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Just Don't Call Me Right-Wing

I was raised conservative, but look where I've ended up!

By Rafe Mair 23 Nov 2009 |

Rafe Mair writes a Monday column for The Tyee. Read previous columns by Rafe Mair here.

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Sorry, no right turn here.

Denouement: the outcome of a complex sequence of events.

As one whose lifetime has been involved in a complex sequence of events, my outcome has left me a bit bewildered at what I've become -- a severe opponent of "big C" conservatism because I see it as destructive of much of what I hold dear.

(Before continuing, a man named David Field representing Citizens for Green Energy keeps calling me a "right-winger" in his attacks on my views which he's been sending to community papers. The idea that I'm a right-winger will probably come as an unbearable shock to Premier Campbell who, having seen me campaign long and hard for the NDP last election, had assumed quite the opposite!)

My mother and father were Conservatives who always voted for Point Grey's Howard Green -- even when he supported the expulsion of Japanese Canadians from the B.C. coast in 1942. In fact, when my father "bought" a paper box company from the so-called trustee looking after selling the property of the internees at a 90 per cent discount, it was mostly seen as an act of patriotism.

Blame Trudeau

By the time I had reached university I was a Liberal. The CCF (Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation, now the NDP) were not looked at seriously where I came from, and the Conservatives were so very, very British -- opposing any efforts to diminish the country's "Britishness." I stayed a provincial Liberal until 1975 when I voted for myself, the Social Credit candidate for Kamloops. By that time, I was thoroughly fed up with Trudeau, especially over the so-called "Quebec Crisis" where it seemed to me that Trudeau and his government had taken leave of their senses.

Even though I didn't like what I saw in the Progressive Conservative Party, it was better than the Grits. It helped me to know that my lifelong friend John Fraser was a Tory -- a "Red" Tory who I could relate to.

I actually joined the Progressive Conservatives in 1974 to help fellow alderman Don Couch in his (unsuccessful) campaign against the Liberal Len Marchand. To say I was inactive would be to overstate my involvement. In fact, a Tory ran against me in 1979. In his autobiography Len said that nothing got done with the Conservatives without my consent -- considering I never even had a beer with Tories, let alone go to a Tory meeting, that was more than a bit of exaggeration!

Over my years in government and in radio, I started to drift "left," though not so far as to embrace the NDP -- until last May's election, on the issue of rivers. I fought against the Campbell Liberals who have found themselves where Tories used to be, thanks to the ironclad rule of Kim Il Campbell.

A cold way of thinking

Why is it, I asked myself on the way to denouement, that I dislike the "right" so much? The answer, as so often happens, came from my late mother. I can remember the day, when I was a boy, Mum looked up at the white clouds and asked if I could see the man on a horse. Of course I couldn't -- what a silly question! My mother looked at me and asked "have you no soul?" I began to see things in clouds -- I did with my kids, and still do to this day with their kids.

The "right" has no soul. It doesn't care for people outside the business community. When it helps the disadvantaged it's because it must do so politically, not as an act of compassion for those who need help. Indeed, Tories lack "compassion" in all they do -- performing the politically necessary "softness" with an attitude of revulsion towards those "weak" people they reluctantly help.

This is not an unfair statement at all. All one needs to do is look at mental health.

The NDP had created the mental health post, called the mental health advocate, to seek out areas of need. Nancy Hall, the first and only advocate, did a good job. In fact, it was too good, and she made the Campbell government uneasy that her findings would raise healthcare costs. Without the advocate, the mentally ill would be out of sight, out of reach and far removed from government help. Nancy Hall's contract was not renewed. I conclude that there's no place for caring people in that government.

Money trumps other concerns

The Sea-to-Sky devastation of the Eagleridge environment is another example of the mean-spiritedness I'm talking about. Opponents of that needless degradation of the environment maintained that using a tunnel would have been no more expensive, but the government went ahead anyway. To Campbell Liberals, no environmental consideration counts when tightfistedness and soullessness meet. Even if a tunnel at Horseshoe Bay would have been a bit more expensive, amortized over the life, it was a trifle. The point is that to Campbell & Co environmental assets are not to be taken into account. Money always trumps environmental concerns.

(Strangely enough, there is a living example of how governments can be sensitive. Back in the 1960s, when the Trans-Canada highway was being built, it reached a large tree on a farm that had flags and flowers around it in remembrance of a fallen soldier. The highways minister, Phil Gaglardi, scarcely a socialist, ordered the road to go around it.)

It was the same with the Tsawwassen overhead power lines. Decent people would have been deeply concerned for the health of citizens, especially the children over whose school the lines were to run. Obeying the "precautionary principle," the government would have accepted that it was their duty to demonstrate its safety -- not for the people to demonstrate its harm. The Campbell government's attitude? To hell with the citizens and their kids -- money trumps the health of the people.

Atlantic salmon fish farms prove the point again. Discarding the "precautionary principle," the government has placed the onus for proving fish farms harmful onto opponents -- who, I might say, have discharged that onus completely. There is absolutely no doubt amongst the world's independent scientists that sea lice from fish farms wipe out migrating wild salmon smolts. But again, money trumps the environment and the health of those who eat its grisly product.

Private power on public rivers is again a demonstration of the right-wing Campbell government. It matters not that the horrendous damage to rivers is evident and that ecologies must be destroyed for the power plants to exist. It's of no consequence that the power to be generated and the money to be made goes to large corporations, mostly outside of Canada. Right-wing dedication to the Fraser Institute's far right dogma that a river should be owned by private interests trumps the public interest in lands, including its fauna and flora, supposedly held by the Crown for them.

Shed a tear with me

Back to Tsawwassen and environs. It's clear that the South Fraser Perimeter Highway will cause huge environmental loss and depletion of farmland; again private profit trumps public interest.

The Harper government's approach to crime shows another side of the "right" I can't abide. Never mind what research shows, throw more people into jail longer and you'll develop safe communities. That jail provides little help -- and the fact that prisoners graduate even better at their criminal tasks -- never worries Harper & Co. While you're at it, send an MP (with the appropriate surname of Hanger) to Singapore to see how public flogging is a useful and appropriate way to combat crime. And let's have another look at the noose as another valuable tool. Potential short term votes always trump long term policy based upon research and scientific expertise.

It goes on. Flinty fundamentalist appealing to bottom-feeders is the natural basis for "right-wing" policy, whether it involves public land, healthcare for the mentally ill or plain justice for gays.

Thus my denouement for all to see -- from a limp wristed ("small l") liberal.

But pay no attention to me, for such is my weakness of character that I believe that the world would be a better place if more men cried more often.  [Tyee]

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