By John Bennett

The Prime Minister took yet another unusual step this week. Instead of wishing both teams “good luck” in this week’s Grey Cup game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Calgary Stampeders, he had to -- in Harper Fashion™ -- choose sides. He chose not to deliver a neutral statement like “may the best team win”, or express hope it’ll be “a good game for the fans”. Instead, he expressed his strong desire to see Calgary beat Toronto.

Pierre Trudeau once turned the Parliament lawn into his own personal practice field just so he could prepare to deliver the Grey Cup’s ceremonial kick-off. But he knew better than to cross that sensitive line and publicly favor one part of the country over another in the big game.

On the surface this isn’t a big departure for the PM. But isn’t it, after all, irrelevant who wins or loses? Isn’t it supposed to be about the fans -- and more importantly, how you play the game? Perhaps I’m just old fashioned.

Shortly after I read the CTV article it dawned on me that Harper’s cheerleading for Calgary (and snub to Toronto) was actually quite a fitting metaphor for his overall approach to governing.

If sincere, the CTV report gave us another insight into to Stephen Harper: he was quoted as saying the Toronto Argonauts “made him cry” when they lost to Calgary in the 1971 classic. Perhaps I’m completely wrong and it was just all a clever stunt contrived by CPC Productions Inc. to give a veiled boost to struggling Conservative candidate Joan Crockett in the upcoming federal by-election in Calgary. But there’s something that rings true in his childhood reflection… perhaps that sobbing moment was the birth of the man who rules Canada today.

Politics of Division 2.0

The Prime Minister is not only the judge and jury (some in his own party refer to him as “The Chairman”), and Cheerleader-in-Chief, he’s also the Divider-in-Chief. He picks sides and pits Canadians against each other, and he’s very good at it. In fact, his government has taken the age-old practice of politics of division to a new level in Canada. Republican strategist Frank Luntz taught him well and he obviously took careful notes. Narrowcastigating Harper™.

I don’t need to tell you who Harper’s been cheerleading for in the Tar Sands debate. Fortunately for the Toronto Argonauts, Harper has no control over the rules for the big game Sunday. As we saw in last spring’s Omnibus Bill C-38, and again in this fall’s Omnibus Bill C-45, Harper’s not above changing the rules and fixing the outcome of the game (even mid-stream). Win-at-any-cost Harper™.

For the last 20 years, study-after-study-after-study has shown we can have a sustainable economy that meets our needs and aspirations while protecting what Canadians hold dear! At first it would take some compromise -- and rethinking much of what we do -- but it’s not rocket science. Even if it was -- and the government based policy on science -- that’s what statesmen do! They take on big ideas by bringing people together and finding solutions. It used to be referred to as leadership in Ottawa before the Republicans arrived. I’ll never understand why the PM didn’t want to be a great statesman - a noble man.

As we approach 2013, I regret we’re not able to work with our federal government, building the Canada of Tomorrow. Instead, we’re stuck here scrambling, once again, to put out the most recent fires (de-listing of 65,000 lakes from environmental protection, rapidly disappearing Artic sea ice, imminent closure of the Environmental Lakes Area Research Station, etc.).

I’m looking forward to putting Harper Politics™ aside and enjoying a great game Sunday. May the best team win!

John Bennett, Executive Director
Sierra Club Canada
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