Senate scandal may help Harper

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Sir: In a perverse way, the current obsession with the Senate scandal may end up helping Stephen Harper in this election campaign. The longer he twists in the wind, bobbing and weaving, dodging the same questions, the less time there will be for him to account for the real issues.

He should be challenged on his pathetic record on the environment, the fact that he is now presiding over his second recession, his government’s eighth straight deficit budget, (no serious commentator believes the budget will balance this year) his attack on civil liberties in Bill C52, his cavalier treatment of Parliament and the Canadian people, and so on.

Take health care for example. Every significant recent survey in Canada identifies health care as the major concern for the majority of Canadians. Yet public health care is under attack and its very existence is threatened by the policies of Stephen Harper.

Since his term as president of the secretive National Citizens Coalition, 1998-2002, Harper has been on record supporting the privatization of government-run programs such as Medicare. He knows that the sure road to defeat of any politician in Canada is to publicly attack universal health care so he has taken his usual approach on the subject. Quietly, stealthily, cut the budget transfers to the provinces and eventually get to the point where the funding does not exist to run the program.

The process actually began under Liberal Paul Martin, the last real deficit fighter, when he, as finance minister, began to slash health care funding.

It continued with Martin as prime minister when in 2004 he entered into an agreement with the provinces to increase funding at the fixed rate of 6%. When the agreement lapsed in 2014, Harper, in his now familiar way, refused to meet with the provinces to negotiate and unilaterally imposed the new health care funding policy. The increase will continue at six per cent per annum until 2017 when it will change to a rate of growth based on the provincial gross domestic product and population, not on rates of illness or demographics.

The Parliamentary Budget Office and other serious observers estimate that the funding shortfall by 2024 will be $36 billion. At that point, Stephen Harper, or whoever will be the prime minister of the day, can announce that the system is no longer tenable and privatization could be the result.

Mr. Harper’s work will be done.

MacLean’s political journalist Paul Wells in the 2013 book, “The Longer I’m Prime Minister,” wrote that making Canada a place where Harper conservatism is the political culture of the country is Stephen Harper’s life’s work. It accounts for his still being out on the hustings, campaigning and being harangued daily by people wanting answers on the Senate affair. Steven Harper is no normal politician. He is an ideologue who believes that only he knows what’s best for the country. I just wonder who appointed him to that role?

Bill Zilio

Chatham

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