“I think we have a good record here of delivering on what we’ve said we would do,” Stephen Harper said during a campaign stop in Conception Bay South last Thursday.
“We have a good record of serving the people in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Forget partisan politics in dealing with that little chestnut — let’s talk quantum physics.
Because there’s got to be a way to make sense of the peculiar world where Stephen Harper, during the last election, promised to exclude non-renewable resource revenue from the federal equalization formula, reversed himself (costing this province’s treasury some $1.6 billion in the process), yet still thinks his party has “a good record of delivering on what we said we would do.”
The simplest answer?
String theory, and the concept that the Stephen Harper who was
in C.B.S. was actually a different Stephen Harper than the one who made a clear and definite promise to do one thing and then went ahead and did something quite different.
String theory is a sort of physics that’s meant to explain one of those most major of physics problems, i.e., how quantum physics and gravity dovetail. To quote the self-styled Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, it’s a “supertheory of supereverything.”
Living in a limited dimension
Anyway, among other things, string theory suggests that we’re kind of stunted in this world of ours — that while we live in a paltry three dimensions, there might actually be many more dimensions, including the possibility of parallel dimensions that we’re not only unaware of, but unable to test for. (I could, at this point, move off into a more bizarre description of how the strings in string theory attach to dimensional panels known as branes, but that’s more painful and head-twisting than listening to back-to-back campaign debates.)
But an alternate dimension could explain — without simply suggesting that Harper believes members of the electorate are short-memoried fools — why Harper thinks a written and signed promise broken is actually a promise kept.
Perhaps we’ve swapped Harpers. Somehow, the wrong strings were pulled and this Harper is actually from a different dimension — one where we actually received the promised non-renewable resource revenues Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty snatched away.
(Maybe Premier Kathy Dunderdale came from the same dimension. That might explain why she believes Harper’s mere word that a Conservative government will provide loan guarantees for the Muskrat Falls project is good enough.)
Believe it or not, string theory postulates that there is a concept known as supersymmetry, where particles in our universe have a related superpartner. And that also lends some credence to the theory.
For particles known as fermions, the superpartners are identified by having an “S” added to the front of their names — so that electron superpartners are selectrons, quark superpartners are squarks.
So perhaps the Harper superpartner — the one now postulating that, in his particular alternate universe, the Conservatives have always kept their promises — would be a Sharper.
Strangely fitting, hey? Physics: it just blows you away.
But to get serious here for a moment: perhaps a more frightening examination of Harper’s comments about the Conservative record is that he might actually believe that what he’s saying is true. He might actually believe that his government did deliver on its promises.
What makes that concept the most frightening of all is what it would mean for any promises he’s making now.
The Conservatives have tried to make electoral hay with the concept that, while all three of the major parties have promised loan guarantees for the Muskrat Falls project, only the Conservatives (with the stipulation of having to have a majority government) would be able to deliver.
But deliver what? The provincial government here used to provide loan guarantees for business ventures — but it also instituted a percentage-based loan guarantee fee. The same could apply federally, raking in cash for the federal loan guarantee “service,” and Harper could still walk the fine line of “delivering on what we’ve said we would do.”
Now, a loan guarantee fee has not been mentioned by anyone — I’m using it as an example of one of possible caveats (and there are many) that could be added to allow a government to claim it had “delivered” without ever doing anything of the kind.
You know you’re in trouble when you can’t decide which is worse: a politician who knows he’s telling a lie to your face, or one who actually believes that lie to be the truth.
Perhaps the parallel universe really would be a more palatable explanation.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.