Canada PM Harper’s poli­cies are bor­der­line racist, says ex-premier


A for­mer con­ser­va­tive premier of a Cana­dian province said Mon­day that Con­ser­va­tive Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper is “bad for the coun­try” be­cause some of his poli­cies are bor­der­line racist.

Ex- New­found­land and Labrador Premier Danny Wil­liams urged Con­ser­va­tives not to vote for Harper, who has made the Is­lamic face veil a fo­cus of the Oct. 19 elec­tion. Harper’s gov­ern­ment lost an at­tempt to ban the prac­tice of wear­ing the niqab while swear­ing the cit­i­zen­ship oath. It lost an ap­peal Mon­day to have the de­ci­sion de­layed while it ap­peals to the Supreme Court.

Just two women out of more than 650,000 peo­ple have cho­sen not to pro­ceed to the cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­mony based on the re­quire­ment to re­move their face cov­er­ings.

“Two women have been in that sit­u­a­tion. Why is that a na­tional is­sue?” Wil­liams said in an in­ter­view with the Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing Corp.

The Harper gov­ern­ment also said last week it would cre­ate a phone line for Cana­di­ans to re­port those en­gaged in “bar­baric cul­tural prac­tices” such as early and forced mar­riages. Op­po­si­tion lead­ers have de­nounced in­ject­ing re­li­gion into the elec­tion cam­paign. Con­ser­va­tives are “are play­ing with fire, and peo­ple are go­ing to get hurt, Gerald Butts, a close ad­viser to op­po­si­tion Lib­eral leader Justin Trudeau, tweeted last week.

Wil­liams said Harper is pit­ting Cana­di­ans against each other and said the prime min­is­ter “doesn’t care if he pos­si­bly crosses that racism line.”

“It’s all about get­ting elected at the end of the day. If that’s the price we have to pay in or­der to have Stephen Harper as our prime min­is­ter then we should not vote for Stephen Harper,” Wil­liams said.

“If pro­gres­sive con­ser­va­tives out there like my­self who feel they should vote con­ser­va­tive, and you can’t vote Lib­eral or New Demo­crat, then don’t vote for him, don’t vote at all, be­cause he’s bad for the coun­try.”

A spokesman for Harper didn’t im­me­di­ately pro­vide com­ment.

Wil­liams, an out­spo­ken and pop­u­lar pro­vin­cial premier dur­ing his ten­ure from 2003 to 2010, pre­vi­ously had an is­sue with Harper over money for his province and urged peo­ple in New­found­land to vote any­body but Con­ser­va­tive in the 2008 elec­tion. Not one Harper Con­ser­va­tive won re- elec­tion in the At­lantic coast province.

Polls say the Oct. 19 elec­tion is turn­ing into a two- way race af­ter be­ing dead­locked three ways for a month. Ac­cord­ing to the CTV/ Globe and Mail/ Nanos Nightly Track­ing Poll, the Lib­er­als are at 35.6 per­cent, fol­lowed by the Con­ser­va­tives at 31 per­cent. The New Democrats, whose base of sup­port has tum­bled in the French- speak­ing province of Que­bec where the niqab is­sue is a hot topic, are at 22.9 per­cent. The mar­gin of er­ror for the sur­vey of 1,200 re­spon­dents is 2.8 per­cent­age points.

Nel­son Wise­man, a Univer­sity of Toronto po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor, called Harper’s em­pha­sis on the niqab and bar­baric cul­tural prac­tices shame­ful but said if any­thing it gains him votes.

“It is a mat­ter of the end jus­ti­fy­ing the means for him,” Wise­man said. “The sto­ries of a few weeks ago about his cal­lous­ness re­gard­ing the refugee/ mi­grant is­sue didn’t hurt him in the polls and he must fig­ure this won’t ei­ther, that in­deed it will im­prove his party’s stand­ing. The Con­ser­va­tives have dou­bled their sup­port in Que­bec since the cam­paign be­gan and I ex­pect them to win more seats there.”

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