Harper and Trump: political peas in a pod (climate change legislation – Google News)

Harper and Trump: political peas in a pod

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For those Americans who have enjoyed their Thanksgiving turkey and college football, but just can’t digest Donald Trump, a message of hope from the Great White North: his days are numbered.

I say that because we have seen the same movie in Canada. For nearly 10 years, we had a leader who was neo-conservative, populist and authoritarian. The major difference between our two countries is that Canadians know how the movie ends, while many Americans are full of angst. They fear that the Orange One is not just an aberration, but the future. That turned out not to be true for ‘Harperism’ and it won’t be true for ‘Trumpism’ either.

The evidence is overwhelming that President Donald Trump is playing from former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s doomed playbook.

On taxes, both leaders championed deep corporate tax-cuts, arguing that the benefits would trickle down to middle and lower-income families. That’s just shilling for the rich. All it did in Canada was allow corporations to hoard half a trillion dollars that they were too chicken-hearted or venal to invest, according to then Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney.

In Harperland, the corporate tax-rate was dropped to a rock-bottom 15 per cent. In Trumpland, it will go from 35 to 20 per cent if his new legislation passes. The only trickle down from these numbers in Canada was that the government voluntarily deprived the public coffers of staggering amounts of revenue, in return for the square root of bugger all—as the late great Rafe Mair would have put it.

It is not surprising that the Harper government introduced things like dropping the Old Age Supplement and cuts to health care. Somebody had to pay for the corporate giveaway.

Trump’s trickle will come down to the same thing — huge benefit cuts to lower income Americans in things like Medicaid and environmental and consumer protection to pay for a huge tax cut for the wealthiest one per cent. If you think income inequalities are embarrassing now, watch what happens if Trump’s infamous tax “reform” bill passes.

Another point of similarity between Trump and Harper is their mutual attack on science. In Canada, Harper clapped a hand over the mouths of scientists and turned the National Research Council into an R & D flunky of corporations. He not only looted their research funds, but diverted them to industries involved in the tar sands. Harper even appointed an oil industry lobbyist to the National Energy Board.

In Harper’s infamous budget of 2009, one of the biggest employers of research scientists in the country, Genome Canada, got a big fat zero. His crowning accomplishment? He turned Canada into the first country in the world to withdraw from the Kyoto Climate Accord.

Trump now presides over the only country on the planet that officially rejects the Paris Agreement on climate change. He has appointed Scott Pruitt, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, a man who is on the public record favouring its dissolution. Trump’s promise of a revival of American industry is heavily premised on what he calls “clean, beautiful coal.” But that’s to be expected from a man who has called global warming a “hoax”.

Both Harper and Trump hate science because it gets in the way of their political agenda by providing a reliable and fact-driven alternative source of information. And for exactly the same reason, both men followed a policy of belligerence and antagonism toward another institution that also provides independent information: the courts.

From the very beginning, Harper bristled against the letter of the constitution when it came to the courts and their expanded role in deciding the legitimacy of new laws. It rankled him when the Supreme Court turned down new government legislation on prostitution, mandatory minimum sentencing, Senate reform and assisted suicide.

Harper’s grudge against the courts broke out into open warfare after the Supreme Court ruled that Federal Court judge Marc Nadon was not eligible to be appointed to the highest court in the land. The prime minister accused the chief justice of the court of lobbying against his appointment.

Trump’s belligerence towards the courts has been equally vigorous. The latest example is his attack on a federal judge’s ruling on sanctuary cities. Trump was so eager to trash the temporary injunction on his executive order that he attributed the decision to the wrong court.

On multiple occasions his legislation on travel bans aimed at Muslims has met with judicial rejection — twice by federal judges. At the time, Trump quipped on social media, blame the judge and the courts if America is attacked.

The president also mused about doing away with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after his unconstitutional legislative plans were repeatedly rejected there.

And then there was the infamous attack on federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was hearing a case involving Trump University. Candidate Trump claimed Curiel could not bring a fair verdict because he was Mexican.

“I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict,” Trump said.

As it turns out, Curiel was born in Indiana.

Interestingly, both Harper and Trump offered the same thing in lieu of fact-based alternatives to their often bizarre claims: fiction.

