Sunday, June 21, 2015

Seizing Canada's Moment Requires a Vision Not Talking Points from the PMO

By Michael J Morris

When I first saw the title of one of the Harper  government's Speeches from the Throne, I chuckled and thought to myself, they gotta be kidding.

But sure enough, they had entitled it, 'Seizing Canada's Moment: Security and Prosperity in an Uncertain World'.

Seizing Canada's Moment? Come now. Canada has had many great moments since confederation in 1867, and to even suggest that now is "the moment" in our nation's history is ludicrous and the height of arrogance by the Harper government. And for good measure, somehow this government wants us to believe it is going to provide "security and prosperity in an uncertain world." Talk about mixing metaphors. 

The world is always an uncertain place, and Canadians have met the challenges in the past -- for example, in two world wars in the 20th century, the Great Depression and the potential breakup of the country when separatist forces grew strong in the province of Quebec.

The country has also produced Great Canadians who have proven equal to the challenges at home and abroad.

It struck me that perhaps the Throne Speech writers in the Prime Minister's Office really wanted to encourage Canadians to trust them to carpe diem on their behalf.  I looked up carpe diem on Google and as most know it comes from Latin, meaning "seize the day". 

It added that the phrase is used to as a motivation for people to just seize the day, to stop messing around, and to live life on the edge.

If the Harperites had really wanted to seize Canada's moment they would have  come clean on the Senate scandals, and they would have their let Members of Parliament speak without talking points from the PMO. The Harper years have been nothing more or less that government by talking points.

They have messed around with our parliamentary democracy, with a prime minister more interested in  travelling the world for photo ops.

I have been a student of Canadian politics for more than half a century now, and just in case anyone thinks I am into Tory bashing, not so, but I am concerned that we are at least on the edge of witnessing the truth of the dictum attributed to Lord Acton that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".  If Harper is re-elected my greatest fear is for my country.

In 1958, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, a Progressive Conservative, with very little resemblance in my view to the Harper brand, said during the election campaign in a nationwide speech said his program was for a united Canada, for one Canada, for Canada first, in every aspect of our political and public life, for the welfare of the average man and woman. That is my approach to public affairs and has been throughout my life ... A Canada, united from Coast to Coast, wherein there will be freedom for the individual, freedom of enterprise and where there will be a Government which, in all its actions, will remain the servant and not the master of the people."  

Indeed, that is my idea of seizing Canada's moment -- where there will be a government, which, in all its actions, will remain the servant and not the master of the people.

I was a young newspaper reporter in Toronto for part of the Diefenbaker years and covered a press conference he gave in the Royal York Hotel. He strode into the room and immediately the hard bitten reporters of the day rose in unison as "The Chief" strode to the front and took his place at the podium. For the next hour he answered questions without notes, and certainly none of them were vetted beforehand. It is difficult today to get the present prime minister to answer even one question.

Mr. Diefenbaker also presented a vision for Canada with a focus on the north calling for "A new vision. A new hope. A new soul for Canada." That's seizing Canada's moment.

Perhaps the present prime minister truly believes that part of seizing Canada's moment includes bashing the United Nations, other nations, and telling the president of the United States, Barack Obama, that he wouldn't take no for an answer on the Keystone pipeline project. 

Methinks his comments have been strictly to try and gain political points with certain voting blocs in Canada, and appeal to the "Tea Party" branch of his party in Canada by showing he is a tough guy who can handle the U.S. President. 

In reading the international press recently, it seems like Canada has become a bit of a joke over the rants from the prime minister. 

Another Canadian prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, when he was secretary of state for external affairs, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the work he did in resolving the Suez Crisis of 1957 through the United Nations. The Nobel committee in its presentation said that Mr.. Pearson had "saved the world."  

Seizing Canada's moment and giving Canadians security and prosperity in an uncertain world was the promise of the Harper government. Looking at that Throne Speech it seemed more like a hodge podge of talking points more designed to launch the 2015 federal election campaign than provide a vision for a Canada all of us deserve in which government once again is the servant not the master.  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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