Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Triumph of Cynicism

When historians tell the story of the Harper government, they will surely dwell on the fact that this prime minister was Cynicism personified. That cynicism was apparent again last week, when Mr. Harper had a supposedly freewheeling discussion with Canada's youth. When the event was over, one of the participants -- Raimey Gallant, a student at Winnipeg's Red River College -- revealed that questions had to be submitted to the Prime Minister's Office before the exchange took place.

Ms. Gallant had asked the Prime Minister,

In light of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the reluctance of the companies involved to accept responsibility, what new controls for oil drillers will the Canadian government put in place to reduce the risk of oil spills in Canadian waters and ensure the continuance of marine ecosystems and the sustainability of our fisheries?

Senator Mike Duffy -- who used to call himself a journalist before Mr. Harper appointed him to the Senate -- never asked the question. And two Quebec students, who wished to remain anonymous, insisted that, while Duffy posed the questions they had submitted, the questions themselves had been rewritten.

James Travers, a much better journalist that Duffy, noted in The Toronto Star that "keeping facts from ruining a slick story has been standard operating procedure in the four years since the Conservatives came to power promising a new era of truth and transparency. But even measured against that status quo, Harper's screening of questions from 120 university co-eds arches the eyebrows."

Mr. Harper insisted during the encounter that any concerns which were not related to the economy were, in his words, "a sideshow." Ms. Gallant was amazed at the Prime Minister's audacity. "The whole sideshow thing, I think that insulted me the most," she said. "I was really upset by that. I find it extremely insulting because we are Canadians, too, and these issues are important to us. If our Prime Minister thinks they are sideshows -- I mean this isn't a government of one."

Ah, but Ms. Gallant has hit the nail on the head. After all, this is the Prime Minister who -- when faced with a non confidence vote in the House -- and who -- when questioned about possible Canadian complicity in the torture of Afghan prisoners -- simply prorogued Parliament. Mr. Harper stands for two things: the acquisition and the exercise of power. All the rest is a sideshow.

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