On a wall in my kitchen is a calendar with a glimpse into history.
It’s a Toronto Star calendar, a nice Christmas gift that offers a dozen front pages through the past century from Canada’s largest’s newspaper.
This month’s front page is from March 2, 1980, and is dominated by headlines devoted to the mortgage-rate crisis in Canada. Homeowners renewing are faced with rates of 14.5 per cent, much higher, the Star notes, than at the beginning of the term, when they secured a rate “as low as nine per cent.”
Aside from marvelling at those six words together in a conversation on mortgage rates — “as low as nine per cent” — the story is instructive in how it refers to the federal government of the day.
The story refers to “the Trudeau government” when discussing what the incoming administration might do to help homeowners.
That’s 31 years ago that the pre-eminent newspaper in the country was referring to the government of the day as “the Trudeau government.”
Today, the Harper government has taken a lot of criticism for apparently seeking to remind people who is in charge. The Canadian Press reported last week that public servants were told to replace “government of Canada” with “the Harper government” in federal communications.
Seems like much ad-O about nothing, though the usual suspects were quick to demonize the Harper government for the sin of saying it is the Harper government.
Of course, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff claims, in a radio ad, to be “profoundly shocked,” claiming “the government of Canada is not the government of Mr. Harper, it’s the government of citizens, the government of all the citizens of Canada.”
Well, yes, it is that. And more.
Yes, the government of Canada is the government of all the citizens of Canada. And, yes, the government of Canada is, at this very moment, also the government of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
Regardless of how you label it, the fact is “the Harper government” is indeed the government of Canada – just as we have lived through “the Martin government” and “the Chrétien government” and “the Mulroney government”.
Perhaps Harper’s party has gone a bit further than its predecessors in this political rebranding exercise, but the prime minister is in a minority government situation and there is much talk of a pending election.
Anything to link his government with his party is Marketing 101.
Rather than add to the predictable torrent of Harper-bashing missives, Harper haters might do well to embrace this bit of sloganeering hubris.
After all, how sweet is it for opponents of Harper to know his name will be tied more directly to any number of bad policy decisions and scandals?
• It is “the Harper government” that continues to mimic the failed Ronald Reagan-era War On Drugs and refuses to see the indisputable link between prohibition and crime/violence.
• Four high-ranking team members of “the Harper government” have been charged under the Elections Act with offences relating to campaign spending in the 2006 federal election.
• It was “the Harper government” that dictated to B.C. the limit on the percentage of items that could remain exempt from a portion of the new harmonized sales tax. As a result, it was “the Harper government” that largely made the decision to increase the cost of a whopping 20 per cent of all taxable goods in B.C. under the hated HST.
• It is “the Harper government” that has refused to take appropriate action on Minister of International Co-operation Bev Oda’s blatant cover-up on a funding decision.
Yes, these poor decisions were made on behalf of “the government of Canada”, but they were enacted by “the Harper government”.
If the federal Liberals had an ounce of public-relations savvy – and it is doubtful they do, based on their response to date to all manner of perceived Conservative sins – they would echo “the Harper government” in heralding “the Harper government” for all to hear.
Christopher Foulds is editor of
Kamloops This Week, a
Black Press affiliate.