... And The Damage Done
August 23, 2010 10:49 AM   Subscribe

"It would have been quite a news conference, and it very nearly happened. Last fall, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, after months of intense, private talks, agreed to face the media together to declare their agreement that research shows the 'benefits' and 'positive impacts' of supervised injection sites for intravenous drug users. For the RCMP, making such a statement would have been a turning point: the Mounties would have had to distance themselves from dubious studies, commissioned by the force itself, that were critical of Insite, Vancouver’s pioneering safe injection facility."

But it didn't happen.
posted by Alvy Ampersand (50 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maclean's takes a liberal position against the Harperites? I can hear heads exploding all over the place.
posted by No Robots at 11:12 AM on August 23, 2010


The case is currently scheduled for May 12, 2011 before the Supreme Court, although it's quite possible that'll change. Here is the summary from the Court.

Insite and the other people involved are absolutely fantastic. They are doing great work, both in terms of research and in terms of harm reduction. I wish the government would stop harassing them and wasting their time.

On the plus side, the fact that the RCMP, at least the majority of them, are on-side with Insite now is fantastic. We all know how hard life gets when the cops are pissed off at you, even when acting legally. Hopefully this has translated to a non-aggressive stance by the Mounties in general.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:17 AM on August 23, 2010


As one fellow mentioned in the comments, and previously on the blue- Stats Canada is getting 'kneecapped.' I don't know if I'd go that far, but it does seem to be a bit of an opening salvo.

I wish I could find a clip of that Harper fellow, from years ago, where a vote was being held to send (more?) troops overseas to Afghanistan, he replied 'It doesn't matter how it [the vote] goes, we're sending in the troops.'

At the time, shocked as I was, announcing 'There's a man who needs an assassin' did not go over well with the staunch supporters. I still grumble about it, but perhaps I'm over-reacting.
posted by LD Feral at 11:17 AM on August 23, 2010


Can any Canadian MeFite explain to me how the Harperites remain in power? Yes, I know that George W. Bush didn't win the popular vote either, but are the Liberals, BQ and NDP unable to reach any kind of an agreement, or does he play them off against each other, or what?
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:23 AM on August 23, 2010


Can any Canadian MeFite explain to me how the Harperites remain in power?

it's straight-up geographic splits, plus a certain amount of left/right appeal.

But basically the Conservatives own the West (minus BC, which for some reason, isn't "the West" - I guess it's "the Westest" or something) and get a enough old-school PC right-wing, small-government, pro-business votes that they tip over into the largest minority. Quebec traditionally held the balance of power between the PCs and the Liberals but now with the BQ it's a perpetual minority.

But it's basically BC (a mix), "the West" (Conservative), Ontario (a mix), Quebec (BQ) and "the East" (a mix, but demographically outweighed to the point of making them nearly irrelevant).

But even within BC and Ontario you can basically guess who someone will vote for based on their postal code. The swing ridings are few and far between, unless you're talking about Liberal-NDP swings which don't really matter.
posted by GuyZero at 11:29 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's surprising to hear that the RCMP reversed their earlier position on injection sites, but it's not surprising at all to hear that they were eventually overruled by a higher authority: IE someone in the Conservative government. This is the same government that wants to build a bunch of expensive new prisons based on a rise in "unreported" crime. The longer they stay in power, the more we're going to hear these stories about the Conservatives basing policy on their beliefs rather than objective reality, because there's no longer any credible competition that can restrain them from reverting to their base natures.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:32 AM on August 23, 2010


I actually think this is good.

The fact that the Conservative government's rabid opposition to InSite is based solely on ideology and not any rational, evidence-based approach to drug policy will be laid completely bare.

The Supreme Court will support InSite easily, and the Harper government will look like complete fools.

This, by the way, is a growing trend with the Harper government.
posted by dry white toast at 11:35 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have been observing Canadian politics for the past 25 years. Although every political party has political policies or plans which they believe will be beneficial to Canada (or in the case of the Bloc Quebecois, policies that will be beneficial to Quebec) the parties and their candidates and leaders are primarily interested in getting elected.

The conservative wing of Canadian politics did undergo a strange process of first splintering, by the creation of the Reform Party, and later reconstituting itself by the merger of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Reform Party into the Conservative Party. It would be very logical for the two relatively progressive parties, the Liberal party and the New Democratic Party, and perhaps the Green Party as well (although the Green Party has yet to actually elect any member of parliament, but even so, they do have a certain amount of voter support which could add to the coalition) to merge into one unified left wing party which could more effectively oppose the unified right wing party. However, both of these parties are more interested in their own survival than they are in the implementation of progressive policies. One unified party can have only one party leader, hence, if two parties merge, one leader is out (possibly both leaders, of course, since the membership of the new party might choose someone else entirely). Lots of candidates become superfluous. Merger requires sacrifices for the common good. And not too many politicians are interested in doing that.
posted by grizzled at 11:36 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can any Canadian MeFite explain to me how the Harperites remain in power?

