The Harper government’s “enemy lists” are much ado about nothing new

In the wake of the Tory cabinet shuffle, there’s been great furore over “enemy lists.” The hullabaloo started with an e-mail from the PMO, prompting outgoing ministerial aides to apprise incoming staff of potentially adversarial stakeholders within their respective circles.

Opposition partisans have condemned the lists, keen to capitalize on the news cycle and yet another apparent fumble by the Harper regime. The revelation even prompted Peter Kent, the dispatched environment minister who may or may not have an axe to grind with his employer, to draw comparisons to Richard Nixon – the American president renowned for his “me against the world” disposition, even before Watergate.

The “e” word brings us pause, even perturbation, as it ought to. “Enemy” conveys a sinister message, an indication that opponents and critics of the Tory agenda are now more than just citizens whose opinions differ from those of the regime. Enmity entails that the discord between cabinet and its adversaries is intractable, beyond the pale of discussion or reconsideration, let alone compromise. Indeed, the underlying notion is that the federal administration is unwilling to acknowledge the concerns of its detractors as it relentlessly pursues its own designs.

In other words, business as usual will resume for Harper and his cronies.

Mature, sensible folk reserve the word “enemy” only for the most extreme cases, or for use in the context of war. That stated, the comportment of the Harper regime toward its critics suggests the opposite of maturity and prudence: an implacable hard-headedness, combined with a childish, wonton haste to burn bridges.

Though we don’t know whose names appear on the enemy lists, we can probably infer the identity of some. Begin by listing those the regime has derided or called names. Obvious suspects include the Sierra Club of Canada, David Suzuki and his Foundation, and an estranged former partner of the regime in Tides Canada, all consigned to the category of “foreign-funded radicals” or “environmental extremists.” Even more ominous is the moniker applied to Greenpeace: “eco-terrorists.”

Add to the roster civil libertarians, who stood “with the child pornographers” in their insolent efforts to safeguard the privacy of Canadians from official intrusion, a right supposedly guaranteed in the Charter.

Scroll down a bit further, and you’re liable to find First Nations advocacy organizations from whom the Harper regime has slashed funding, along with the Association of First Nations Chiefs. (Although National Chief Shawn Atleo, known to inspire flourishes of intense nonchalance, possibly appears on the “frenemy” list.)

The CBC, that ulcer in the wretched gut of what Sun TV pundits call the “media party,” is locked in the Harper regime’s crosshairs. And although it prides itself on a level of non-partisan neutrality that borders on obsessive-compulsive, its presence on the enemy list would come as a surprise to few. And on the subject of media, environmental reporters like Mike D’Souza, whose work unavoidably irks Harper et al., could expect to find their names displayed prominently on that vast index – perhaps even underlined, in bold font and bordered by asterisks.

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence and fellow First Nations leaders, Idle No More activists, union members – including striking diplomatic staff, muzzled federal scientists, and frustrated former allies like Brent Rathgeber who abandoned the government precisely because of its intolerance for dissent, all assuredly have special places reserved for them.

But even if the Tories’ lengthy register of nemeses were to surface next week, a place on the list hardly seems cause for alarm, much less shame. Indeed, millions of Canadians would rejoice at their presence thereupon, taking it as a sign that they were doing something right. On the other hand, among those whose names have been omitted, more than a few might feel a bit miffed – snubbed, as it were.

But take heart, fellow enemies. Surely your exclusion owes to a clerical error by a careless junior staffer somewhere – nothing more.

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