When Stephen Harper appointed Angelo Persichilli as his new Director of Communications, he raised eyebrows. Mr. Persichilli is bilingual in a country with two official languages. But Mr. Persichilli's two languages are English and Italian. All of which is well and good. But some of us have come to think that high public office in Canada requires fluency in both English and French.
Apparently, Stephen Harper does not agree. Last week he nominated two jurists for the Supreme Court of Canada -- one of whom, Michael J. Moldaver, does not speak French. Judge Moldaver, we're told, is an excellent jurist. I assume that is so. But why -- in a court which hears arguments in both languages -- not choose an eminently bilingual justice?
Yesterday, the prime minister proposed that Michael Ferguson become Canada's new auditor general. Mr. Ferguson has served as New Brunswick's chief auditor. He is unilingually English in Canada's only officially bilingual province. One assumes that Mr. Harper believes that what worked in Fredericton will work in Ottawa -- even though the job description requires fluency in English and French.
Harper and his party -- particularly the party which launched his political career -- has a record on official bilingualism. Perhaps they assume that Canadians have forgotten the federal election of 1997. In that year, the British newspaper, The Independent, carried a story which began with the following two paragraphs:
Vancouver - On his small square patch of Canada, surrounded by a nine-foot fence of English laurel, Reform Man is railing against the Frenchmen who run the bloody government, and dropping remarks about Chinese drivers."I admire a lot of those other cultures, but in their own country," said Sid Blanchett, a diesel engine mechanic. Mr Blanchett lives in north Vancouver, a hotly contested riding in the 2 June election. There are two signs outside his fence: one for the Reform Party, and another that says "No More Prime Ministers from Quebec". He's proud to be a racist and a redneck, he said, if that means defending his own culture, religion, and traditions.
The "No More Prime Ministers from Quebec" signs also bloomed like dandelions in my Ontario riding. Mr. Harper's recent appointments, his destruction of the gun registry, and his omnibus crime bill are all reminders that, despite the repackaging and the pictures with kittens, Harper's base is -- and always has been -- solidly redneck. If further proof is required, consider Rob Ford's recent abuse of Toronto Police Dispatchers.
These appointments are deliberate. A clear pattern is emerging. Ignorance is in the driver's seat.