Robyn Benson, PSAC

Harpervision



How nice. We’re now paying for a weekly puff piece featuring Stephen Harper looking at things and saying things, produced and directed out of the Prime Minister’s Office. Like any other propaganda, it excludes any suggestion of protest or dissent. Surprisingly, perhaps, his debut in both official languages is accompanied by strains of The Maple Leaf Forever in the background—not a song particularly favoured in Quebec, celebrating as it does General Wolfe’s triumph over the French on the Plains of Abraham.

Let me state this straight out: besides wasting your money and mine on this weekly series, which could easily be renamed “Stephen Harper’s Heritage Moments,” there’s something a little creepy about this apparent self-obsession. It’s hardly the first time that the Prime Minister has tried to make it all about him: check out this disturbing story from six years ago. There is indeed more than a whiff of a would-be personality cult in the wind here, even if Canada is not really fertile ground for that sort of thing. Or so I sincerely hope. For now, this latest venture has been the butt of Twitter jokes and at least one well-deserved spoof, (from PressProgress):

Spoof 24 Stephen.jpg

But even setting aside what Huffington Post calls the “North Korean vibes,” there is a wider issue here that shouldn’t be ignored. It is improper, pure and simple, for any government to use tax revenues for partisan purposes. Even the Conservatives pay lip-service to this principle, and jobs can be lost over it. But then they go ahead and keep doing it, at least until they’re caught at it.

Admittedly, the lines can get blurry at times—and the more blur, from the government’s perspective, the better. How does one draw the line between a mere announcement of some government action or other to inform the public, and a paid (by us) political advertisement? Well, like most other Canadians, I know partisanship when I see it. Take (please!) the Economic Action Plan stuff, which has cost us millions by now. What makes me hopeful and optimistic is that most Canadians, as they have with Harper’s latest venture, have tuned right out.

There’s a final piece to be added in all of this. Any functioning democracy requires accountability on the part of those elected: that’s Democracy 101. But we’re not getting any such thing from the Harper government. Instead it’s an endless game of hide-and-seek, avoiding the media, limiting or refusing questions. This administration prefers to pump out expensive and wasteful self-advertising, and make sure that the few glimpses we do get of The Leader are officially approved, sanitized and relentlessly upbeat. We’ve read too much history not to worry about this approach to government. And the fact that we should have to cough up the cash for this on-going travesty makes it all the more intolerable.


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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on January 15, 2014 8:52 AM.

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