O Harper Canada - Macleans.ca

O Harper Canada

Has the country been renamed?


Headline on a news release, issued this morning, from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.


The online version goes with “Harper government.” Perhaps there was momentarily some confusion between that new official moniker and the old “Government of Canada.”

Update 2:56pm. ACOA says it was an editing error. Such errors might more easily be avoided if it were generally agreed that it is the Government of Canada, that supra-partisan expression of our collective will, that allocates our collective contributions to the greater good. The Harper government did not invest in infrastructure for the municipality of Argyle today. Beyond the bank accounts of its cabinet ministers, the Harper government has no money.

Update 3:13pm. But doesn’t the media refer to the Harper government? Yes. But arguably this is a way of assigning political responsibility and, perhaps, separating between the politicians who are in charge and the grand apparatus that is the Government of Canada: the apparatus that was created and existed before Stephen Harper became prime minister and will continue to exist (if in some smaller form) after he is no longer prime minister.


O Harper Canada

  1. I’m sure we’ll see the press release soon, renaming the Government to “Harper Canada”, kind of like “Parks Canada”, “Statistics Canada”, “Radio-Canada”, . . .

    • Don’t you think it would be Royal Harper Canada?

  2. As a matter of fact, smart guy, our PM has had his name changed to Stephen Harper-Canada.

    I hear there are other name changes in the works too:

    Dean Del Mastro-Integrity

    Tony Clement-Rectitude

    Peter MacKay-Probity

    Next time you’ll check the back pages of the budget for the fine print!

  3. Perhaps there was momentarily some confusion between that new official moniker and the old “Government of Canada.”

    Were you expecting the Conservatives to keep the “Paul Martin government” name after taking power? I don’t recall your objection to that name.

    Is it OK if they call themselves the “Mcguinty Government” in their press releases? I’ve seen no complaints over that one either, even though they’ve been calling themselves that since 2004. That’s really weird.

    • It wasn’t merely the Harper Government, which we are all used to now: it was Harper Canada. Different?

      • No.

        Aaron is complaining (or rather, pointing to the Toronto Star’s complaint) that they’ve abandoned the old, non-partisan “Government of Canada” branding in their communications and replaced it with “Harper Government” (the Harper Canada thing was obviously a typo).

        You want to make that complaint? Fine. I think it’s a silly complaint, but if you’re going to do it, apply it consistently. Don’t pretend this is some Orwellian strategy that Harper invented when it’s obvious that federal and provincial liberal governments have been doing the exact same thing, to exactly zero complaints, since before Harper was even elected.

        • How do you know there have been “zero complaints” about other governments’ equally-cheesy attempts to brand themselves? Show us the data, please.

        • I think what would make the issue for me is:
          1) are the communications part of a systemic strategy, and
          2) the scale of it
          Glen McGregor just posted the result of John McCallum’s order paper question:

          Over approximately 80 days last fall, the feds used the phrase “Harper Government” 449 times.
          Would be a good exercise for either a Tory/NDP MPP (or enterprising reporter) to FOI the Ontario government for the comparable.
          In the mean time, boy am I glad the Harper Government is Helping Gluten-Free Bakeries Deliver New Product Lines.

          • In the Google search I linked to above on the Ontario site, there were 13,500 hits on the Ontario site of “McGuinty Government” (search I ran on google.ca: site:ontario.ca “mcguinty government” newsroom). I randomly checked some pages up to 42 pages into the search, and every single one of those hits was a “Newsroom : McGuinty Government …” press release.

            13,500 hits. 10 years. That’s a lot of PR.

          • Yeah, but McGuinty isn’t evil. Harper is. So there’s a huge, substantive difference.

          • Drink!

          • To compare apples to apples:

            Google.ca: site:gc.ca “harper government” news returns 25,700 hits. In 7 years. That is also a lot of PR, and approximately 270% higher than McGuinty on a per-year basis.

            Underlying point: I don’t think either government can claim the moral high ground here, frankly I don’t like either government’s use of the term. Governments don’t fund initiatives. Taxpayers do.

          • Your underlying point is beside the point.

            John G is rightly pointing out that Wherry (and most of his commenters) don’t actually agree with your underlying point. They only claim to agree because it allows them to complain about Harper. Very few of their complaints about Harper they would also apply to a politician that has the same partisan leanings. In fact, this can be said of the majority of Wherry’s complaints about Harper. Wherry does not make the same complaints about anyone that has the “correct” political leanings. Mcguinty and Martin are perfect examples.

          • Bingo.The hallmark of a partisan propagandist masquerading as a journalist.

          • “Would be a good exercise for either a Tory/NDP MPP (or enterprising reporter) to FOI the Ontario government for the comparable.”
            Yeah. Because it’s such an incredibly important issue. I mean, our very lives are at stake.

          • I think the fact I used the word “a good exercise” suggests I don’t place the highest importance on this task.

        • You are wrong. No ruling party before Harper told us, civil servants, to refer to them as “name” government. We were TOLD by Harper that we MUST use Harper government in communications…big difference. Not Chretien, not Martin, not anyone else…only Stevo..

          • So how did it happen in Ontario?

      • Although Harper Canada was a mistake, it’s apt and highlights the bemusing, cheesy, and slightly objectionable advertising of it. I think it’s much more just funny because I don’t feel like we are in danger of losing our ‘old’ seriousness. Reading about the Tory and Liberal political conventions when Trudeau won and Diefenbaker was finished (if I’m remembering it right that they were the same year) in one of Peter Newman’s books, it was unrecognizable – almost literally like a circus. The Martin/Harper minorities actually compare ok to the Pearson/Diefenbaker years I think.

