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Attitude adjustments

Editorial by Bruce Wark


Four years ago, Stephen Harper angrily accused the federal government of hitting “the snooze button” instead of protecting Canadians from a “suspected terrorist” named Maher Arar. Stockwell Day called Arar “dangerous.” Both were speaking shortly after the Americans deported Arar to Syria. At the time, Harper and Day were opposition members of the Canadian Alliance. Were they worried that Arar might be undergoing torture in a Syrian hellhole? Not on your life. They and their right-wing colleagues blamed the Liberals for being soft on terrorism and leaving it to the Americans to protect us. “Arar was given dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship by the government,” Alliance MP Diane Ablonczy shouted in the Commons. “It did not pick up on his terrorist links and the US had to clue it in.”

Nowadays, Harper, Day and Ablonczy have been reborn as Conservatives. And they’re extremely sorry for what the Liberals did to Maher Arar. As prime minister, Harper apologized to Arar last week, offering him more than $10 million in compensation. And Day, as minister of public safety, loudly called on the Americans to remove Arar’s name from their no-fly list. Neither expressed any remorse, however, for blackening Arar’s name while he was confined for nearly a year in a Syrian prison cell the size of a grave. Harper and Day had no evidence that Arar posed a security threat because there was none. But that didn’t stop them from linking him to al-Qaeda. They left it to the NDP to ask the obvious questions. Why had the Americans deported a Canadian citizen to Syria? And what in hell was Canada doing to get him back?

Harper’s about-face on Arar is part of a pattern. He and his Tory/Alliance colleagues unthinkingly spout right-wing rhetoric and when it turns out to be nonsense, they skate merrily away. Now, Harper claims he never called for Canada to send troops to Iraq. Yet in 2003, he did so repeatedly. Harper accused the Liberals of “a juvenile and insecure anti-Americanism,” adding “this government has for the first time in our history left us outside our British and American allies in their time of need.” Shortly after the invasion, he told reporters, “We should have been there, shoulder to shoulder with our allies.” Had Harper been prime minister then, we would still be bogged down in Iraq. Bad enough that we’re fighting a futile war in Afghanistan where, thanks to Harper, our soldiers are committed for at least two more years.

Harper’s record on global warming is another example of his right wing nonsense. In 2004, he vowed that if he became PM, he would ignore the Kyoto protocol on climate change because “the science is still evolving, “ a favourite claim of the global warming denial industry financed by Big Oil. Last fall, Harper tried to divert attention from the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by promising to reduce smog instead. That may be a worthy goal, but it has nothing to do with the solving the global warming crisis. As for greenhouse gases, Harper promised modest reductions by 2050. In his recent book “Heat,” journalist George Monbiot argues the rich, industrial nations must cut greenhouse gas emissions 90 percent by 2030 to avoid massive third world famine and flooding as well as the possibility of mass extinctions including our own. When Harper’s plan for endless delay failed to fly, he fired environment minister Rona Ambrose and is now trying to pretend he’s leading a government of green leprechauns.

Sorry, I’m not buying. The Alliance/Tories now depend on the NDP to come up with a credible plan on global warming. Their own environmental policies make as little sense as linking Maher Arar to al-Qaeda, calling for Canada to go to war in Iraq and committing us to at least two more years in Afghanistan. God help us if Harper’s Alliance/Tories ever win a majority.

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