2 min

Wipe that smirk

Harper could be our own Bush

It’s so easy to feel superior to the Americans when they have a moron running the country.

Even the French would be hard pressed to create a more revolting American stereotype than George Bush’s Texan cowboy doofus. His vile record as a presidential bigot and warlord is so perfectly reflected in his public image: his arrogant swagger, his ignorant words and the hokey drawl with which he mangles them.

We, on the other hand, chose not to participate in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We’re too busy extending rights to marriage-minded gay couples, and freedoms to pot smokers. Or so we like to think.

It’s as though we think Pierre Trudeau is still running the place. Or maybe even Maggie Trudeau. But let’s not be so smug. The pot bill’s gone up in smoke. The marriage legislation is likely to be stranded at the altar. And Stephen Harper stands a chance of becoming our prime minister.

In the early days of the federal election campaign, Canadians are about equally split as to whether Harper is “too extreme” to be prime minister.

It’s hard to think of someone who looks like Harper as extreme. While Bush looks every bit the swashbuckling simpleton gunslinger, Harper’s doughy face appears perpetually on the verge of tears, which some Canadians may mistake for the soft-hearted sensitivity that underlies our national self-image.

Do Harper’s eyes glisten because he’s concerning himself with homelessness and child poverty? Think again. Conservatives may choose their words more carefully these days, but they remain the mean-spirited xenophobes they’ve always been.

It’s common knowledge that the Conservative Party is staunchly opposed to gay marriage and that Harper rallied religious groups to actively oppose it. Apparently he thinks church and state should get married. But it gets worse. Conservative MPs – who in prior incarnations were Reform, then Alliance – unanimously opposed any and all gay rights initiatives that came before them.

When the government introduced legislation which merely extended the most basic human rights to homosexuals, Harper and his entire party voted against it.

During the debate, Reform MP Bob Ringma famously said that he reserved the right to move a gay employee to the “back of the shop.” He has since retired, but other MPs up for re-election were just as candid. Dave Chatters, who could become a Conservative cabinet minister soon, said, “When you go into the issue of homosexuals and lesbians; it’s in the best interest of society to have the right to discriminate against that group.” Nice.

Garry Breitkreuz, former opposition deputy house leader, said, “Today one can receive benefits from the federal government if one practises [buggery].” Yes, he’s for real, and he’d be a cabinet contender in a Conservative government.

Don’t be fooled for one minute that these are just traditional types who have trouble with the word “marriage.” These are not people who embrace diversity or who want to create a society where all individuals are valued, where all families are supported. Simply put, these are not nice people, Harper’s weepy peepers notwithstanding.

The Liberals have their share of MPs just as nutty as those noted above.

Dennis Mills, for one, has got to go. How can someone represent Riverdale – where gay men and lesbians move to shack up and raise children, where countless commitment ceremonies are performed at the local Metropolitan Community Church – and actively oppose his own government’s gay marriage legislation? He has ignored his sizeable gay constituency for long enough. Out he goes.

Toronto has a number of noteworthy NDP candidates. Jack Layton and Olivia Chow are among the most progressive and gay-friendly politicians in the country. Please vote for them. There are also two local gay candidates, Rui Pires and Paul Ferreira.

Come this fall, the conscientious John Kerry could be president of the US, and we could have doughboy Stephen Harper and his band of backwards bigots as our rulers. When the tables turn, we’ll see who’s smirking.

David Walberg is Publisher for Xtra.