Steve’s World …

In a somewhat ironic twist of history, the same day that saw George Bush give his 7th State of the Union address also marked one year in office for Canadian Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Steve’s year was an odd one, even down to the Steve itself … when they met last year, Bush talked about “allies like Steve” … Canadian press noted that he had almost always been called Stephen in his personal life, and even his mother bristled at the name Steve. It was just another example of the rather incongruous year for “our buddy Steve.”

From walking out on the press conference called to announce his new Accountability Act, through his complete reversal of campaign promises on income trusts (arguments about necessity aside, that he completely reversed a campaign promise is without question), his term as PM has been anything but smooth. He’s had some high points, such as his speech at the UN in September where he spoke confidently, with quiet, Canadian strength about the world we live in. Despite the fact that his particularly Canadian affect of speaking in both French and English probably had translators at the UN pulling their hair out, the speech itself was confident and strong, but quiet and humble as well … an excellent Canadian speech, IMO.

The low points are there as well though, glaring and large. Right off the start, he began his tenure as PM by appointing an unelected senator to cabinet, and accepting the defection of a candidate who’d won his riding hours before as a Liberal, also destined for cabinet. No matter how you slice the pie, and try to dress it up with pretty language, even the party admits the moves were PURELY political … the Conservative Government needed more support in Quebec and BC, and in large urban centres like Montreal and Vancouver. These appointments, however crass and political they may have been, addressed both of those issues … their effectiveness, however, does nothing to mask the bad taste left among Conservative (and Liberal) supporters.
Its been a year of ups and downs for Harper’s Conservative government, and the talking heads’ recent pronouncements about how much harder it is to govern than criticize are well taken. But a year after election, one thing strikes me (and surprises me, in fact) … for the first time in MANY years, I am proud of the image my PM projects to the world. This is NOT a political statement, even though the facts of the situation make Harper one party, and the previous 12 years of leadership from another, but its been many years since a Canadian PM spoke to the world with the confidence and directness (Mulroney and Turner would be the last two, probably, and perhaps that shows its not a partisan thing for me).

Our last PM, Paul Martin, was certainly well spoken. His education and experience gave him a very smooth delivery, with words almost flowing from his subtle smile. But his nickname of Mr. Dithers was well earned … listen to a speech for more than a few minutes, and if you aren’t lulled into a trance that makes him sound like some deranged Charlie Brown teacher (“Wahh Waaahhhhh, Wah Wa Wa, Wahhhhhhhhh”), the sense of listening to a used car salesman is bound to hit you. Either way, it was hardly the image I wanted to see projected for Canada on the world stage. The scary thing is, he was far better than his predecessor Jean Chretien.

While its true that Chretien had nerve issues with his face which made certain aspects of his speech more difficult, his verbal mangling went far deeper than a mere physical problem. While he was apparently fluent in both French and English, native speakers of both languages regularly accuse him poor grammar … from the reports I’ve heard, he is at least Canadian enough to mangle both official languages equally in his speech, but again, its hardly the image I want projected on the world stage.

At least Harper speaks confidently and well, with clarity of voice and vision typically. While I commented in my post about his UN speech that I’d like to see him pick a single language and stick to it for international speeches, that was really my only complaint with the speech … otherwise, I think he represented me extremely well that international body. Its been a long time since I’ve been able to say that about the person leading my country, and its a nice feeling. I’d like to see a bit more accountability on his Accountability Act, and a bit more openness with the press and public, but overall, I’m at least happy to hear him speak, usually.

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