Just as the federal court unmasked the Conservative party's entrenched corruption, now the full measure of their arrogance - and their essential anti-democratic nature - are finally revealed.
As Canadian wmtc readers surely know, last week we learned that, late last year, the Prime Minster's Office ordered that the words "Government of Canada" be replaced with "Harper Government" in all federal communications. Naturally, the government workers who confirmed this all spoke anonymously.
None would speak on the record for fear of retribution. It's a well-grounded concern given the treatment of a senior government scientist who was fired in 2006 after rebelling against a directive to use “Canada's New Government” in government communications.
Andrew Okulitch was subsequently reinstated after his story became public, and the Conservatives finally retired the “Canada's New Government” handle after 21 months in office.
The “Harper Government” moniker rose to prominence in 2009, when its use was noted in light of a controversy over Conservative MPs posing with giant, mock government cheques bearing the party logo and MPs' signatures. The mock cheques were consigned to the dust bin, and the “Harper Government” handle went into partial hibernation.
Since December, the “Harper Government” has returned with a vengeance, sprouting like mushrooms across departmental communications.
Now, I use the expression "the Harper government" all the time, as I'm sure you do, too. But don't be misled into thinking that's a reasonable excuse. For a succinct explanation of the difference, the quotes in this Globe and Mail article says it best.
Indeed, journalists routinely use the “Harper government” to describe Conservative government actions. But the moniker's employment by the government itself is raising hackles among more than just some strait-laced civil servants.
“It is one thing for journalists or even the public to use the more partisan ‘Harper government,' but it is another thing for the state to equate the Government of Canada with the leader of the governing party,” said Jonathan Rose, a specialist in political communications at Queen's University.
He said such language is expressly forbidden under an Ontario law that prohibits partisanship in government messaging.
“The effect of this subtle framing just before an election is to equate government with Harper,” Prof. Rose said. “It creates a perception of a natural affinity between one party's leader and the act of governing.”
The Harper-centric messaging prompted Prof. Rose to recall French King Louis XIV and his 17th century divine right of kings: “L'État, c'est moi” (“The state is me”).
But Mel Cappe, a former clerk of the Privy Council, finds nothing amusing in the development.
“It is not the Harper Government,” Mr. Cappe said in an interview, tersely enunciating each word. “It is the Government of Canada.
“It's my government and it's your government.”
Mr. Cappe said the usage brings to mind Mr. Harper's own quip of last summer on the Arctic tundra: “I make the rules,” Mr. Harper told journalists after he disembarked from an all-terrain vehicle.
“What this shows is the hubris of this government's approach,” said Mr. Cappe, president of the Institute for Research in Public Policy in Montreal.
“We are governed by laws. Not by men. This is trying to change that.”
This is some scary stuff.
Please sign this petition calling for all official federal communications to refer to the "Government of Canada," not the "Harper Government". It's not the strongest petition you'll ever read, but I'm glad someone started it. I hope you'll add your name and share the link widely.