This column is about a tent.
Yes, a tent. Mind you, the tent isn’t real. It is a fake tent. But, lately, a lot of writers have been penning columns about this phantom tent.
They’ve ever so fondly been remembering this imaginary tent and the guy who allegedly put it up and wondering why, oh why, so many other Canadians have forgotten about it. This, despite the fact that the tent never existed. Curious, that.
They claim the tent was put up by Stephen Harper. That’s right. Him. Apparently, Harper erected his tent while he was prime minister and it spanned the breadth of Canada — metaphorically speaking, of course.
No, I’m not kidding. If you don’t want to take my word for it, you can look up the columns in the familiar places; I’m not going to link to the nostalgic tripe to spare your synapses the damage mine have had to endure.
These scribes insist that after Harper put up his tent, he hung a large, neon-bright “welcome” sign outside, inviting all sorts of people from across Canada and the world to join him inside his tent.
If possible, try to picture the scene: Harper standing outside his tent, smiling, beckoning for everyone to come on in and bunk with his litter of disciples — Kellie Leitch, Jason Kenney, Rob Nicholson, Steven Blaney, Joe Oliver, Chris Alexander, Michelle Rempel, Candice Bergen, Pierre Poilievre and the rest of the happy, Rebel Media–loving gang, while Tony Clement pulls out his guitar to lead everyone in an off-key rendition of “Kumbaya.”
How’s that for a disturbing piece of revisionist history and an invitation into a living hell — in a tent, to boot?
Still, that’s what these suddenly sentimental writers want us to believe Harper did for nine years as prime minister. If you put up a tent, they will come.
This is the risible myth of Harper as Mr. Inclusive, working like a benevolent shepherd to broaden the Conservative base and welcome Canadians of different faiths, ethnicities, and political and sexual orientations into his big, comfy tent.
Now, on the rare occasions that I think about the forgettable sod, I don’t remember Harper as the kind of guy who was that interested in putting up a tent and extending a gracious hand to anyone outside of his surly, pusillanimous band of philosophical dwarfs.
Harper — if my memory serves, at least — was a paranoid sort of guy who was much more interested in, and adept at, tearing down tents and pitting Canadians against one another while he accrued the ephemeral political dividends of his malevolent, myopic handiwork.
It turns out we’ve all been wrong, or perhaps our memories have been distorted by a persistent case of Harper derangement syndrome. According to these writers, Harper was tantamount to a sweet, misunderstood boy scout leader who was a uniter, not a cynical, master divider. You know, a big tent sort of fella.
And if Harper were still Conservative leader, the lunatic thinking goes, he would likely put all the weight of his munificent, tent-building impulses behind a Liberal MP’s motion to condemn Islamophobia in the aftermath of the slaughter of six Muslim Canadians at prayer in a Quebec City mosque because he was, get this, a champion of inclusiveness, not divisiveness. Right.
Remember, this is the same boy scout leader who barred 100 injured Palestinian kids from his tent, where they would have received the medical help they desperately needed, simply because they hailed from Gaza.
This is the same boy scout leader who said that the only people he really wanted inside his tent were “old-stock Canadians.”
This is the same boy scout leader who approved a “tip line” so Canadians could snitch on one another to get those “barbaric” Muslims booted out of his tent.
This is the same boy scout leader who wanted some Canadian women to rip off their niqabs as the price of admission to his tent.
This is the same boy scout leader who tarred The National Council of Canadian Muslims as terrorist sympathizers so he could also bar them from his tent.
This is the same boy scout leader who fished out the likes of Leitch and company from the cesspool of Islamophobia and political obscurity, and put her into cabinet and onto the national stage where she is now vying for his old job.
So, revisionists, this is the historical record. Harper has never put up a tent. Instead, he put up a wall, long before Donald Trump arrived to scar and mar the political landscape. Harper’s defining legacy was to show Trump a blueprint of how to build walls on a toxic foundation of ignorance, fear and intolerance.
The crop of Conservative leadership candidates isn’t rejecting Harper’s sinister governing ethos. They’re embracing it; hence, their near unanimous rejection of Motion 103.
They’re a tangible extension of what Harper is: a small, insular man, who always chose hate over love, suspicion over trust, retribution over grace.
The extremist “fringe” hasn’t just taken over the Conservative Party. Stephen Harper spent his career ensuring that it was the signature essence of his ugly party.
Big tent, my ass.