Editorial: While we remember, Harper forgets

By Gauntlet Editorial Board

Since seizing majority power in May, 2011, prime minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government have been leading our nation down a dangerous path. They have enacted a campaign whereby the image of Canada, its symbols and heritage, have received immense support, but the living, functioning substance of our nation is being viciously sacrificed on the neo-liberal altar. The latest victim of this ritualistic slaughter is Remembrance Day.

At the start of this month, the Harper government announced that they intend to cut $226 million from Veterans Affairs Canada, and that the program could expect a cut of an additional $175 to $350 million next year. Elderly veterans and those returning from missions in Afghanistan– both in need of care or support– are watching helplessly as their safety net evaporates beneath them. Reconcile the amount being cut from Veterans Affairs with the $9.62 billion that the Harper government intends to spend on buying a fleet of 65 effectively-defunct stealth fighter jets– not to mention the $375 million annual cost in maintenance a year, per aircraft. Initially the Harper government told parliament that the jets would cost $75 million a piece, but leaked information from the Pentagon showed that the jets will cost $148 million a piece. The Harper government, thanks to an election, has not had to set the record straight in parliament. Furthermore, it is said that the jets won’t even be capable of patrolling our arctic regions, as they cannot fuel mid-air and are thus incapable of traveling the long distances required to reach and patrol the high north. Patrolling the Arctic was Harper’s main justification for deciding to purchase war jets in the first place. So, why is our government spending $29.3 billion (including purchasing cost and maintenance over a 30-year span) on incapable war planes? Does Canada face possible military conflict, of which the Harper government has conveniently not yet informed us of yet?

In addition to the needless beefing-up of Canada’s airforce and the strangling of the very men and women in the military service, the Harper government has decided to spend $28 million playing with antique toy soldiers– celebrations of the 200 year anniversary of the War of 1812. The people who fought and died in the conflict between the young America and a swollen Great Britain, particularly the uncountable nameless aboriginals embroiled in the struggle, definitely need to be remembered and respected. But the Harper government is neither remembering nor respecting those who were involved in the War of 1812, but rather Harper is attempting to construct a warrior-type image of Canada. Why does a long-past colonial conflict, which ended without victory for either party, deserve more attention than the needs of our current veterans?

Critical social programs and institutions such as Veterans Affairs, Environment Canada and possibly soon the Canadian Wheat Board are being sacrificed while chest-thumping, military-obsessed image programs are being given all sorts of funding. It seems that Harper’s government is more concerned with Canada’s image (because in the sales world, image is everything), rather than caring about its people and their well-being.