Wedge issues cut to core of Canadian values

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 10, 2015

Brandon Sun, Canadian Press (file)
Zunera Ishaq talks to reporters outside the Federal Court of Appeal after her case was heard on whether she can wear a niqab while taking her citizenship oath, in Ottawa on Tuesday, September 15, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS- Brandon Sun/ Patrick Doyle

It is about to get ugly here, folks.

With less than two weeks remaining in the federal election campaign, it looks like the Harper Conservatives are prepared to pull out all the stops to finish ahead come Oct. 19. Without a doubt the coming days will be full of rhetoric about the safety, security and financial well-being of this country — it will slip off the tongues of Canadians nationwide as the dogmatic Conservatives have paid an exorbitant amount of money to put it there.

Former U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” but if the current “Harper-Cons” ideals rub off on Canadians, we will have plenty more fear-inducing moments moving forward.

The party has made up ground in the past week pushing hard on wedge issues meant to cripple the competition by scaring Canadians away from an alternative.

Liberal deficits, NDP overspending, costly Green ideals and the economy all have played a role, but no subject has struck deeper than the wedge issue of the niqab.

Originally the framework of the challenge came from the wearing of it during citizenship ceremonies, but has since become the racial wedge that the party needed to create a clear line in the sand.

This strategy is cold, it is calculated, and it is frankly disturbing that it is working.

Plenty has been said of the prime minister and his unapproachable nature. He has not been a warm and fuzzy leader and we grew to know this. Many of his predecessors from all party stripes had that calculated personality, but as long as the affairs of the country were in order, Canadians, for the most part, were fine with that.

Something has changed, however, and the office many once held in such high regard began to slip on a national stage. That thought was further placed in focus as a campaign that started out with a strong issue like the economy eventually slipped to what many would deem purely racial politics.

That ante was upped again along a racial line when the slumping Conservatives brought in election guru Lynton Crosby, a fierce ideologue known for his skill in driving down to the lowest common denominator of campaigns.

The Australian pit bull has a track record of marginalizing minorities through fear-based tactics, something that has clearly rubbed off on the prime minister. It is a rhetoric that has taken the party from a third-place position to a front-running contender in a matter of a couple of weeks and the end doesn’t appear to be in sight — even if the Conservative party is successful on election night.

With promises such as the establishment of a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline, to entertaining the outright ban of certain cultural dress for federal employees, Stephen Harper has blown hard on the whistle that will bring plenty of “like-minded” supporters out of the woodwork come election day.

It is a sad reality of the Canada we are creating, when such a racially charged message is able to sneak into the day-to-day psyche of a campaign and gain traction among voters.

We have gone from proper discussions on the economy, job creation, seniors’ care, aboriginal issues and the national image of this country, to bitter, divisive, racially charged politics, with plenty continuing to leak out regarding practices that are deeply rooted in the Prime Minister’s Office — practices that include the fact that over the past while, many refugee claims were vetted directly through his office as opposed to letting professionals his party as government had in place examine such cases.

Their answer will undoubtedly be, as always, that the Harper government was merely “protecting Canadians” by doing this. The thought this belief has taken hold among everyday Canadians now as well is frankly deplorable.

The Prime Minister’s Office should represent a beacon of hope and refuge, a place known for its good governance, guidance and support for Canadians, and an example of all that is good in this country. Instead, it has become a mean-spirited and divisive office that is playing ball using many deep-seated and acrid messages of the past.

Canadians need ideological leaders again — people who are willing to make this country a shining example of hope on the national stage, people who are engaged in working collaboratively on the issues that matter, and people who bring passion and not fear to their post.

Would that be too much to ask?

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Shaun Cameron is a content contributor. A veteran of print, video and television, Shaun is a professional post-secondary employee by day, a filmmaker by night. Check out more of Shaun's work in the menu bar above.

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Shaun Cameron has worked in media for close to two decades. His work has been featured in print, internet, video, radio and television publications. A proud father of two, Shaun lives in Brandon, Manitoba with his wife Karol.

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