The text above says a good deal, if not all, about Harper’s current election campaign—and about the man and his party. It’s a body-search agreement, which must be signed by anyone privileged to attend invitation-only Conservative rallies and other gatherings. There are no public meetings.
Journalists are roped off, allowed no more than a total of five questions during a Harper rally, and roundly booed by noisy partisans when they try to ask them. And even after these staged events, they can expect to be confronted and cursed at by Harper’s entourage.
Democracy is best done in the full light of day, not in darkness. That’s what election campaigns are supposed to be all about, and what they have been all about—until now. Debate. Tough questions. All-candidates’ meetings. Lots of media coverage. Informing, or at least courting, the voters. And hearing from voters, too.
In an earlier post I talked about the Harper preference for silence. I noted a couple of instances where Conservative candidates were making themselves scarce, in line with a Conservative policy of ducking the media during the campaign.
One can see, perhaps, why Conservatives, running on their records, are eager to keep out of sight. But that’s not the main point here.
Democracy requires accountability and transparency, neither of which have appealed to the Conservatives under Stephen Harper. (There is no need to name examples at this point: if you haven’t been asleep since Harper took power in 2006, you can come up with a pretty long list of your own.) What is happening during this campaign isn’t all that unusual, in fact, except in degree. But somehow that doesn’t make me feel any better.
An election campaign should be open to the voting public, not just to select groups of well-scrubbed partisans applauding on cue. The fact that this point even has to be made is upsetting enough. On October 19, let’s be sure to make a democratic point of our own.