This past Easter Sunday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Burnaby in one more stop on the campaign trail. It sounds wonderful that the Prime Minister visited our town, listened to the people and will take this back to Ottawa with him. Wrong.
Harper’s campaign is so scripted this event could have taken place at any city in the country. It seems in Canada, a successful campaign is a campaign of low-risk, lowest-common-denominator, fear-mongering, flat rhetoric – a campaign that doesn’t take the time to interact with local voters and answer real questions. With a well-honed speech, Harper touched on the religious themes of the holiday and spoke English and French to a group largely made up of Chinese-Canadians. Sure, Ronald Leung, the Conservative candidate in the nearby Burnaby North riding introduced Harper, but apart from this, Harper had next to nothing to identify with the local electorate.
And after about 10-15 minutes, Harper was done. No questions allowed from the press – just a very contrived, very fake “photo op.”
This raises serious questions about the state of democracy in Canada. It’s a grave situation when an elected Member of Parliament refuses to field questions from the national press – the watch-dog role the media so importantly plays is under threat. It’s not some dictatorial government, Stasi-esque, conspiracy to silence opposition – it’s a willingness to put faith in ignorance and false contrivances engineered by the Harper government on the part of the electorate that is so frightening. It’s under threat from hockey and false nationalism – a faith in stealth fighters and taking credit for long-established economic policy as standing for a strong Canada. This is the first government in Canada to be found in contempt of Parliament and there is still reasonable talk of a Harper majority.
This Easter event seemed to underscore the dangers of such a majority. Elect Harper to a majority and you’ll be fed more empty doublespeak. More partisan skewing of costs. More disrespect of the conventions of Canadian democracy. More “photo-ops” where the Prime Minister of Canada will not even stand to take honest questions meant to inform those who pay the salaries of public servants.