Harper calls Canada a nation of defeatists,
defends remark about easterners
Alliance Leader Stephen Harper called
Canada a nation of defeatists on Wednesday as he defended his
remark that the woes of Atlantic Canada are linked to a
pervasive "can't-do" attitude. (CP /Ftred
OTTAWA (CP) - Alliance Leader Stephen Harper
called Canada a nation of defeatists on Wednesday as he defended his
remark that the woes of Atlantic Canada are linked to a pervasive
"can't-do" attitude. Harper said there is a "culture of defeat" not
just in the eastern provinces, but on the Canadian prairies and
among some Quebecers.
"In parts of the prairies we're increasingly
seeing similar views - there is no hope, there is no way forward,
and all we can do is kind of negotiate with the party in power," he
"I think any region where you have sustained
underdevelopment or lack of growth for a long period of time, this
starts to develop."
Harper then went one step further, calling defeatism a "general
problem" among Canadians.
"Generally the kind of can't-do attitude is a problem in this
country," he said.
"I think this whole country . . . should be
leapfrogging the United States and there's too many people in this
country think that we can't do it.
"This should be the wealthiest country in the world, not a
country with a living standard that's 25 per cent lower. So
obviously the growth and the attitudes that go with that are
different in some parts of the country than others, but it's a
Harper said he comes from an "eighth-generation Canadian family
that's left the Maritimes because there's no growth."
He argued Tuesday in a newspaper interview that his party's
biggest stumbling block to a breakthrough in Atlantic Canada was the
"can't-do attitude," fostered by years of federal transfer payments
and industry handouts.
Rather than toning down his argument Wednesday by expanding it,
Harper appeared to ratchet up the rhetoric, saying Atlantic
politicians outraged by his remarks don't understand their own
"Frankly, they're out of touch with their own people if they
don't think that there isn't a lot more that could be done to get
people more optimistic in that part of the country," he said.
"Atlantic Canada can be as wealthy as any other region but that
needs to be pursued agressively and we don't sit around waiting for
favours from government . . ."
He said the Alliance would put an end to federal handouts, and
that - combined with low taxation and less regulation - would help
"have-not" regions flourish.
Other federal leaders also jumped on the remarks Wednesday,
saying Harper was being irresponsible by perpetuating
"You know, the more things change, the more they stay the same
with the Alliance party," said NDP Leader Alexa McDonough.
"This is the real Stephen Harper who wanted to put up firewalls
around Alberta to keep those nasty eastern Canadians out because
we're ne'er-do-wells and we're lazy bums . . . They've
just got it dead wrong.
Tory Leader Joe Clark said the comments were uncalled for.
"It's just an irresponsible thing for a national political leader
to say," he said.
"Atlantic Canadians are not defeatist and certainly the people of
Saskatchewan are not. Mr. Harper, all of us, should be very careful
not to apply false caricatures to people or parts of the