Harper Re-election Plans Thrown for an Existential Loop

There seems to be a pretty widespread consensus now among news media observers and commentators that the real federal election campaign has begun, now that the last holiday weekend of the summer has come and gone.

So, eligible voters can start paying attention for a few weeks before exercising their most important democratic right, or not. If the trend in recent elections continues that will mean about 60 percent of us will vote in what may well be the most important election in Canada’s relatively short history.

So, what was that all about, those weeks since Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided a longer campaign was better than a shorter one?

Well, whatever the answer to that question is – and the getting the now-adjourned Mike Duffy trial bad news out of the way while people outside the news media bubble aren’t paying too much attention comes to my mischievous mind – the “best laid plans” of the Harper re-election plans have been thrown for an existential loop.

Ah, reality, what a pain it can be when all you want is for the pieces to fall into place in perfect, controlled order.

I’m not talking here about the somewhat bad economic news before the Labour Day Weekend, and Statistics Canada’s confirmation that the Canadian economy has been in a technical recession in the first six months of this year. That was easy enough to spin: a less than one percent drop in the GDP from April to June, after a less than one percent drop in the first quarter of 2015, wasn’t that bad. Besides, the economy actually grew a little in June, no need to panic, stay the course, all will be well.

But what’s almost universally, and misleadingly, called in the news media “the European migrant crisis,” now that’s a whole different matter.

It is not a European problem alone, of course. It’s a world problem, and in particular, a Canadian problem, and suddenly an election issue, with the Harper government facing criticism that this country’s response to the growing crisis in the past year or more has been insensitive and far from adequate. That’s putting it mildly.

Several European countries, mostly notably Germany and Sweden have opened their doors to far more migrant-refugees in response to the hundreds of thousands trying to escape the horrors of war and dire poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. They’re not all from Syria, far from it. But the terrible, civil war in Syria has displaced up to five million people, most of whom sought temporary refuge from the atrocities being committed by both sides in the war, including the Assad regime and the unspeakably brutal ISIS terrorists.

It’s a wave of human misery that hasn’t been seen since the end of the Second World War. Thousands of desperate refugees have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in rickety ships and boats. Many have been locked away with no chance of escape in the stinking holds of these vessels by despicable human smugglers.

How many children were already among them we’ll never know. That should have been enough; yet it took a photo of a drowned little boy lying face down in the sand of a Turkish beach to finally get the world’s attention. The death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, along with his brother Galib and mother Rehanna, also shined a spotlight of notoriety on the bureaucratic roadblocks the Canadian and Turkish governments have put in place that make it virtually impossible for many, if not most, of the refugee-migrants ever to be approved for entry into Canada. The Kurdi family fled Kobane, the Kurdish town in northern Syria near the border with Turkey. It was the sight of heavy fighting between Kurdish fighters and ISIS terrorists. As one commentator observed, under those circumstances, “you don’t have time to get your driver’s licence renewed” let alone apply for a passport.

Initial news reports said incorrectly the Kurdi family’s application for entry into Canada under a program that allows five sponsors to provide financial help was denied, prompting their desperate attempt to reach Greece from Turkey in a small, inflatable boat.

But it’s now known the family never applied after an Uncle’s application was turned down earlier because he lacked the required documentation.

Stephen Harper has said there has to be continued focus on the military action against ISIS, which includes Canadian fighter aircraft, to deal with the “root cause” of the problem.

He has also said Canada has to run security checks on refugee-migrant applicants to make sure terrorists who could pose a threat to this country aren’t among them.

That sounds sensible, and will no doubt go down well with people who would rather our country did not bring in more refugees, especially Muslims. I fear their are a lot of people who feel that way, including right here in our area.

Harper chose to turn down a call from Liberal leader Justin Trudeau for the three main party leaders to meet to discuss the refugee-migrant crisis and what more Canada could do. He, Harper, accused Trudeau of playing politics with the issue.

Who’s playing politics? There’s a lot more Canada could be doing, by devoting more money and other resources to speed up an approval process for refugee-migrants that currently takes many months, and that’s if they’ve got the now-necessary documents.

Or at least be big enough to overlook partisan politics and talk creatively about what more Canada could do.

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