Under this PM, the state is everywhere

By Lawrence Martin
Special to The Globe and Mail
Last updated Monday, Sep. 10 2012, 10:46 AM EDT

What does the Grey Cup football game have to do with the Canadian military? Not much, you say. True enough. But chalk up another public-relations triumph for the governing Conservatives. They turned the opening ceremonies of our annual sports classic into a military glorification exercise.

For our part in the NATO Libya campaign, the Defence Minister took bows on the field. A Canadian flag was spread over 40 yards. Cannons boomed.

The blending of sport and the military, with the government as the marching band, is part of the new nationalism the Conservatives are trying to instill. It is another example of how the state, under Stephen Harper’s governance, is becoming all-intrusive.

Conservatism, as defined by Ronald Reagan, was about getting government off the backs of the people. Conservatism, as practised by team Harper, is more akin to an Orwellian opposite. State controls are now at a highpoint in our modern history. There is every indication they will extend further.

The propaganda machine has become mammoth and unrelenting. The parliamentary newspaper The Hill Times recently found there are now no fewer than 1,500 communications staffers on the governing payroll. In the days of the King and St. Laurent governments, there were hardly any. In recent decades, the numbers shot up, but Mr. Harper is outdoing all others, a primary example being his institution and maintenance of a master control system wherein virtually every government communication is filtered through central command.

In his minority governments, the rationale was that tight controls were necessary for survival. With a majority, it was thought that the controls that brought on parliamentary shutdowns and contempt of Parliament rulings would ease up. Those who thought that way didn’t know Stephen Harper.

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