Official_photo_-_Headshot_-_2010The difference between these public responses to Morgentaler’s death speak volumes about the qualities of leadership on the Canadian political scene.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Morgentaler’s contributions “to a fair society” have been felt worldwide.

“Our country has lost a man of great courage, conviction and personal bravery,” she said in a statement.

“Due in large part to his efforts and advocacy, women in Ontario and across Canada have the right to control their reproductive choices. Although the path he chose was not easy, he dedicated himself to ensuring that women had access to safe medical abortions.”

steven-harperBut our fearless federal leader declined to comment! No matter what his personal ethical stand on abortion may be, no matter what old issues he is afraid of stirring up, the lack of response is appalling.  Cowardly. Rude. Amateurish. Unstatemanslike. Unworthy of the “leader” of our nation.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however, remained silent on the issue. His spokesperson said Harper’s office would have no comment on Morgentaler’s death.

Perhaps he is too busy chasing down senators who have cheated on their expense account!

At the very least, Harper could have acknowledged that a man of great integrity has died… one who had the foresight and courage to challenge what he perceived as injustice, to suffer the risks and indignities that followed, to eventually change the law and its social consequences. In other words, a man with the kind of leadership qualities our great nation needs and deserves, but rarely sees.

But then, we have known about this for a long time… Here is an 2011 article by musician Anton Kuerti. Strong words!

anton_kuerti croppedThe majority of Canadians do not like the ideological trappings of Steven Harper, his snide, evasive demeanor, his dictatorial domination of every policy matter, his disdain for environmental concerns, his hatred of the CBC, his disinterest in the arts (except when they can get him a useful photo-op or sound bite), his servile, thoughtless support of anything the U.S. does, his merciless and distorted attacks on his opponents, nor his self-serving anger at the idea of a coalition forming Canada’s next government.

Indeed, the majority of Canadians are appalled by his policies, his tactics and his character. So why can we not call the tune, when we are in fact paying the piper?

It is a tragedy that those of us who have so much in common, philosophically, are unable to unite to defeat this embarrassment to Canada. If only the NDP, left-leaning Liberals, the Green Party, those who support the Council of Canadians or Mel Hurtig, and even the good old-fashioned Red Tories would join together, we could put together a whopping majority, perhaps even approaching the scale of the 1993 election, in which the Tories were left with only two seats in the House! If this is unrealistic due to petty ambitions, jealousies and fanatical party attachments, then why should a coalition of these groups and individuals be anathema? That would be legitimate majority rule, not a fraudulent majority based on perhaps 35% of the votes cast, the result of our utterly undemocratic voting system.

How can we tolerate the continuation of a system in which, for example, the NDP got 17.5% of the vote but only 12% of the seats, and the Green Party got 7% of the votes and 0% of the seats? On the other hand, the Bloc Québecois, concentrated in one area, got 10.5% of the vote but won 17% of the seats. And those figures ignore the fact that considerably more voters would have chosen these parties if they did not assume they would be wasting their votes on candidates who had no chance of being elected, and thereby helping elect the Conservatives.

Among the multitude of embarrassments Prime Minister Harper has imposed on Canada, perhaps the one that best exposes his perverted ideology and tactics is the appointment of a creationist and chiropractor as our Minister for Science and Technology. This would be amusing in a comedy act, but it is a sad testament to his contempt – not only for Parliament – but also for science and rational thought. Or perhaps that embarrassment is in a tie with his support for the Afghan war, his insistence on buying hugely over-priced F-35 fighters from the U.S. – without engines, even! – or lowering corporate taxes (which by the way does not create any jobs worth mentioning), or making a laughing-stock of Canada at the climate change conferences.

We desperately need to put an end to this constellation, which borders far too closely on the ignorant mania of the Tea Party phenomenon south of our border. I strongly support Project Democracy which is helping voters make an informed choice as to which candidate in each riding is most likely to defeat Harper’s candidate. Good luck Canada, we need it!

Anton Kuerti

Pianist Anton Kuerti is one of Canada’s most prominent classical musicians. He has performed in recital and with leading orchestras in 40 countries. In Canada he has appeared in 140 communities, and played with every professional orchestra, including 43 concerts with the Toronto Symphony. A critic for ‘Fanfare’ wrote simply that “Kuerti is the best pianist currently playing”. Kuerti is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has received numerous honourary degrees and awards, including the Governor General’s Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award. He has been active in many social and political causes; in 1988 he was an NDP candidate for Parliament.

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