You Say It’s Your Birthday (originally posted January 25, 2008)
It’s Canada’s New Government’s birthday! And everyone is invited! Well, not everyone – not you, most likely, unless you’re a Tory MP, staffer, party loyalist or photogenic seat filler who was able to get to Ottawa for the afternoon on fairly short notice. Oh, and the hated, but still occasionally useful media – we’re invited and we’re here. At least those of us who have made it through the labyrinthine back corridors of the Ottawa Congress Centre, designed in the spirit of Escher as conceived by Fisher Price.
It’s nearly 4pm on the last Friday before the House gets back to business, which, as far as the Prime Minister is concerned, is the perfect time for he and his caucus to celebrate two whole years in power.
Last year, he marked his first anniversary with not one but two speeches: one at noon, at the Chateau Laurier and the other in the evening, at a gala dinner hosted by the Canada Israel Committee in this very room.
He beamed with pride as he checked off the achievements of his government — cutting the GST, getting tough on crime, noticing the existence of the environment, pretending health care was never one of the five priorities, and he predicted yet more successes to come. He praised the troops, gave a shout out to Tim Horton’s, and was presented with a jersey from Israel’s national hockey team.
I, on the other hand, tripped and cut my cheek, got a run in my stocking, forgot to eat dinner and was generally pretty much ready to quit my job by the end of it. Good times. I wrote the whole thing up for macleans.ca, of course – A Tale of Two Speeches, I believe it was called.
A year later, I’m back and so is the PM. Both a little older, a little more weary, but more importantly, this time one of us (at least that I know of) has a blog, and will thus be able to chronicle the event in all its practically-realtime glory.
“This is like Woodstock for Tories,” says one of my Hot Room compatriots. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but there’s definitely a lot of love – or, at least satisfaction – in the room right now.
Also in and around the room right now: purposeful volunteers handing out thundersticks emblazoned with the Conservative logo, strategically placed risers full of pretty, multicultural youngsters, and a guy holding a handwritten sign that reads ‘HARPER LEADERSHIP’. I’m starting to get flashbacks to New Hampshire. If anyone starts chanting ‘Fired up! Ready to go!’ I’m out of here.
Apparently, the PM isn’t even here yet. He’s having not the best ever day, as it turns out. His director of communications, the Divine Ms. Buckler, was forced to back down from her claim the government had no idea we’d stopped handing prisoners over to the Aghans.
Apparently, at a press conference this afternoon – which I missed because I was waiting for the PM to show up – Dion told reporters that he was told the policy had changed when he was in Afghanistan last month. Le yikes. No wonder they’re running a little behind schedule over at Langevin. This story just gets stickier by the hour.
Ooh, I think he’s here. The thundersticks are going crazy, someone in the back is waving a hockey stick with a Maple Leaf on the end of it, and there is polite, respectful cheering.
More handmade signs: ‘Leading the Way’ and ‘Canada Harper’, which seems to be missing a verb. Actually, come to think of it, so is ‘Harper Leadership’. Ah, ‘Supporting Our Troops’ just showed up, and the chant of ‘Harper! Harper!’ is – really, not all that deafening at all. I mean, they’re clearly excited to be here, and fond of the guy, but having been to an Obama rally, I gotta say this is a little underwhelming. There I go, comparing Canadian politics to Americans again.
Rahim Jaffer takes the stage. He hopes we’re all excited. Meh. Maybe if I had a thunderstick. Or a glass of wine. Apparently we’ve had a ‘minor delay,’ but the PM will be here soon, so the crowd should ‘keep up that energy’.
You know, I don’t think I’ve seen a cabinet minister yet – other than Jay Hill, and James Moore. Maybe they’re all going to strut into the room together, in classic power walk stye. Hopefully not to ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’ though, which was what the speakers were playing a minute ago, before Rahim got us all excited for nothing.
