The National Archives in Ottawa are housed in what is surely one of the capital’s least appealing buildings. With its broad grey face and neat rows of small, square windows, it vaguely resembles a prison. Or at least a relic of Khrushchev’s Moscow.
The Prime Minister, soon to be flying north once more, chose this place to make his latest claim to arctic sovereignty. His men are sure this issue will be a winner when they get that election they now seem quite determined to have. No doubt it projects the sort of strength and aggression they want Canadians to see in this PM, a man unafraid to do battle with the Russkies (not to mention those pesky Danes).
He was flanked by a colourful map and eight Canadian flags and introduced by little Gary Lunn, the National Resources Minister requiring a small riser, supplied by a PMO aide, to see over the podium. Mr. Harper proceeded then to gamely read from the teleprompter a few remarks about polar bears and gold and ice and something called geo-mapping. It was all mere preamble, of course. Little more than an excuse to call a news conference.
To the questions then, all but one of the 13 having to do with this government’s sudden desire to cease governing (the lone exception being a query about why, with a dozen people presumed dead from a bacterial outbreak, the Health Minister had skipped town to hobnob with the Democrats in Denver). Mr. Harper, at least at first, seemed only too happy to answer, to explain in pleading detail the burdens he must bear.
For one, as his men have been whining to reporters, the opposition leaders have not yet rushed to Ottawa to throw themselves at his feet as requested. Seems they have better things to do. As if. “Sounds like you’re having a hard time getting a date,” one TV reporter chided.
More generally, his complaints were many. The opposition parties won’t tell him if or when they plan to topple the government. They seem determined to express opposition to his government’s legislation. They hold different opinions about the future of the country. They reserve the right to change their minds. They propose ideas that differ from those of the government. They have their own agendas and visions. And, worst of all, his government’s lack of a majority in the House leaves him unable to run roughshod over all of this.
His complaints were, essentially, about the basic premise of parliamentary democracy.
Asked about his own legislated desire for fixed election dates, he sobbed. Surely, he begged, you could not expect him to stick with his previously stated desire when it was most opportune to do otherwise. The questions turned mocking and the Prime Minister grew angry. A slow burn that culminated in a particularly fiery explanation of his government’s approach to arts and cultural subsidies.
Shortly thereafter one of his men wisely called an end to questions. Another few minutes and surely the Prime Minister would have been in his socks, banging his shoes on the podium in protest, demanding the sort of deference he seems always to think he is due.