I'll second GuyZero, adding that, at least in my corner, constant, and obvious, gerrymandering makes it even harder to oust anyone. If asking who people vote for, most (that I have asked) shrug, and say ', since the area I'm in is attached to , and I want my vote to count.'

'Count for what?' is always parried with another shrug. I think it's called voter despair, or something similar.

Wow, that looks apocryphal/made up. Eh.

posted by LD Feral at 11:38 AM on August 23, 2010


Can any Canadian MeFite explain to me how the Harperites remain in power?

Right wing: one party
Left wing: four parties

and that's 60% of your answer right there.

Another 20% of the answer is that the Liberals have come out of a major scandal several years ago with a succession of leaders that are intelligent, but have even less presence than Harper, which is akin to having less charm than a grey sock. It seems impossible, but they have managed.

The Bloc has no real interest in working with anybody except to stir up shit, which they do often and admirably. I'm really sick of separatist crap here in Quebec, but I admire Duceppe's I-don't-give-a-fuck-about-any-of-this aggression in ferreting out any dirt he can find and dishing it up to make the Big Two miserable. The NDP and Greens overlap to a point where they kind of cancel each other out (although the NDP is the only one with seats in Parliament).

But the big reason is that the Liberals are the only party that has the clout to actually form even a minority government. And they've been so weak at the knees for the past few years that they're scared to force an election; partly because the public generally looks with disfavour on people that force an election*, partly because their leaders are pretty damn unelectable. Harper throws the crazy eggs on the right enough Islamophobic, anti-science, military-spending bones to keep them happy, and given that there aren't any viable even crazier options, they keep voting Reformative. Anyone in the centre (Liberal) or the left (NDP, Green) or separatist (BQ) is basically staying content with having a minority government to keep Harper from doing anything really stupid. And biding their time for either Harper to screw up big time, or for the Liberals to get somebody that actually shows up on film as a leader.

*and seriously, I'm super pissed about the StatsCan thing, but how the hell are you going to force a national election over who has to fill out the census? Harper voters aren't given to subtlety at the best of times, and trying to explain why a census is important to gun-and-tractors value voters gives me a nosebleed just thinking about it.
posted by Shepherd at 11:39 AM on August 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


> This is not mere disregard for reliable data. It is an attempt by the state to put falsehood in the place of reliable data.

That's the Harper Conservatives in a nutshell, all right.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:43 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]



BC can be split b/w the coasts and the interior, and it is much like the difference b/w seattle, portland, et al and spokane, cord elaine (sp) and others
posted by PinkMoose at 11:45 AM on August 23, 2010


In case you are interested, cord elaine is actually Coeur D'Alene
posted by grizzled at 11:48 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can any Canadian MeFite explain to me how the Harperites remain in power?

The most significant help they get is from a Liberal party that has yet to find its feet after losing power in 2006. They've gone through two leaders, and are stuck in the polls. Their current leader is a cool academic who has had a really hard time connecting with voters in any real way. They've also pretty much shut down the idea of a coalition with the NDP and the Bloc* any time it has been raised.

And really, would you want to be the leader of a coalition government that relied on a party that wants to see Quebec separate from Canada to stay in power?

*To understand the role of the Bloc Quebecois in Canadian federal politics, imagine that the majority of Texas's congressional delegation in Washington was there solely to defend States' rights, resist federal government involvement in any of Texas's policies and programs (though still happily take the feds' money so long as the state had total control over how it was spent), and would not reliably vote with either the Dems or the GOP. Oh, and they would also help to facilitate the secession of Texas from the Union from inside the federal government when political conditions were favourable to the endeavour.
posted by dry white toast at 11:48 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


> but have even less presence than Harper, which is akin to having less charm than a grey sock.

People say that a lot, but I don't get it. Martin, Dion, Ignatieff...all of these dudes have, as you put it, less charm than a grey sock, but Harper (cold grey eyes, fish lips, a haircut out of a Politician In A Box set, a smile that always looks like a pained grimace) is downright repellent. I guess you could call that "presence."

