I wasn’t feeling particularly patriotic this Canada Day*, and not just because I’m in France. You see, I had the opportunity to describe the Harper Government to my Norwegian friend, and it filled me with shame.
“Our Prime Minister has cut funding for the Space Agency. He doesn’t believe in science.”
“I see.” He replied.
“And understand,” I went on, “that when I say that Stephen Harper doesn’t believe in science, I don’t mean that he doesn’t believe in Global Warming, or Evolution, or any specific scientific theory. I mean that he doesn’t believe in science. They had a vote in the house of Commons on whether public policy should be informed by scientific research. He ordered his MPs to vote no.”
“And he’s pretty much destroyed all environmental regulations in Canada,” said another Canadian scientist**. “When you write to your Conservative MP to complain, you get form letters that are full of lies about how he’s really been increasing funding for science. It’s very Orwellian.”
“Wow. How did he get elected?”
Now I was forced to describe Canada’s terminally stupid electoral system. “In Canada, you don’t need a majority of support to win an election. Each riding is given to whoever wins a plurality of the vote. So if you have four left-of-centre parties agreeing on most things who attract 70% of the vote between them, and one right wing party than attracts thirrty percent of the vote, the thirty percent party wins. Oh, and if you get a majority of the seats, then you essentially have absolute power until the next election.”
“Oh,” chipped in the other Canadian, “and he cheated in the last election. It was proved in court. But they didn’t overturn the result because they couldn’t prove that he won because he cheated.”
“That doesn’t sound like a very good system,” said the Norwegian.
“It’s really, really not,” we agreed. What followed was a lengthy litany of everything terrible that Harper had done to permanently screw up the country, and excoriation of his slobbering moron supporters.
So yeah; I don’t believe in celebrating countries just because I happened to be born in them. If I am to praise Canada again, then it will only be if Canada once again behaves in a praiseworthy fashion.
*Indeed, and accounts that I have read of appalling behaviour by gangs of drunken revellers have turned my stomach firmly against any overt displays of patriotism.
**Harper’s support amongst scientists is effectively nil. Which is fair enough when you consider that Harper’s support of scientists is also effectively nil.