Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Missing the message on Harper and Howard

Canada should now take a closer look at Stephen Harper’s association with former Aussie PM John Winston Howard. We downunder have been more than happy that his only influence here is his slowly diminishing economic legacy. Canada should fear that that same legacy is living on in Harper.

The Canadian media are focusing on the largely irrelevant, revealed plagiarism by Harper of a John Howard pro-Iraq speech back in 2003. I recall the speech (I was in Canada at the time and opposed to the Iraq war) and noted the similarity in views expressed, if not the plagiarised text.

By the time I was involved in the 2004 Canadian election, as campaign manager for a Liberal candidate in BC, Iraq was off the Canadian agenda, so that part of the issue was dead. In fact it wasn’t until after the 2006 election my alarm bells started to chime, and not on war but the economy.

There had been a long time, smouldering antipathy between Australian and Canadian Liberal leaderships. They were vastly different animals, socially and economically. When Harper’s Conservatives formed a minority government Howard was quick to induct him into the Bush/Howard/Blair push.

That went way beyond Iraq/Afghanistan, which was little more than a diversion from the dying economic agenda of the neo-conservatives. The conflict diversion was method already well established by Reagan and Thatcher, but the real aim was for the primacy of neo-liberal economics – which led us to our current mess.

Ironically, just when the power of the Bush/Howard/Blair governments was failing Canada jumped on board through Harper, a demonstratively eager puppy in the pack. Harper proudly paraded John Howard around Ottawa, the man Chrétien saw as a cretin was to become Harper’s mentor.

I think the Liberal’s would be well advised to dig a little deeper on the Howard influence on Harper’s economic thinking. The now obviously redundant conflict agenda always hid a more dangerous agenda and through Stephen Harper Canada could well be the last player in a dying game.

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