Case in point.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:50 AM on August 23, 2010


Left wing: four parties

that is definitely a factor, although I'm not sure how much of a "lefty" the average Liberal supporter is. The idea of a merger with the NDP might scare off a few of the more centrist Liberal types--I base this on an assumption that some historically Liberal votes seem to have jumped to the Conservatives since the sponsorship scandal, and there's an larger ideological divide between the Libs and the Cons now than when it was the Liberals vs PCs.

More on topic, I walked by Insite a couple of weeks back. My impression is the place is on "high alert" for some reason, because there was a pretty big dude out front that spotted me and my 2 friends as not belonging there and made his presence known to us. Maybe we looked like narcs or something, I dunno. I hope it stays open and they get no more of this pressure based in ideological nonsense. I'm no expert, but it certainly looks like there's a lot of people in the area that need help from Insite.
posted by Kirk Grim at 11:53 AM on August 23, 2010


grizzled

i am interested, just on most online convos i treat it like speech and do not worry about spelling too much. sorry if i offended.
posted by PinkMoose at 11:54 AM on August 23, 2010


There's a more practical reason for the Liberals to avoid forcing an election: They're broke. Part of Harper's hold on power is that the Conservative party has developed a really strong grassroots fundraising apparatus that keeps them flush with cash from retirees across the country; the Liberals depended on money from big donors, and that's dried up because they're out of power, and unlikely to get back into power. If the Liberals force an election, they've got nothing to fight it with.

For better or worse, the Conservatives have the most effective political machine in Canada right now, and for the foreseeable future.

God help us.
posted by fatbird at 11:55 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


trying to explain why a census is important to gun-and-tractors value voters gives me a nosebleed just thinking about it

At StatsCan, we have a whole bunch of people who were specifically trained in techniques meant to convince recalcitrants of the worth of the census and to explain just how the census affects their daily lives, in order to get them to fill out the damn form already.

Unfortunately, just like our previous Chief Statistician is restricted by law from saying exactly what our agency proposed to the government and how that differs from what Harper and Clement are presenting to Canada, the employees here are also restricted from wading into this issue.

Isn't it lovely when the people who are best informed are obligated by law to let the uninformed and demagogues fight it out?
posted by splice at 11:56 AM on August 23, 2010 [9 favorites]


and the left needs to stop thinking of the liberals as liberal. they are center right, with much more in common with the tories then anyone else. i see the spectrum (from left to right):

BQ post national big state socialists
NDP like european greens or most of scandavia
Greens--all over the map, with no solid left/right split, and almost post ideological, with a leader who spent time under Mulroney.
Liberal--called Canada's natural governing party, shift a little to the left, but mostly about maintaining their power in any way they can find--neo-liberals entrenched in a 19th century, mostly anglo belief in the inherent goodness of the state
Tories--were for a long time shifted a little to the right, but the mirror of the liberals and until recently, happily trading off with the liberals. Harper used to be leader of the far right, neocon/theocrat party, which successly absorbed the old tories.

now, as for safe injection sites--i keep wondering how much of Harper's distaste for progressive social policy which were instutited under Crethien (sp) was related to his being unusually liberal for a Liberal, or if he is just trying to dismantle every single solitary thing that government did.
posted by PinkMoose at 12:10 PM on August 23, 2010


i keep wondering... if [Harper] is just trying to dismantle every single solitary thing that government did.

Ding-ding!

“You know, there’s two schools in economics on this, one is that there are some good taxes and the other is that no taxes are good taxes. I’m in the latter category. I don’t believe any taxes are good taxes.”
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:20 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


he did used to run the canadian tax payers federation
posted by PinkMoose at 12:23 PM on August 23, 2010


Here are some numbers that back up fatbird's point. The Conservatives have been bringing in 3-4 times as much money as the Liberals, and they bring in twice as much in small donations as they do in larger (>$200) donations. By contrast, donations over $200 consistently account for a slight majority of Liberal fundraising.

Tom Flanagan, the conservative political scientist, has another explanation for Harper's political success: centralization and control.

And yeah, the Liberals are not left-wing. The usual line is that they "campaign from the left, govern from the right." Paul Martin's approach as Finance Minister under Jean Chretien, for example, was textbook neoliberalism.
posted by twirlip at 12:29 PM on August 23, 2010


The InSite bullshit posses me off to the point of apoplectic rage. I fucking hate what is happening to Canada.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:39 PM on August 23, 2010


he did used to run the canadian tax payers federation

No, the Canadian Citizen's Coalition.
posted by Old Man Wilson at 12:43 PM on August 23, 2010


my bad, but ideologically similar
posted by PinkMoose at 12:47 PM on August 23, 2010


he did used to run the canadian tax payers federation

No, the Canadian Citizen's Coalition.


