Opinion

Savouring Sharpernfreude

Ask yourself. Do you really want the besieged and bedraggled S. Harper gone any time too soon?

By Ian Gill 22 Apr 2014 | TheTyee.ca

Ian Gill's Tyee column, The Poor Mouth, appears every two weeks or so. Gill lives and writes in Vancouver, and works on social innovation initiatives. Find his previous pieces in The Tyee here, and find him on Twitter @gillwave.

To the dictionary, we are pleased to add the following:

shar·per·n·freu·de [sharper-n-froi-duh]
noun: satisfaction or pleasure felt at Stephen Harper's misfortune
origin: 1890–2014;  < German/Canadian, equivalent to S. Harper  harm + Freude joy

It has been a purple patch this last while for Canadians who have suffered for too long from the grievous bodily harm that our nation's bully-in-chief is inflicting on the country. Finally, we are getting a glimpse of the limits to his power, and his setbacks are all the more delicious to behold because they are mostly of his own making.

But first, in order to properly legislate agreement with the views that follow, I have sought recourse in a tactic much favoured by the prime minister, and hereby announce passage of an omnibus column. Part of the S. Harper that S. Harper has inflicted on Canadian political life has been his use of omnibus bills, the latest of which, Bill C-4, seeks to tamper with union rights, Supreme Court appointments, employment insurance, workplace safety, veterans' affairs, conflict-of-interest rules, solicitor-client privileges, immigration policy and same-sex relations between mountain goats.

Not everything in the previous sentence is true, but that's the funny thing about omnibus bills -- they ship all sorts of unrelated things through Parliament, somewhat akin to "riders" that American legislators use to befuddle taxpayers and each other.

Anyway, it seems somehow apposite there is a bill before Parliament that shares its name with a common plastic explosive, C4, whose ingredients include silly putty, Vaseline, gelatin and rubbing alcohol. Using mostly the latter, albeit ignoring the warnings on the label about internal consumption, I present Gill C4 for explosive First Reading.

The Gill C4 Omnibus

His Lordship, the editor, with the advice and consent of myself and with no care or concern for the opinions or sensitivities of your unwashed selves, enacts my opinions as follows:

- Notwithstanding the fact that S. Harper has tried to saddle the Supreme Court of Canada with Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia thinkalikes, the Court has proven brilliantly immune to the PM's agenda. It has proven impossible not to squirm with delight at the fact that the Court returned Justice Marc Nadon unopened to the Prime Minister's Office last month. A "stunning defeat" for Harper, said the Grope & Flail.

- Still over at 301 Wellington Street, Ottawa, the Nadon-free bench of our highest court whacked Harper's agenda again, ruling 7-0 against his attempt to limit judges' ability to give credit for time served to thousands of unconvicted prisoners if and when they are convicted. An "enormous rebuke," said the Old & Stale, pointing out that this is, to boot, a court with a majority of members appointed by Harper.

- Other setbacks, in what the Mop & Pail described as a "series of crushing defeats" for the government, include its agreeing to hear a constitutional challenge to mandatory minimum sentences for illegal gun possession, added to that 9-0 ruling in December striking down Canada's prostitution laws.

- Meantime, across the country judges have made a mockery of a law making criminals pay mandatory financial penalties for victim services. Judges have skirted the law, openly mocked it, and it looks bound for a challenge before Supreme Court, too. Google maps says there is merely 650 metres separating the Supreme Court from the PMO, but what it doesn't measure is just how far S. Harper has tried to veer off the country's constitutional path and how little chain the court has allowed him.

- Notwithstanding S. Harper's woes with the Court, and his woeful choices for the Senate -- Brazeau, Wallin, Duffy et al. will haunt him to his dying day –--recent events also saw the departure of his chief election strategist, Dimitri Soudas, who jiggered with the system a wee bit to give his girlfriend a leg up in a nomination battle for an Ontario federal seat.

- Members of the chamber of sober second thought, meantime, took time out from revising their expense claims to poke Harper in the eye with suggested changes to his Fair Elections Act. The act has been comprehensively and correctly derided as anti-democratic and rigged to favour the Conservative Party of Canada. The revisions proposed by the Senate are too tame by far, but even the mildest rebellion from that chamber is cause for cheer.

- Notwithstanding S. Harper's assiduous promotion of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, meanwhile, he now has a former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, and other Nobel laureates warning Barack Obama against opting for a "dangerous commitment" to the status quo by approving the project. Harper's office responded that the project should proceed because it will create jobs. Where have we heard that before?

- Well, since you asked, we've heard that trotted out as justification for the Northern Gateway project. But even in Kitimat, the B.C. community with the most jobs to gain from the proposed Enbridge pipeline, locals asked to pass judgement in a non-binding plebiscite cooked up by the company solidly rejected its plans. Enbridge's local spin doctor said that notwithstanding the vote, the company still wanted to build "a lasting legacy" for Kitimat. The only "lasting" thing of value that Enbridge can do is to finally have the common courtesy to pack up its pipeline plans and leave.

Of course, what it will do instead is spend even more of its shareholders' money peddling soft-core promises of environmental stewardship and trickle down economic benefits in offensive newspaper and TV ads that wouldn't fool a child. Just as they didn't fool a town. Enbridge, which conducts itself more like a tobacco company than an energy company, has just released its latest Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report, a 70-page hodgepodge of doublespeak and dissembling. They should save us the time and themselves the effort, and take a cue instead from this excellent articulation of CSR that surfaced in Australia.

Hang in there Steve

All in all, it's been such a calamitous period for S. Harper's domestic agenda that, tellingly, he now seems to be honing his statecraft on the international circuit. He is probably quite popular in at least half of Ukraine right now, but not even S. Harper could contrive a way to allow residents of Donetsk, Kiev or Sevastopol to vote for his party in Oakville, Truro or Burnaby.

Among people who can vote in this country, Harper's approval rating is now under 30 per cent and falling. In Terrace, long-time environmental campaigner Bruce Hill took a look at those numbers and worried out loud: "My greatest fear? That they turf him before the people get to have their say."

Copy that. Let him twirl on his gibbet a little longer yet. Let our Sharpernfreude find its ultimate expression at the polls. Although, knowing S. Harper, he'll screw us one last time by quitting before we get the ultimate satisfaction of firing him.  [Tyee]

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