The White House likes to call them alternative facts.

To pick the most egregious example in Harper’s case, he confabulated a contract with Lockheed Martin to buy 65 F-35 stealth fighter jets.

When pressed on the shifting amounts he had variously given the public on the cost of these aircraft, it turned out there was no contract and no fixed price — at least not one the government was prepared to share. He even made the absurd claim that the F-35 shouldn’t be an election issue, despite the fact it was at that time the most expensive military acquisition in Canadian history. It turned out the government lied to the Canadian people because they were afraid of “sticker shock” if the true price of the jets was revealed.

The Washington Post reports that in his first seven months in office, Trump racked up a tally of more than 1,000 false or misleading statements. He lied about the cost of wars in the Middle East; about the allegation that Hillary Clinton gave $700,000 to the deputy-director of the FBI; about jobs that he allegedly created that were created by others; and that the Affordable Care Act was dying.

In fact, 300,000 more Americans signed up to the Affordable Care Act marketplace than at this time last year — and that includes the red state of Utah.

The two men share another similarity: They have both used the full weight of their office to mercilessly attack any real or imagined opposition.

Harper called Canadian Nuclear Safety president Linda Keen a political hack and a Liberal appointee in his zeal to fire her.

When parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page gave truth to the lie of the government’s phony numbers on the F-35 purchase, he was personally accused of “overstepping his mandate” and did not have his position renewed.

Peter Tinsley lost his job as head of the Military Police Complaints Commission after criticizing the government’s handling of Afghan detainees. Harper’s justification? Tinsley was guilty of political partisanship.

The Harper hit list includes former Auditor-General Sheila Fraser, diplomat Robert Colvin and Canada’s chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand. In each instance, either the PM himself or his senior ministers led the attack.

Trump also uses his office to attack anyone who opposes him, often using the presidential Twitter account to deliver the personal insults. According to The New York Times, Trump has done it on 394 occasions, declaring that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “mind is shot,” CNN’s Don Lemon is “dumb as a rock,” and former Secretary of Defence Robert Gates is “dopey.”

In his most recent foray into Internet bullying, he called LaVar Ball a “poor man’s Don King,” an “ingrate,” and a “fool.” This after Ball refused to thank the president after the U.S. arranged to have his son released from a shop-lifting charge in China that could have carried a lengthy jail sentence.

Harper and Trump both found their offices and staff under criminal investigation.

In Harper’s case, his one-time parliamentary secretary, Dean del Mastro went to jail for financially cheating during an election. Arthur Porter, who was watchdog of Canada’s spy agency CSIS, fled the country to avoid facing fraud charges in Quebec. And one of Harper’s key PMO advisers, Bruce Carson, is still before the courts on criminal charges. In the Mike Duffy case, a court found that while the senator had done nothing wrong, the PMO had orchestrated a $90,000 payout to him for reasons of political advantage.

In Trump’s case, legislators and private citizens are already calling for his impeachment. Several people connected to his presidential campaign are under indictment, and one of them, George Pappadopoulos has plead guilty to lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation.

There is one more similarity that is worth mentioning. Both Harper and Trump have connections to the secretive club of the most powerful conservatives in the United States, the Council for National Policy.

Harper addressed the CNP in Montreal just after Jean Chretien’s election victory in 1997. Others who spoke to the same group included Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney, George W. Bush and John McCain.

Trump is connected to the group through his most affluent supporter, billionaire Robert Mercer. Mercer and his daughter joined the group, which also included Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

In the end, Harper’s lies, obfuscations, and extremism caught up with him. For the 2015 election, his party passed an absurd piece of legislation — the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Practices Act. It created a snitch line for people to rat out their neighbours, and finally convinced Canada’s immigrant community, young people, and many middle of the road voters that the wrong guy was in charge. The PM’s virulent anti-Muslim mindset was fully rejected at the polls.

The same thing will happen to the calamitous Donald Trump. Americans will tire of his mendacity, misogyny, and vulgarity. They will realize that he is the opposite of the values they hold dear.

But there is this caution to the American people. It took Canadians 10 years to get rid of their dangerous, anti-democratic, demagogue.

You don’t have that long.

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November 26, 2017 at 03:04PM