Monday, January 24, 2011

A fitting 5 year speech

Well, what is there to say about the big speech yesterday? Maybe just a few things. Principally, the event seemed perfectly emblematic of this 5 year-old government. Emblematic in that it was big on the presentation, executed to a T and yet not so big on the substance. The substance is usually a secondary consideration to the stage management, messaging or electoral considerations with this government and yesterday seemed no different.

The event was overwhelmed by the visual of the huge flag Mr. Harper sought to wrap himself in. There was the uncomfortable and sudden introduction into the Harper repertoire of the walkabout, like it was a new dance move he'd just learned, leading media in attendance to note it:
At one point he left the podium to introduce individuals seated behind him who he said had benefited from his different policies, including a working mother and father, an income-splitting retired couple and a small-business owner.
Why, oh why, would he be doing that now?

In terms of the tone employed, it was a banner day of the Harper character shining through. There were the petty shots at Liberals of years ago - sponsorship, beer and popcorn - that obviously still drive the Prime Ministerial mind. There was, significantly, an implicit lashing out at others' patriotism, underscoring the theme he's just deployed in his latest personal attack ads: "...why do we do it? ... We are here because we love Canada ... Canada is and always has been our country." If you stop and think about that line, it's really something. People probably glossed over it as a throwaway patriotic line. But it was inherently exclusionary. They, Conservatives, are in public service because they love Canada and Canada is and always has been their country. People at home probably heard it as a broader appeal to all Canadians. But it was said in the context of Conservatives doing public service. Those who have been "outside," by implication, and we all know who that is, do not love their country as much. Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, as they say. There was also a Nixonian styled silent majority type reference to the "quiet people" of Canada, to top off the tone.

In terms of the substance, he really didn't veer much beyond the usual. No future goals or initiatives in sight, except of course the old standbys of Senate reform and abolition of the long gun registry. Not complaining, really, about the Prime Minister missing an opportunity to seize the initiative in front of a national audience and media and lay out a new round of compelling anythings. Really. Miss away, Mr. Harper.

The new stuff is likely to come in a budget, since everything seems to come in the budget during the Harper era. Holding his cards for a bit longer before he lets Canadians know if we will be having an election or not. Undoubtedly, he knows what's in the cards election-wise. The big film effort wasn't for nada ("...the entire event was filmed by a sophisticated camera attached to a crane, which swooped around room like a big black bird, variously zooming in on Harper and flag-waving members of the audience.")

There was likely another election related indicator yesterday as well. Pierre Karl Peladeau's Sunday night announcement in Quebec City of Quebecor's intent to put in tens of millions to the Quebec City arena likely green lights a federal contribution, with all the political hay to be made in the Quebec City region for Conservatives out of it. The Peladeau announcement received a ready and positive response from the Quebec Harper Minister, Paradis, nicely bookending Harper's political day. Surely that nifty timing was just a coincidence and not a muscular signal to the other parties of ducks lining up in a row.

All in all, just another day in Harperland.