Saturday, November 08, 2008

Countdown to ConCon

The Conservative policy convention will officially begin in Winnipeg next week, but the resolutions books are out and lively discussions have already started.

The base gets one kick at the cat every three years, and the poor feline in question would appear to be a candidate for rescue by the Humane Society even in advance of the actual debates. The resolutions are a Christmas wish-list for far-right conservatives. Nothing hidden about this agenda, helpfully compiled by Kady O'Malley.

Back into the trenches of the culture wars we go: another stab at C-484 , no more Section 13 investigations by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, no more equal pay for work of equal value, cutting back student loans and payback flexibility (while making loans available to kids with wealthy parents), deleting any mention of childcare from the Conservative policy book, "three strikes and yer out" legislation that's been working so well in the States, and a brave stand against the onslaught of polygamy.

Canadians will be encouraged to adopt Canadian common values (equality, democracy and the rule of law). While this is clearly aimed at new immigrants, I find myself wondering about the Conservatives' own commitment to equality (e.g., equal pay for work of equal value, gay rights, etc.) and democracy (e.g., electoral reform, government transparency). Are we being governed by un-Canadians? Not much question about the rule of law, though: it's all crackdowns and punishment, all the time.

Not that it's unremitting doom and gloom. Resolution P-204 calls for openness and transparency in matters of government spending. (Good luck with that.) Resolution P-205 seeks enhanced Arctic sovereignty and devolution. Resolution P-222 supports
employment standards protection for temporary foreign workers.

And the very first proposed amendment in the consolidated resolutions book calls for government to "ensure...the safety of our citizens at home and abroad." Is this a reference, perchance, to Brenda Martin? Or does it spell good news for Abousfian Abdelrazik, Omar Khadr, Bashir Makhtal
and other marooned brown citizens? Too bad that this resolution, if it passes, won't be binding on a government that hasn't lifted a finger to help those people so far, and indeed has hindered their return.

Policy conventions are where ideology fetches up on the shoals of pragmatism. Harper grabbed his second mandate by being all sweater-y and moderate. He's not about to be swayed by much of the backlash stuff, at least until his Long March to a majority is complete. But we do get here, I suspect, more than a glimpse of the Conservative maximum program. The debates should be fascinating. I can't wait.

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