Robyn Benson, PSAC

The Nasty Party



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I don’t always agree with Postmedia’s pundit Andrew Coyne, to put it gently, but he’s onto something with his post this past weekend, “Conservatives’ reputation as the ‘Nasty Party’ is well-deserved.”

Coyne is asking what is, I guess, a rather obvious question. The economy is struggling out of a deep recession. Although not everyone is benefiting from the “recovery” by any means, inflation and unemployment have dropped across Canada. That sort of thing normally spells good fortune for governments, who tend to pick up the credit when the economy improves. So why are the Conservatives, and Stephen Harper himself, plummeting in popularity instead?

As Coyne points out, Harper’s numbers began to fall before Justin Trudeau became Liberal Party leader, so neo-Trudeaumania seems to have little to do with it. He suggests instead that it may—just may—have something to do with the government’s whole approach to governing:

When they are not refusing to disclose what they are doing, they are giving out false information; when they allow dissenting opinions to be voiced, they smear them as unpatriotic or worse; when they open their own mouths to speak, it is to read the same moronic talking points over and over, however these may conflict with the facts, common courtesy, or their own most solemn promises.

Secretive, controlling, manipulative, crude, autocratic, vicious, unprincipled, untrustworthy, paranoid … Even by the standards of Canadian politics, it’s quite the performance. We’ve had some thuggish or dishonest governments in the past, even some corrupt ones, but never one quite so determined to arouse the public’s hostility, to so little apparent purpose. Their policy legacy may prove short-lived, but it will be hard to erase the stamp of the Nasty Party.


It’s hard to argue with that, much less improve upon Coyne’s plain-spoken commentary. But let me add a couple of my own thoughts.

It’s not a pleasant task to work for an employer who shows such flagrant contempt for its own employees and their representatives. From the workplaces where our members have been left to wonder for many months where the axe will fall next, to grossly overreaching Codes of Conduct, to arrogant moves that make a mockery of the collective bargaining process, to punitive, discriminatory anti-union legislation and gratuitous insults from the likes of Conservative Pierre Poilievre, the government has demonstrated a consistently negative, bullying attitude.

We’re only a small part of the population, 7 out of 10 of whom now oppose the government and the Prime Minister. Harper’s “strong, stable mandate,” never actually that strong at the best of times, is withering away. Unlike Coyne, I suspect that the nastiness he describes may be part and parcel of Conservative ideology itself, not just an unnecessary add-on. But whatever the cause of it, most would agree that Harper seems to govern by deliberate provocation. Like most of our fellow Canadians, then, consider us provoked.


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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on May 13, 2013 8:30 AM.

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