No, the National Citizen's Coalition.
posted by dry white toast at 1:26 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


“You know, there’s two schools in economics on this, one is that there are some good taxes and the other is that no taxes are good taxes. I’m in the latter category. I don’t believe any taxes are good taxes.”

Why is it that the parties we're told have good, responsible economic policies are UNABLE TO ARTICULATE THEM IN A WAY THAT MAKES ANY SENSE AND ISN'T COMPLETELY DUMB? I'm starting to think maybe I do have some understanding of economics and all the people that have screamed "free markets & no more taxes" at me for the last 15 years actually don't know what they're talking about.
posted by Kirk Grim at 1:29 PM on August 23, 2010


You could write a whole history about the stupid politics around harm reduction and the repeated attempts of its opponents to promote fake data and lies about it in multiple countries. Interesting side note: the "journal" that published the "review" by the RCMP is published by a group of absolutely hard line drug warriors, many originally affiliated with or intensely supportive of the highly abusive teen rehab, Straight Inc.

The fact that these people are still allowed to be seen as acceptable "drug experts" despite having advocated a program that profoundly abused at least 12,000 teens (sleep deprivation for days, food deprivation, denial of bathroom access to the point where teens wet or soiled themselves, kidnapping, beatings, public sexual humiliation, etc.) and despite never denouncing these documented abuses that occurred at every site of the program in multiple states continues to astound me.
posted by Maias at 1:29 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, the Canadian Citizen's Coalition.

No, the National Citizen's Coalition.


No, the Romans!
posted by atbash at 1:57 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not only did I get some great thumbnail descriptions of Canadian politics (thanks, all!), I finally just got the FPP title. Well-played, Alvy.

seriously, Neil Young on the Johnny Cash show, singing about addiction? How cool is that?
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:27 PM on August 23, 2010


It's fun trying to reconcile the concepts of "Canada is in the iron grip of incompetent conservatives" and "Canada is a progressive utopia compared to the United States." Especially when I type this from within the single most conservative district in US.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:46 PM on August 23, 2010


Canada is currently in the iron grip of incompetent conservatives whereas for the last 80 years or so it was a progressive utopia compared to the United States.

The slow rate of change in government policy is both a curse and a blessing.
posted by GuyZero at 3:06 PM on August 23, 2010


Can any Canadian MeFite explain to me how the Harperites remain in power?

I'll try again:

Under normal circumstances, the Liberals should be ruling in a minority government by now. Harper continues Canadian-style Bush-lite supported by paranoid grannies, Albertan cowboys, and big-business funding, in itself not enough to float a country with any sort of poise, but for now it works for them. The majority of Canadians do not like Harper.

The basic problem is that Liberal party back-room masterminds parachuted in Michael Ignatief as the solution, like a sort of Trudeau version Mark-2. The specific problem with this plan is that Iggy lacks Trudeau's existential charm: This is very crucial design flaw. A dark horse is nice and all of that, but it doesn't work unless it can run fast. Next in line, according to some kind of vague Liberal delegate hierarchy, is Bob Rae, who is a nice enough guy, but unfortunately, historically he is known as a loser, whose main selling point is something along the lines of I've learned from my mistakes.

I do not speak for the citizens of Canada, but I intuit a zeitgeist, which is that everyone is waiting for the the Liberal party to get its act/shit together and move on to the next generation of politicians. I am thinking along the lines of Gerard Kennedy, or someone like him.

The smaller progressive parties like the NDP and Green are really cute, but I do not expect them to make the progress they need to unless they can make a big step over the marginalization dealt them by the Conservatives and Liberals. I don't expect it, but anything is possible these days. Jack Layton's mustache probably doesn't help.
posted by ovvl at 5:34 PM on August 23, 2010


ovvl

Calling a party that has gotten a fifth of the popular vote cute is disengenous.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:16 PM on August 23, 2010


I'm not sure how true these horserace explanations of politics really are. Ultimately, I think the main reason the Conservatives are still in power is because the Canadian economy is doing better than the economies of most other Western countries.
posted by smorange at 7:56 PM on August 23, 2010


Well this is humiliating: AmnestyIntl says we're failing.

Canada used to have an *excellent* reputation, but Stephen Fucking Harper is pissing it away. Fuck him.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:44 PM on August 23, 2010


I could say it again: the NDP is cute. Cute! Cute! Cute!

But I could be wrong. I was in wrong in 1990. I went to Europe for the summer. When I came back in September, my friends said: "While you were gone, Bob Rae was elected NDP premier of Ontario." I said: "No way, you're totally fucking kidding me." They all said: "No, he really was elected premier of Ontario." I said: "No way."

