An Open Letter to Stephen Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Langevin Building
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister,

Firstly, I would like to apologize. I know I have started off on the wrong foot: I am supposed to address you as the Prime Minister of Canada, but with “Harper Government” replacing “Government of Canada”, I got confused as to protocol. Also, I know I am supposed to use the title “Right Honourable Stephen Harper”, but… I simply couldn’t do it. Yet.

Please allow me to explain. On the night of May 2nd, 2011, as my husband and I lay awake, distraught at the looming Conservative majority, he told me not to worry about any disturbing changes that haven’t happened yet. He said, “Who knows? Maybe in a few years we’ll think Harper’s the best Prime Minister ever.” We were too upset even to laugh at such a preposterous joke.

But now, I believe, I understand. I’ve figured it out: why you’ve been governing the way you have, and what your real plan is, now that you have a majority. Let me tell you, I feel so much better, now that I get it.

You see, I decided to take literally the banal comment I saw from a Conservative Facebook user prior to the election: “Better the devil you know.” I decided to read up on Stephen Harper, and I discovered something shocking: that we actually have a lot in common.

Despite your obvious allegiance to the West, we are actually both Ontarians. Although I didn’t attend Richview Collegiate Institute in Etobicoke, I spent time there practice teaching. You were on the Reach for the Top team in high school, and so were all three of my siblings, coming from a family of trivia buffs. We both attended the University of Toronto (even if only for a couple months, in your case). We both have Bachelors and Masters degrees, though in very different subjects; I daresay my fluency in economics is at least as awkward as your fluency in French.

Furthermore, we both are part of religious communities based on the teachings of Jesus. Although your Christian and Missionary Alliance church is considerably more evangelical, doctrine-centric, and salvation-oriented than the unprogrammed Quaker community I belong to, I have to assume that you are serious about your Christian obligations.

At first, this incongruity was very confusing to me: Jesus says to give to the poor, so why the cuts to social programs and foreign aid? He disapproved of the accumulation of wealth, so why the tax cuts to already-wealthy people and corporations? He said “Blessed are the peacemakers,” so what’s with Afghanistan? He said “Blessed are the meek,” so what’s with the fighter jets? And so on.

But when I really thought about it, I came to a realization: for the past five years, maybe more, you haven’t been free to be your true self. Ever since you first became Prime Minister, you’ve been walking on eggshells as part of a minority government, and you’ve had to work to garner more support. You knew that your Conservative Party was the only option for warmongers, homophobes, gas-guzzlers, and greedy people, so you had to pretend to be one of them. You had to play their game until you could get what you needed: a majority government. Now that we can’t be sent to the polls for a non-approved budget – or a pesky vote of non-confidence – now that you are here for the long haul, you are released from your charade!

What a relief this must be for you. Congratulations.

Now that I’ve recognized what’s really going on, so many things make SO much more sense. “Love your enemies”?… Why, those megaprisons you’re talking about must actually be designed as bona fide rehabilitation centres! “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”?… So the repression and violence toward the peaceful protestors at the G20 – hey! You’re actually trying to save people so they can go to heaven!

You can imagine how lighthearted this made me feel, after the dread I had been experiencing. Suddenly I can look at the Conservative platform with new eyes. I can look at the following guiding principles, straight from the Conservative Party website, and know what they really mean:

  • A belief in the freedom of the individual, including freedom of speech, worship and assembly; [yay! no more embarrassing police-state behaviour while hosting international summits]
  • A belief in our constitutional monarchy, the institutions of Parliament and the democratic process; [whew – I guess you won’t be cancelling funding for political parties]
  • A belief that a responsible government must be fiscally prudent; [thank goodness, you can drop all that fighter jet business, which was surely going to bite you in the behind anyway… and I’m certain you’ve already made your point to the kids that used to pick on you in grade school by becoming Prime Minister – there’s no need for overkill, so to speak]
  • A belief that it is the responsibility of individuals to provide for themselves, their families and their dependents, while recognizing that government must respond to those who require assistance and compassion; [so we’re finally going to make First Nations reserves into decent places to live? and get back on the foreign aid bandwagon?]
  • A belief that the quality of the environment is a vital part of our heritage to be protected by each generation for the next; [I knew it! It didn’t make any sense to me that a man with children should be so unconcerned about severely polluting and selling off their legacy… but now I know it was just part of the act!]
  • A belief that Canada should accept its obligations among the nations of the world; [so we can finally get in the game on climate change! I was so worried we’d be shunned by the global community forever, but now you’re free to fix the damage you did to our international reputation in order to please your voters]
  • A belief that good and responsible government is attentive to the people it represents and has representatives who at all times conduct themselves in an ethical manner and display integrity, honesty and concern for the best interest of all; [au revoir to the would-be Bev Odas and Bruce Carsons of the Party]
  • A belief that all Canadians should have reasonable access to quality health care regardless of their ability to pay. [Hallelujah! Why was I worried that socialized medicine was going to be dismantled and we were going to end up with a barbaric American-style health system? Obviously the talk of privatization was just a cunning feint.]

And one of the most inspiring points in your “Platform 2011”:

  • Making our streets safe through new laws to protect children and the elderly. [Now I can read the code: you’re finally going to get strict with gun control!]

All these revelations were confirmed to me when I heard this in your acceptance speech: “For our part, we are intensely aware that we are, and we must be, the government of all Canadians, including those who did not vote for us.” This humble moment earned you a standing ovation.

In all sincerity, that was the first time you seemed to be attempting to communicate with me, and voters like me – the over 60% of us who deliberately, fervently voted not for you. Clearly, you are setting up your defense – for when you fulfill your true destiny (as discussed above), and the more regressive Conservatives start to get huffy. When, for example, you scrap the tar sands and enrage Big Oil – well, you’re just governing for the rest of us, as you promised. Not to mention for your children’s future. Very clever indeed.

Finally, the puzzle pieces are falling into place. Now that your government has taken credit for Canada’s relatively smooth sailing during the financial crisis, you have no choice but to stick with the same strict regulatory policies that made it happen – even if they weren’t yours. When you railed that Canadians didn’t want an election, it was really just a shrewd dose of reverse psychology, to bump up voter turnout. Your little trick of breaking the law to plug your party during the campaign blackout on election day – obviously a strategy to impress the bad-asses in the crowd (who were maybe wondering if you weren’t just a little too straitlaced at your victory party – hey, don’t feel bad, I’m not a big drinker either). The prorogations are a bit more mysterious – so far, I haven’t been able to spin those to be anything but evasion, but I’m sure it will all become clear with time.

Overall, Prime Minister, I have to admit that your strategy is brilliant. None of us left-wing types saw it coming. But now that I’ve deciphered it, I am looking forward to these next years under your leadership. What a great country this will be.

Yours truly,

D.C.S. Stephens



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6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Stephen Harper

  1. Kate says:

    Thanks for this. My stomach has honestly been turning since Monday and it’s nice to laugh a little… even if it is, likely, at my own expense.

  2. Bev says:

    Masterful! I hope you really send it to Mr. H. Like – on paper, you know? How do you get something to go viral? This should!

  3. Calvin says:

    Good letter. A lot of people felt the same way on election night. I’ve voted in every election since Joe Clark was PM and I’ve never felt quite the same way as this past Monday. But to some degree your sarcasm may actually be not too far off the truth. No doubt many things will change, but Harper must also try and keep the extreme base happy. If he can’t do this, he’ll lose them and split the party again. And if he gives them what they want, he’ll be committing political suicide. It should be an entertaining 4 years.

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