Severe, stupid and spiteful: Or, delivering the Conservative message in Copenhagen

We here at DMA spend a lot of time trying to avoid using the various ‘S’ words. When writing an English blog for a primarily non-Quebec audience, it can be like holding your breath: you can write all you want about the quaint intricacies and foibles of this delightful place, but sooner or later you inevitably resort back to the blog equivalent of the dinner party question that your drunk uncle from Halifax asks you every time he graces your table over the holidays: “So, is Quebec gonna separate?”

Yes, you feel like saying. We’re going to separate, you vermin Maritime scum, and we’re going to steal all your power and erect a wall of wind turbines on the friggin’ border and make the Miramachi salmon speak French. Oh, Halifax isn’t in New Brunswick? Whatever. Hands off my eggnog, tubby. PS, Rick Mercer sucks.

Which is why I’m pleased to announce that Stephen Harper’s fine team of upright and smart yes men gave us a fantastic way of venting our collective spleen yesterday in a way that involves none of the dreaded ‘S’ words–unless you count severe, stinking, stupid, spiteful, splenetic, surly and/or savage.

To wit: The Yes Men, a rogue band of American pranksters, issued a faux press release, ostensibly from Environment Canada, saying that, actually, Canada was charting an ambitious course to reduce its greenhouse gases by 40 percent of its 1990 levels by 2020. The laugh-out-loud funny notion of the Conservatives reducing anything carbon-related was offset (ha!) somewhat by seeming authenticity of the news release. (Put it this way: I’ve punched in my credit card number into sites that don’t look as real as this one.)

The Conservative reaction to the ha-ha release was textbook, and served as yet another reminder of how venal, petty and shortsighted this government can be. Harper flack Dimitri Soudas, at once enraged at the release and clueless as to its origin, blamed the nearest Quebecer, the greenie and nice Steven Guilbeault of Equiterre. Guilbeault was furious, and not only because he had zilch to do with it–it literally took Radio-Canada 10 minutes to figure that much out, which is about nine and a half minutes more research than Soudas himself seemingly undertook. No, Guilbeault was mad because Soudas wouldn’t apologize; rather, Soudas suggested Guilbeault should stop criticizing Canada, thereby revealing his effective communications strategy of blaming the victim.

The reaction was swift, furious and as predictable as Soudas’ strategy itself. I’ll spare you the acres of outrage in today’s French papers and highlight one salient point: the first notable to jump to Guilbeault’s defense was Jean Charest–the same right-leaning, federalist, increase-Hydro-rates, small(er)-government devil incarnate Jean Charest who Guilbeault has criticized mercilessly over the last six years. The two of them have about as much regard for each other as I have for root canals. Thanks to Soudas, though, the narrative is this: Charest and Guilbeault are allies on the world stage, fighting against the Conservatives brutal environmental record.

This sort of behaviour has bitten the Conservatives in the arse before. It arguably cost them the province, which was theirs to lose. Despite this, the Cons continue to remind Quebecers why this government shouldn’t be let off its leash. With the Ignatieff and the Liberals mired in organizational disarray and the Bloc nearing its second decade of continued existential dilemma, it’s a ridiculous way to act, but there you go. Good luck with that majority, Steve.

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