You know how that turned out? Cute.

(Mind you, the Trudeau/Broadbent minority coalition was probably my favourite Canadian federal government in remembered history).
posted by ovvl at 9:53 PM on August 23, 2010


...yeah, I was going to try and make an articulate and intelligent comment on Harper's 'government', but then I started frothing at the mouth and gnashing my teeth and totally had to delete it.
posted by zennish at 10:03 PM on August 23, 2010


Harper continues Canadian-style Bush-lite supported by paranoid grannies, Albertan cowboys, and big-business funding, in itself not enough to float a country with any sort of poise, but for now it works for them

Nope, this has nothing to do with big business funding. The Liberals did away with that under Chretien, remember?

It's fun to say that the Tories are funded be business. Easy, too. But not the case. They've got the most advanced fundraising telephone system of any of the parties, and they've built their war chest one hundred bucks at a time, by calling supporters and asking for money. They're miles ahead of any of the parties in this, and until anyone catches up, the Tories will continue to collect miles more money than anyone else.
posted by Old Man Wilson at 10:07 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


he did used to run the canadian tax payers federation

No, the Canadian Citizen's Coalition.

No, the National Citizen's Coalition.


No, the National Citizens Coalition.

It is strangely comforting - and unintentionally hilarious - that the NCC's problematic punctuation isn't exclusive to their name, though.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:11 PM on August 23, 2010


It's easy to rake in the big bucks when you prey on the weak-minded and elderly.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:52 AM on August 24, 2010


The Card Cheat: This is my new least favourite favourite picture of Harper..
posted by davey_darling at 10:00 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not to derail the conversation or anything: any police force coming out against harm reduction strategies in future is going to look pretty bloody stupid.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:03 AM on August 24, 2010


I do not speak for the citizens of Canada, but I intuit a zeitgeist, which is that everyone is waiting for the the Liberal party to get its act/shit together and move on to the next generation of politicians. I am thinking along the lines of Gerard Kennedy, or someone like him.

Justin Trudeau.

About whom I know little (wrong party for me) except he used to teach, has the royal-political lineage, and is vota-liciously handsome.
posted by ecourbanist at 11:36 AM on August 24, 2010


Jack Layton's mustache probably doesn't help.

Every time that man opens his mouth I think he's trying to sell me a used car.
posted by heatherann at 5:50 PM on August 24, 2010


Right wing: one party
Left wing: four parties


If only it were that simple. The Liberals, in power, were easily as right-wing as Harper was, they just had a classier image about it. Until they started slowly imploding.

No, give the Conservatives some credit. They are hugely organized, both in fundraising and communications management. And Ontario, once Liberal by default when the right was split between Reform and the old PCs is swining more Conservative than Liberal. For the most part, the Cons earned that, just as they earned their losses (yay, Edmonton Strathcona!)

And really, progressive utopia in the past? Do we really forget what things were like? That we protested as much and just as legitimately when Jean Chretien was PM? Did George W. just set things so askew that our memories prior to 2000 were erased? Cause really, if we take any point of comparison other than US, Canadian political culture has always been centre-right, and Harper is only a mild deviation from that history. (Although, with the census changes, I admit a bizarre one. I'd have never pegged Harper to be genuinely anti-intellectual, even though he puts on a show for the populists every so often.)
posted by Kurichina at 8:26 AM on August 25, 2010


I'd have never pegged Harper to be genuinely anti-intellectual, even though he puts on a show for the populists every so often.

Well, Harper isn't stupid, he's a clever technocrat kinda like what Trudeau was, but unlike Trudeau, Harper makes public statements where he expresses contempt for Canadian artists. Now while we might know that he is just putting on a show for his fan base (because he probably personally really doesn't care), part of the problem is that this sort of stupid show can't really be healthy for Canadian culture.
posted by ovvl at 4:33 PM on August 25, 2010


he expresses contempt for Canadian artists.

Of the many things Harper shows contempt for--aside from the obvious will of the majority of Canadians who have never voted for him--artists are pretty low down the list of things to point out for me (and I'm arguably an artist). This is a guy who was behind an elected senate because the appointed one is "undemocratic". At least we can thank the Harper Conservatives for pointing out exactly why an elected Senate in Canada would be a bad idea. We can't even get the lower House right, it's so easily abused by the wrong people when they're elected.
posted by Kirk Grim at 6:53 PM on August 26, 2010


More on Insite: CMA Journal article sides with drug injection site
Federal government accused of ignoring addicts by opposing Vancouver site

posted by gingerbeer at 3:22 PM on August 30, 2010


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