reality zone. We must all suffer for the bond market vigilantes I guess. Only suffering appeases them the thinking goes, but really it doesn’t because the bond market also dislikes low economic growth which is what austerity will bring. Harper, an economist by training, seems to believe that national budgets are like family budgets and that belt tightening is in order disregarding the enormous feedback effects on the economy of government spending (or that could be just how he sells it, the objective being furthering the neoliberal agenda ).

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