The Australians call it “the colonial cringe,” and it may explain why the most influential newspaper in Canada is The New York Times. The New York Times is likely more influential in Canada than it is in New York. So when The New York Times published last weekend a long and harsh attack on the personality and record of a Canadian prime minister, that fact alone ranked as news in Canada, all the more so since it came in the opening days of a federal election (Canadians vote on October 19).
The long and harsh attack by the Canadian novelist and political commentator Stephen Marche, titled “The Closing of the Canadian Mind,” claims the following: “The nine and half years of [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper’s tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of [Canada’s] reputation for open, responsible government. His stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively. He has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.”
And there’s more: Harper is “classically Orwellian,” his tenure characterized by the “active promotion of ignorance” and a “peculiar hatred for sharing information.” Worst, Harper “seems to think that his job is to prevent democracy.”
Yikes. That sounds awful! So what did Stephen Harper actually do? How precisely did the Canadian prime minister silence debate, suppress information, and squelch democracy? In which dungeon do his critics languish? What are the secrets he has concealed?
Even after reading all 17 paragraphs of Marche’s indictment, it’s hard to say. As so often happens with anti-Harper invective, the accusation combines intense outrage against the man with gaseous vagueness about the man’s offenses. You’re supposed to just know. If you don’t know already, it won’t be explained to you...