    • Those other governments used “Name of Leader Government” too in a lot of communications with the public, sure.

      However, did any of those governments send out an official directive to all public servants that “Government of Jurisdication” was to be replaced by “Name of Leader Government” in all government communications?

      Using the “Name of Leader” nomenclature, versus officially replacing the jurisdictional nomenclature with the name of leader nomenclature, are two different things, are they not? Perhaps it’s a subtle difference, but I do think that there might nonetheless be a difference.

      Finally (and I seem to be saying this a lot lately) I think that perhaps, regardless of what past governments did or did not do, the citizenry should start to demand better of our politicians. Just don’t ask me where I got the notion of demanding better from.

      • Those other governments used “Name of Leader Government” too in a lot of communications with the public, sure.

        Well, how did they know to do this? They either did it automatically & instinctively or were told to in a missive that for some reason didn’t receive as much publicity as the Conservatives’ did. Frankly I don’t know which is worse.

        You know what the first part of demanding better is?

        Setting a benchmark, & not looking the other way when the government whose partisan allegiance you prefer does something that fails to live up to that benchmark. Unfortunately we don’t have enough journalists in this country willing to do this. Look south if you want to see what results from that.

        • Exactly!

        • You know what the first part of demanding better is?

          I would have thought that it was electing a party who insisted that they planned to hold themselves to a higher standard.

          I now know how naive that was though.

    • Breaking: I cover federal politics and by the time I got to Ottawa the Paul Martin government no longer existed. Developing… Details to follow…

      • Sure, fine.

        But also Breaking & Developing…in journalism context is important.

        You and Glen McGregor and Andrew Potter and God knows who else are all out there today pretending that “Harper Government” on government PRs is some kind of sinister Orwellian propaganda campaign devised by Harper as an evil scheme to take over the minds of Canadians, like the Star tried to scare us about 2 years ago in that article you linked.

        When in fact, it’s the exact same way the previous federal government and current Ontario government have been issuing PRs for years; both of which pre-date the Harper government. Kathleen Wynne is even calling her government “The New Wynne Government” in her PRs. Sound familiar? http://bit.ly/X051Kw

        Is there no journalist out there willing to defend Ontarians from Liberal sinister Orwellian propaganda campaigns? Or, is this really just no big deal, and you guys are just fishing?

        • I worked for 15 years in communications branches of two large federal departments and never used or saw the terms Mulroney government, Cammpbell government, Chretien government or Martin government. And as Aaron notes, he writes on federal government issues. What the provinces do is not his concern. As a resident of Ontario, I object to the term McGuinty government as much as Harper government in official communications. Will you agree to the converse?

          • No, not really. I’m personally OK with either “Government of Canada”, “Canadian Government”, “Federal Government”, “Conservative government”, “Harper Government”, “Harper’s Conservative Government” or any variation thereof. I’m OK with it at the provincial level too.

            Much more worried about things like $800 million costs for politically motivated cancellations of gas plants, and their associated coverups.

          • I also note that in the US, it’s been standard practice — regardless of partisian affiliation — to refer to the ruling regime as “the Obama Administration”, the “Bush Administration”, “the Kennedy Administration” and so on. And nobody down there, Democrat or Republican, ever seems to complain about it. Ever. There are so many bigger fish to fry than this. But I’m sure that, in any event, the complaints will strangely fade away and peter out when The Trudeau Government comes to power.

          • Bite your tongue on that last note please!

          • ” But I’m sure that, in any event, the complaints will strangely fade
            away and peter out when The Trudeau Government comes to power.”

            I’m sure about that too. In fact, in the latest example, we needed a court reporter, Christie Blatchford, to take a step back and write a little about provincial politics in order to get the news about the latest double-standard in journalism:
            Had she not done that, it would have gone unreported. The same thing, had it been done by Harper, would have been front page news for a month.

          • And a similar amount for politically motivated advertising?

          • That’s harder.

            On the one hand, I don’t think any reasonable person wants to see public $ used for explicitly partisan communications, the way Alison Redford is doing in Alberta right now.

            On the other hand, I think it is reasonable for any government to advertise its programs in a non-partisan way. But defining what is partisan and what isn’t can be a very fine line sometimes. For example, the Economic Action Plan ads…I would say the ads themselves are non-partisan, but there is no shortage of people who call them partisan just because they (the people, not the ads) draw an explicit link between EAP and the Conservatives…or maybe somebody thinks an ad, for example, uses a shade of blue too close to the CPC blue colour.

            No easy answer on that one for me. A lot of shades of gray.

          • “What the provinces do is not his concern.” Yes, every good, quality journalist in Ottawa pays no attention whatsoever to what provincial governments do. Take Chantal Herbert, for example . . .

          • You’re very good at making excuses. Somehow I think that covering the provinces is a part of covering federal politics. I’m sure that when they next Quebec referendum rolls around the national reporters, including Wherry, will be covering the PQ. But at the moment, it’s preferable to ignore the Ontario Liberals, because that allows them to spin everything the Harper government does as uniquely negative.

      • Breaking: You suck at it! Developing…..Will probably continue to do so!

      • In other words, you’re saying that when covering federal politics you have no need to pay attention to the history of federal politics, not even the prime minister who preceded the current one.

  4. He was right. I don’t recognize Canada. And he’s not even through with it.

    • I guess you might as well leave then.