‘Ich bin ein banality’

Brian Jones
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It is unlikely that, years from now, hundreds of Newfoundlanders (and possibly Labradorians) will proudly tell their grandchildren about being present on March 31, 2011, when then-incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper made his legendary “Without raising taxes” speech in St. John’s.

Listing his government’s supposed accomplishments with the gusto of a self-satisfied braggart, Harper followed each item with, “And we did it without raising taxes,” to which the assembled supporters and sycophants chanted along, “Without raising taxes.”

This is Canadian electioneering in the 21st century, and it was made worse by the audience’s tone of servility and mindlessness.

I’m glad I wasn’t there. It was embarrassing enough just watching it on TV.


Compare Canada

Life is so unfair.

Some people have to listen to the banal bleating of “Without raising taxes,” and some people get to hear John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” (“I am one with Berliners”) speech, in which he flamboyantly told Berliners in 1963 that the rest of the world would not forsake them even though the Soviets had partitioned and walled off their great city.

Some people have to endure the droning of “Without raising taxes,” and some people get to hear Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, in which he passionately expressed the desire for blacks and whites in the U.S. to live as equals.

Some people have to suffer through the insipid stumping of “Without raising taxes,” and some people get to be present at great moments in history, such as in Gettysburg, Pa., in 1863 when Abe Lincoln delivered a short, eloquent speech about freedom and liberty and … well, you get the idea.

Canadian leaders are built for banality.

In fact, the most famous quote attributed to a Canadian prime minister is Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s 1970 quip, “Just watch me,” and he wasn’t talking about how far he would go to create his idealistic Great Society — he was talking about implementing martial law and curtailing civil liberties.


Manipulative PM

The best thing about the federal election campaign so far is that hardly anyone describes Harper as “brilliant.”

When he rose to power, the accolades regarding his intellectual prowess were such that you’d think he was Albert Einstein’s grandson.

As of this writing, the Tories are 14 per cent ahead of the Liberals in the polls. Harper might win back the “brilliant” description, but it won’t be because of his dexterity with ideas or language, à la Kennedy, King and Lincoln.

Harper’s main skill is manipulation. His favourite phrases of this campaign are “unnecessary election” (sometimes altered to “unwanted election”) and “reckless coalition.”

He is wrong in both cases. His argument is irresponsible and reprehensible.


Democratically unavoidable

Actually, this election was necessary (in the absence of the governor general exercising the option of asking the opposition parties to form a coalition government). In a parliamentary democracy, when a minority government loses a major vote in the House of Commons, an election can be held.

Coalitions are a valid aspect of democracies, and there is nothing “reckless” about them. Ponder this scenario: on May 2, the Tories win another minority. Within a year or so, the opposition parties bring down the government with a non-confidence vote. Harper goes to the governor general and asks that an election writ be dropped. Ironically, the GG replies, “That’s unnecessary,” and instead asks the Liberals and NDP if they can agree to form a new government.

Such a situation would be legal and within the rules of our Parliamentary democracy.

Harper’s disregard for the facts is reckless. Succumbing to his manipulation is unnecessary.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Great Society, House of Commons, The Telegram

Geographic location: U.S., Gettysburg, Pa.

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Recent comments

  • Ursula Dowler
    April 09, 2011 - 09:45

    The story goes like this ----- Mansbridge says to May "you noticed something about the last leadership debate" , May says yes, "I noticed that Harper brought his own cards to the debate , supposedly a no-no . Apparently cards are provided so that everyone can take notes . May said she was sitting next to Harper and that she looked over to see that his cards were different in size in size and that they had font on them . Mansbridge asked her why she didn't say something , she said she didn't want to be seen as a snitch . What would be the better choice for prime minister ----- a SNITCH or a CHEATER ?

  • Dave
    April 08, 2011 - 22:44

    "Without raising taxes" is coded language meaning "by slashing public services".

  • aubrey smith
    April 08, 2011 - 17:09

    Brain Jones You expressed my reaction to perfection.I thought it was the most inane presentation I have ever witnessed from a supposedly -experienced politician .The banal atmosphere and the robotic refrains were absolute boredom .Surely, any right -thinking person must have sensed that feeling of embarrasment and uneasiness created by watching the Prime Minister of Canada star in this boring exercise .It was without doubt without any redeeming value, except to his opponents who could not help but smell blood .

  • Geoff Meeker
    April 08, 2011 - 14:57

    The most bizarre part of that whole, tawdry spectacle was the eager participation of Kathy Dunderdale. A lot of people were dumbfounded by that, and it will cost her in the next general election.

  • Anon
    April 08, 2011 - 10:54

    The mindless droning of voices "without raising taxes" reminded me of a cult leader telling the masses to drink the punch so they can hitch a ride on a comet. Seriously, it was creepy. Like some sort of masonic ritual.

  • dis old man
    April 08, 2011 - 09:48

    When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, a child cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!"

  • Maurice E. Adams
    April 08, 2011 - 08:27

    It's time that the truth be told ---- as it is. Well said --- and long overdue.