[Steven]Harper’s Revenge: Toronto and the G20 Summit

The lead up to the G20 meeting in Toronto was a series of puzzles to many onlookers: one, why locate the G20 meeting in the country’ largest city and in its congested city core at that? Two, why spend $1 billion to do so? Three, why alienate a decent law abiding and responsible citizenry with overwhelming policing force?
The only local beneficiaries of this largesse of Harper’s fiscal generosity seemed to the city’s Police Force, regional Policing Forces, RCMP, CSIS and the other peripheral elements of the nation’s policing complex like private Security Guards and the Canadian military in the provision of extra manpower for the occasion.
Lost in interpretation of this scenario was the obvious need to protect World leaders once invited to the country, for should harm befall them questions would be raised as to why no expense was spared in protecting them; and if no harm befell them then any expense was worth it to protect them and Canada’s international reputation.
Haunting this evaluation of Harper’s actions however is the why question, for Canada is a huge country—the second largest country in the world, after Russia, in terms of physical size according to the CIA Factbook– with many adequate locations where protections of such leaders could have been conducted with greater ease and lower cost; with cost efficiencies the cause célèbre of the neoliberal handbook of political strategy.
In ignoring cost and choosing Toronto as the most appropriate location for the G20 meeting Harper deviated much from his party’s mandate of fiscal responsibility and responsible government. $1 billion in G20 cost saw to that.
When the why question is asked Harper’s choice of actions reveal political behavior that neoconservatives by no means have a monopoly in practicing: political revenge.
Harper permitted the G20 meeting in Toronto to punitively demonstrate to urban Reform Party hating Toronto they will not escape the smell and fist of his power. He rules Canada; and, therefore, by extension, Toronto.
For the Reform Party and Steven Harper, Toronto, is a most disobedient and politically indifferent city to its Federal authority able to live independently because economically rich, economically diverse and internationally linked. It lives as if Federal authority is a paper fiction and not a political reality in its day to day life. It therefore had to be brought to heel, symbolically, to know the limits of its independence. What better way to so do than to take control of the city through full Federal rule under the perfectly legitimate guise of protecting World leaders for the Group of 20 economically leading countries.
How can a Federal take-over of the country’s largest city be seen as a Reform Party coup when the massive investment in policing manpower and telecommunications surveillance took place in the name of securing World leaders from harm?
Toronto’s cosmopolitanism and entrenched liberalism (small “l” liberalism) which has been emitting disdain for Harper and the Reform Party by simply not electing any of its candidates in the several federal elections the country has witnessed since Reform was formed out of the debris of the Progressive Conservative Party and Preston Manning’s Reform Party, must be taught a lesson in subservience. If it chose not to bow voluntarily it will be forced to bow by force: hence G20 in Toronto and the massive demonstration of police force and paramilitary authoritarianism.
Harper seems to be saying, scorn me at your peril. Reform rules, baby! Smell it. Eat it. Feel it.

The infantile, testosterone fuelled, egotistical aggression, of such a declaration was partnered by the policing authorities assigned to implement Harper’s strategy of contempt for the city and its Reform scorning multitudes.
Reeling from a series of media friendly calamities Canada’s policing bodies have in their conduct demonstrated a substantial deviation from the popularly held assumptions of good character and fair judgment that has been their social capital for generations. They now find themselves mistrusted, called racists, Islamophobists (meaning: they scorn Islam and Muslims), drug dealers and drug thieves, fraudulent, and anti-democratic. There exists alternative, competing, interpretations of their conduct in many sectors of the public; the public is no longer of one mind about the “Police” as the recent fall out over the killing of Robert Dziekanski, at the hands of four RCMP officers, October 14th, 2007, at Vancouver International Airport, revealed. The scenario worsens when we add the Air India Inquiry Report of ex-Superior Court Judge, John Major, presented to the public, 17th, June 2010, where he found the Federal Government, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Security and Intelligence Service were complicit in allowing the bombing of the Air India plane, June 23rd, 1985, to take place.
Canada’s “Police” needed a face saving boost to their public image and G20 was the perfect fit. They got to demonstrate to the public their “hard power” skills-(which need no explanation)-and “soft power” skills like mastery of new telecommunications technologies that monitor cell phone conversations and even close them down altogether, in service the national interest.
In addition, Canada’s Policing authorities in historically suffering from a constitutional inferiority complex vis a vis their American counterparts saw in policing G20 a source of redemption. It gave them an opportunity to run their very own anti-terrorist show and illustrate, in the boy’s club way that matters in such a community, that Canadian Police can do anti-terrorist policing too: there is more to being white and Canadian than ice hockey
Harper’s revenge and the Police’s desire to gloat before their American counterparts were two agendas that met, mutually reinforced and mutually fulfilled each other’s expectations. This explains the extravagant cost and lockdown of the downtown core of the country’s largest city: ego made policy.

Charles Simon-Aaron
University of Malaya

906 words

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