Stephen Harper and the conditional country - Macleans.ca

Stephen Harper and the conditional country

Is there an external threat we should know about?

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This is getting to be worth noting. From the Prime Minister’s speech in Calgary this weekend:

“In a few short years, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of our united country. If, in 50 more years, we wish our descendants to celebrate Canada’s 200th anniversary, then we must be all we can be in the world today, and we must shoulder a bigger load, in a world that will require it of us.”

It’s no accidental phrasing. From his speech to the Conservative convention in Ottawa in June:

“In a few short years, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of our united country. If, in 50 more years, we wish our descendants to celebrate Canada’s 200th anniversary, then we must be all we can be in the world today. Therefore, my friends, our party’s great purpose is nothing less than to prepare our nation shoulder a bigger load, in a world that will require it of us.”

Pretty much verbatim. So a question arises. What does he mean, “if?” 

The plain meaning of Stephen Harper’s chosen and repeated language is that Canada’s survival over the medium term is not guaranteed, and that the threat comes from outside, not from within. (Well, I suppose he could have been suggesting that Canada will see its 200th anniversary but won’t bother to celebrate. I’m going to assume he has a larger purpose here than to critique our willingness to get our party on.)

All right, then. The question for Stephen Harper — indeed, the question he himself has now raised repeatedly — is: what is the external threat to Canada over 50 years that makes the country’s very survival, in his eyes, uncertain?

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UPDATE: In case it will help readers decipher the PM’s argument, here’s a fuller excerpt from his Calgary speech. Again, much of the language appeared at the same spot in the Ottawa convention speech:

“Friends, remember we are not here to do politics. Sure, we do politics. But that’s the instrument – it’s not the music. Our party is called to a great purpose. Our mission is to preserve and promote the future of our great nation and its people in a time of extraordinary, global change.

“That is our purpose. Power is shifting. New forces are coming to the fore. Some we will be pleased to work with. Some we must resist. In such a world strength is not an option; it is a vital necessity. Moral ambiguity, moral equivalence, are not options, they are dangerous illusions. And national unity, in fact and in purpose, is our greatest asset.

“In a few short years, we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of our united country. If, in 50 more years, we wish our descendants to celebrate Canada’s 200th anniversary, then we must be all we can be in the world today, and we must shoulder a bigger load, in a world that will require it of us.

“We campaigned on this new Canadian reality. Not on a dream or a fantasy or a slogan, but upon the reality of this great country rising – a country founded on great principles – a courageous warrior, a compassionate neighbour, a confident partner – and under a strong, stable, national, majority, Conservative government – the best country in the world.”