Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Getting played

The political expediency a given moment requires is all:
In the middle of the federal election campaign a year ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, smarting over criticism of his government's cuts to funding for the arts, snarled at a Saskatoon audience:

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people at, you know, a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough, when they know those subsidies have actually gone up – I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people."

Last weekend, in an appearance apparently orchestrated by his wife, Laureen, Harper took the stage at a gala at Ottawa's National Arts Centre to benefit youth in the performing arts. Accompanied by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Harper played a grand piano and sang a Beatles tune (With a Little Help from my Friends). He got a standing ovation from the same kind of gala-going people he had slagged a year ago. And, more to the point, he was rewarded with front page photos and fawning coverage in newspapers across the land.

Which is the real Stephen Harper?
That's a good question. Some of us have our guesses at the ready. But at the very least we know that it is the one whose wife coincidentally started arranging this all about a month ago...when it was well known that a confidence vote would be occurring the first week of October. And a month ago, it wasn't so certain that there'd be no election. The first weekend of a fall election campaign could very well have been kicked off with the Harper piano playing gambit.

Yes sir, it was an amazing little bit of timing on this total surprise performance.