Stockwell Day, everyone! He gets a standing ovation, not only because people have been dying to stretch their legs. “You’re surrounded by the people who made this happen!” He tells the crowd. He doesn’t mean us, does he? Lame joke about Dion not invading Ottawa, and oh my, he’s introducing Harper, and it’s a little bit on the — messianic side. There is a leader amongst us! (Sign bobbing: Leading the Way) There was a man, a man who was convinced that these things could happen. He led us – them – to victory, and for two years, he has ruled with benevolence and wisdom, or something like that, and HIS NAME IS STEPHEN HARPER! Cue the throbbing base. Is it possible to be mortified for an entire room of people? Because this is cringe-inducing, although I do have a very low threshold for large groups doing anything in unison.
After what seemed like a lifetime, the PM is on stage, and he’s thanking Stockwell Day for a great introduction, and for just generally being a great guy. He seems – surprisingly buoyant, given the events of the day. He’s telling jokes, and smiling. It’s sweet.
Another sign: ‘5% Promise Kept’.
I swear, if there was anything really interesting in this speech, I’d tell you, but so far, it’s a pretty typical stump speech. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Oh good, Canada’s still back. I was worried for a minute.
He’s going to focus on – guess how many areas. No, really, guess. Did you say 5? Take a drink! I mean, good for you.
Tax relief – kept our word, gave Canadians the tax cuts they deserve. “Hear, hear,” someone yells from the crowd. ‘Hear, hear’? Really? What next, ‘Oh, oh’?
Wait, we’re only at the first item on a five item list. This is ominous.
Item the second: The universal child care benefit. Hey, remember when the Liberals said that parents would spend the cash on beer and popcorn? If not, our PM would be happy to remind you. Apparently, the opposition wants to steal all that money and give it to bureaucrats, academics and interest groups. Monsters.
Third priority: Debt, and getting out of it. Yawn. Yes, it’s important, but it’s not very interesting, no matter how many thundersticks there are. Instead, I shall survey the crowd. Apparently, if we elect a Bloc government, it will spend us into deficit forever! Good thing that’s mathematically impossible, since they only run candidates in Quebec. Well, unless the rest of the country really goes electorally crazy.
Apparently, canadians shouldn’t be pacified by ‘statistics’ that show crime isn’t on the raise, and that they’re not less safe than they used to be. Which it isn’t, and they aren’t, but whatever. It’s all the Liberals’ fault, and liberals in general, who put the rights of criminals ahead of law abiding citizens.
Hurray for mandatory sentences, which don’t work!
Hurray for throwing more kids on jail!
Hurray for fear!
Canadians will never go back to a soft on crime government.
Yay, we’re at the last priority – Canada’s more united than at any time since the Centennial, and it’s all thanks to — the nation motion? No, not really. But it still helped! Well, unless you’re Michael Chong’s political career, in which case — never mind.
Canada’s back again! In case you thought it had snuck away in the last ten minutes.
And the sixth priority is buying lots of new defence equipment, so that Canada doesn’t have to borrow from the United States. It’s funny, the PM says, how his critics are always complaining about the US, but don’t mind relying on them. The crowd laughs heartily. Apparently, if you’re a Tory, that is funny.
Arctic sovereignty! Whoo! Canada may not believe in the Teddy Roosevelt school of international relations: Walk softly and carry a big stick. But we don’t believe in walking softly and carrying no stick. Big cheers for that. “Canada will never go back!” Wait, I thought Canada was back. I’m so confused.
A moment of appreciation for the diplomats, soldiers and aid workers who are on the ground, and making the world a better place.
Finally, a few words on Afghanistan – and not one particularly revelatory, except that the government will never make decisions based on the polls. Which is a noble way of telling Canadians that he’s fully prepared to ignore the will of the majority if he can’t persuade the public to support his war.
In times of economic insecurity, Canada needs strong leadership. Oh, that’s his answer to everything. Leadership, shmeadership.
Ahh, finally, the obligatory hockey reference. Now all we need is a shoutout to Tim Hortons.
Apparently, Harper once held a job like mine. Or yours. Or someone in this room. He enjoyed it. Wait, I think he meant the job of getting someone else elected to Parliament.
At some point, there will be an election, and he plans to win it. Work hard, stand tall, peace out.