Sending Harper back to school

Conservative insults towards ‘elites’ will only stab them in the back

Jonathan Dyck

In a country that usually values its students, its universities and does everything and anything to encourage more young people to seek higher education, you would assume that the knowledge and critical thinking that university graduates acquire would be promoted, applauded and respected.

This is not the case with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Last week, our prime minister failed to correct or rescind remarks made by Minister of Industry Tony Clement, who had referred to people protesting the prorogation of Parliament in a article as “the Ottawa media elite, and some elites of our country.” Furthermore, he stated that the Conservative government “is not here to govern on behalf of the chattering classes.”

The comments were made in response to a letter condemning the prorogation as a failure of democracy signed by 100 academics. This letter has been effectively dismissed by the federal government, and furthermore, those academics have been horribly insulted. The failure to address any sort of criticism that arises from the educated people of Canada only confirms what opponents have always suspected about the Conservative Party and their membership.

In supporting Clement’s remarks, Harper immediately dismissed the importance and relevant opinions of the educated class of Canadians across the country. He shows naivety in his assumption that anyone who has an education or questions the abject failures of Parliament is some sort of snobby elitist who doesn’t understand the “real” Canada. (Incidentally, the assumption that educated people are a threat to democracy is a recurring theme in developing world dictatorships).

Harper probably hasn’t been on a university campus lately, where he would have seen the majority of kids juggling classes and multiple jobs, along with scholarship and bursary applications. Because he doesn’t think those places are worth going to, he has successfully alienated a group of people who have great power at the ballot box. He’s telling a whole generation of people who spend their days in libraries around the country, researching and writing and pulling all-nighters, that their voices are white noise, that their attempts to acquire a higher education only lumps them in some sort of “media elite” that his party does not seem to think matters.

Granted, Harper is an intelligent guy. How, then, is he screwing up so badly?

The strategy behind Clement’s comments seems to be to alienate the educated in order to attract the non-educated vote. But the uneducated of the country have a lower voter-turnout anyway. Regardless, they should hardly feel flattered by their prime minister dumping them into some dumb redneck category that will vote for his party because, really, they don’t know any better.

No, it seems like the reason Harper is threatened by the elites of the county, by the university professors and students who are joining the “Canadians Against the Prorogation of Parliament” Facebook group as fast as they can click, is because he has finally realized that he messed up, and these people are all vastly more intelligent than half his cabinet.

Why choose to prorogue? The only reason our democracy is in crisis is because our prime minister put us there.

Devin Morrow is a University of Winnipeg graduate and former comments editor at The Uniter currently working and travelling in South East Asia.

Published in Volume 64, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 21, 2010)

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