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Canada’s hockeyist Prime Minister

This weekend it was a “monument” (read: gravestone) unveiled at the newly minted National Cemetery to the man billed as the “father of modern hockey.” That he was also the country’s longest-serving law clerk of his day is apparently irrelevant. Last weekend it was unveiling new commemorative stamps rather than attending the Press Gallery Dinner. Make no mistake – Stephen Harper is trying to turn himself into the hockeyist Prime Minister in the history of ever – and it’s starting to bug me.

If you look at the public discourse coming from this government, their brand of folksy charm boils down to a twin obsession around hockey and Tim Horton’s. Like skipping out on duties at the UN in order to re-announce the return of Tim Horton’s head office to Canada (and take credit for it because of tax policies, even though the company said the decision had nothing to do with the business climate the Conservatives supposedly created). But what does hockey and Tim Horton’s say about us, really? Where is the aspiration in it? The global citizenry? Hell, we’re the leader in space robotics, but do we ever get snaps for that from this government? No, space exploration isn’t folksy enough. We led the world in the international movement to ban landmines, and we have human rights legislation that is the model for other countries. But do we ever hear about those kinds of achievements from this government? No. We used to be players on the world stage. But amidst assurances that Canada’s Back!™ – based solely, apparently on the fact that Harper claims victory in reinvigorating our military, when Paul Martin got that particular ball rolling – we’ve actually been stepping back from our usual foreign affairs duties. In fact, I read far more often about foreign diplomats asking where Canada’s gone from the world stage. Apparently the answer is to our local Tim Horton’s, where we can discuss hockey and be insular rather than being global citizens. Is it any wonder that Joe Clark is calling for us to have a national discussion to reinvigorate our foreign policy? Not that it’s going to happen under this government. But it would be nice if it did.

On a related tangent, a Mexican senator said that the relationship between our two countries will improve once we change Prime Ministers, after Harper put “humiliating” visa restrictions on the country. And speaking of humiliating, a Mexican Supreme Court justice had his travel visa to Canada denied on his first attempt. Seriously? Can we stop behaving like amateurs? Possibly? (Maybe once we change Prime Ministers, no doubt).

Elsewhere, more research into the distribution of stimulus funding shows that Tony Clement’s riding got 15 times the infrastructure funds of a struggling Nova Scotia riding. But hey, all the funds are being distributed fairly and equitably. And to let Torontonians know just how equitably the funds are being distributed, the government is spending $46,000 to turn GO Trains into giant Economic Action Plan™ billboards, all in Conservative blue. Klass-with-a-k, all the way. Feeling threatened by all this analysis of the numbers, the Conservatives are now releasing their own version of the stimulus spending breakdowns – finally. This while they’re whining that the Liberal-crunched numbers are only looking at programmes that suit their agenda. Hmm – I seem to recall that not only the opposition, but also the Parliamentary Budget Officer were all complaining that they couldn’t get numbers to crunch out of the government period. Perhaps if you weren’t so secretive about them, they wouldn’t only crunch numbers that put you in a bad light. Unless of course, you have something to hide.

Friday in the House, Mario Silva gave a Member’s Statement about Citizenship Week:

Mr. Speaker, Canada is a rich mosaic of cultures from around the globe, and there is no better time to celebrate this diversity than this week, Citizenship Week.
Citizenship Week gives all Canadians occasion to reflect on the value of Canadian citizenship, what it means to be Canadian and the rights, privileges and responsibilities that go along with that.
There is a reason that approximately 85% of newcomers to Canada become Canadian citizens. It is because they recognize what an honour it is to take the oath of allegiance to officially become a citizen of one of the greatest countries on earth, a country that is just, compassionate, tolerant and prosperous.
I encourage all Canadians, whether born here, whether new citizens or whether soon to be citizens, to seek out Citizenship Week activities in their communities that will allow them to reflect on what it means to be Canadian, and to express their gratitude for the freedoms and rights that come with citizenship.

Bill Siksay also asked after Mohammad Mahjoub’s hunger strike to protest his security certificate detention. Parliamentary Secretary Dave MacKenzie said matter is “being looked into.”

And finally, MP Rob Oliphant talks to Maclean’s about Michael Ignatieff. The main article is here, with additional interview clips from Oliphant here.
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