Allan Fotheringham claimed that Ottawa was the town that fun forgot. That was certainly true during the Harper years. Michael Harris writes:
During Harper’s tenure, 24 Sussex looked more like a monastery or a morgue most nights. It was as if everyone in the house was in the basement grooming cats. Steve was not into entertaining. When he did hold court at home, you only got in if you could prove you were related to him, made regular contributions to the Conservative Party of Canada, once lived above his garage, or were accompanied by Pierre Poilievre.
Former Speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken, was never once invited to 24 Sussex in 10 years. Nor did Harper accept a single invitation to the Speaker’s Scotch nights, the purpose of which was to take some of the toxic partisanship out of the Ottawa scene. Milliken knew that good Scotch, judiciously applied, could channel shared humanity amongst the bitterest rivals. Steve was always fine with a double dose of toxic on the rocks.
Justin Trudeau has not moved into 24 Sussex -- and it will be quite awhile before he does. But the mood in Ottawa has changed:
So it was very significant, at least to me, that the new parliament opened with Trudeau congratulating all elected MPs. It was more than a grace note. It showed that unlike his predecessor, the new prime minister knows that Canadians elect parliaments, not governments. It showed respect for an institution that under Harper had become dysfunctional, or at least it had according to parliamentary experts like former speaker of the house Milliken, former auditor general Sheila Fraser, and former clerk of the House of Commons Robert Marleau.
In short, the man everyone feels comfortable calling Justin seems to enjoy the din raised by many voices — even the ones singing from different hymn books than his. In a nation grown used to Harper’s suffocating intellectual homogeneity, it is a blessed relief. The new PM can apparently handle diversity, just like the country. He also seems able to have fun. Whenever Harper tried to have fun, he was patting animals against the grain of their fur or shaking hands with panda bears. It was staged torture. With Trudeau, it seems natural.
Christmas will be different this year in Ottawa. Let's hope that the Season Of Good Will survives in the New Year.