Tom Flanagan, one of Stephen Harper’s closest advisors and three-time national campaign manager, is currently doing publicity for his new “insider’s” book on Harper’s government and rise to power.
If equality-seeking groups are paying any attention to Flanagan, it is unlikely they are doing so for political advice. Yet recently Flanagan, on CBC Radio’s The House, provided such groups, including progressive women’s organizations, with some of the most useful insights on how to advance an equality agenda and a women’s agenda under the Harper government.
Flanagan calls funding cuts to Status of Women Canada and the elimination of the Court Challenges Program a “nice step,” asserting without equivocation that Conservatives will “defund” all equality-seeking groups – with feminists at the top of the list. He goes further, clarifying that Conservatives also plan to choke-off these groups’ supposedly privileged access to government by, for example, denying “meetings with ministers.” But for strategic reasons, Flanagan notes, this will all happen incrementally. To avoid the perception of mean-spirited retribution, he says, “incrementalism is the way to go.”
For example, the Conservatives decisively eliminated the budget for NAWL (National Association of Women and the Law) and with this move eliminated its effective and focused policy-based campaigns for such issues as pay equity, legal aid, and economic rights. Yet groups that may be perceived to have a more nebulous or international focus remain funded (for now) in the government’s Status of Women budgets. Groups like this need to interrogate their own role in facilitating the death by a thousand cuts that Harper is perpetrating on equality-seeking groups – those of us that Flanagan calls client organizations or “Liberal outrider organizations.”
Equality advocates have a distinct choice to make here between being incremental and being oppositional, which in the current context means being effective. To make this choice wisely, women’s organizations should take a further cue from Flanagan by playing strategically. Stop being the nice guy, so to speak.
The article has a lot more details about the authors suggestions for how women’s groups need to combat Harper’s strategies. Read it!
P.S. After publishing this post I realized that there was something that I forgot to add. Ah, yes…. They can take away our funding but they can’t take away our feminisms! (and the political pie will wind up on their face!). That was my idea of a war cry. Let it reverberate through the blog0sphere!