Is Canada a racist society? Stephen Harper has tried level best to present his largely white supporters, made of up rednecks, as "Old Stock Canadians" in an attempt to appeal to their base instincts and dismiss other Canadians. By end of tomorrow, people will find out which vision of Canada will win: that of the racists and bigots or of decent people that have over the years welcomed newcomers in their midst.
Sunday October 18, 2015, 20:39 DST
One of the most divisive election campaigns in Canadian history has ended. When the polls end tomorrow night, Canadians will find out whether the hate-spewing Islamophobic message of Stephen Harper has garnered him any support. The latest polls show that the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau, son of a former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau seems to be ahead although the party is unlikely to get a clear majority in parliament, if the polls are accurate.
The issues that should have been front and centre in this election campaign—the faltering economy, job losses, Harper’s assault on civil liberties, gutting of democracy, making parliament redundant, the Senate scandals etc—were relegated to the backburner. Instead Haper framed the debate first around the security threat that never was, and then turned his guns on a lone niqabi woman insisting she must uncover her face at the citizenship oath ceremony.
The niqab issue turned out to be extremely divisive and Harper actively stoked racism against the vulnerable Muslim community. He even raised the issue of “Old Stock Canadians”, meaning that non-white arrivals to Canada were not “true” Canadians. He was roundly condemned by a wide cross section of the media and academics but he did not care. He was simply pandering to his base of racist rednecks that have seldom seen people other than their own folk. These ignorant people think anyone who does not look or think like them does not belong in Canada.
At the start of this longest election campaign in Canada—78 days—Harper claimed he was the “most competent manager” of the economy. Yet under his watch, Canada has had two recessions. When this did not give him much traction, he changed the subject to the non-existent security threat from those “jihadist terrorists” or “Islamicism”, whatever that means. He accused mosques of being breeding grounds of radicalism without a shred of evidence. For the record, Harper has never set foot inside a mosque in Canada except for visiting the Qadiani centre in Vaughan, outside Toronto. He seems to embrace them but not mainstream Muslims.
Supporters of Conservative candidates have vandalized election signs of opponents. Some have been caught on camera and the police notified. This happened in Brampton Centre, a stronghold of the Sikh community where there are rival Sikh candidates representing the three main parties—Liberal, NDP and Conservative. “Under Stephen Harper, Conservatives have broken election rules in every election,” Ramesh Sangha, Liberal candidate for the riding, said. He is challenging the Tory incumbent Bal Gosal, another Sikh, in Brampton Centre.
The list of misdemeanors by the Harper Conservatives is long.
They pleaded guilty to the “in and out” scandal involving illegal transfer of money to various levels of the party to circumvent spending limits during the 2006 election campaign, according to ThinkPol, a web-based news portal on October 17.
When Harper first came to power in 2006, he made ethics his main platform and vowed to clean up the sponsorship scandal that had plagued the Liberals before their ouster from power. Yet Harper’s ethics spokesperson Dean Del Mastro was jailed for his attempts to fraudulently cover up election overspending for his successful 2008 campaign for the Peterborough riding.
In the 2011 election, Conservatives misled many voters, especially the elderly, to the wrong address for polling. While the scandal involved a lot of people, only a lone conservative staffer Michael Sona was made the fall guy and jailed over what came to be called the “Robocall” scandal. The matter was then hushed up.
Tomorrow night, Canadians will discover whether Canada will return to its tradition of a tolerant and accommodating society or one that has been hijacked by racists and bigots.