After years of demeaning Parliament, Harper has finally managed to demean the Crown. His tool this time was yesterday’s Speech from the Throne. By halfway through I was almost nauseous. Let me explain.
I understand full well that it is traditional for the Speech to be written by the Government of the day and read by the Governor General or, in Britain, by the Queen herself. And I understand that the Government will want to reassure the people that all has been well and will be well. Sure. It’s ceremony. It’s theatre. It’s politics. But yesterday’s effort went over the top into farce.
The opening litany of praise for dear old Canada pretty well set the stage with its series of elegiac passages each beginning, “Consider this –“. We were to consider that Canada is inclusive, honourable, selfless, smart, and caring, not a single word of which applies to the Harper Government that has been doing its best to undermine all those attributes.
Now it is also my understanding that the Crown holds all power in trust for the people, from whom that power comes. The Prime Minister is the Crown’s First Minister and, sure, the Government that he or she leads is the Crown’s Government — ours. So fine, when the G.G. says “our” he is using the Royal “we”, speaking for the Crown, which is the people. But watch where this took us.
It took us to a passage where the G.G. assured us that “Two and a half years ago, Canadians gave our Government a strong mandate…” Think about that. Here is the old mandate canard in full bloom. But the man, David Johnson, is smart and educated. He knows full well that when only 38% of voters cast ballots for a Party (actually only 25% of eligible voters) then that is not a mandate given by the people but a mandate given by an illogical electoral system. But as David Johnson the Governor General he has to sit there and mouth the nonsense that “Canadians gave our Government a strong mandate”.
Then the “our” business continued on in a paean of praise telling us how the Government has been making Canada first among nations in a multitude of ways, all of which are debatable points and should not be forced as facts from the mouth of the Crown’s representative. And here’s the rub. As His Excellency, David Johnson put so much feeling into it, read so sincerely, smiled so reassuringly, that the hypocrisy of the whole exercise was magnified. Now there’s a paradox for you. He did the job so well that it reeked of malarkey. Not his malarkey. Harper malarkey.
The camera’s predilection for close shots of Harper didn’t help. The P.M. was focused so intently on the G.G. that I found myself looking to see if the puppeteer’s lips were moving.
No Governor General should have to sit there and mouth as facts an unadulterated list of debatable points. It demeans the intelligence and office of the person who delivers it and of those who listen to it. I would suggest that in the future the Governor General should rebel by simply inserting a simple word or two. In the future when forced to parrot a Government’s perceived virtues of itself let him or her say, “Our Government says…” “Our Government claims…” “Our Government avers … ” “Our Government believes…”
The G.G. has to read the twaddle but he shouldn’t have to appear to believe it. Let the Crown come out of it with integrity intact. Not easy to do with a Harper Throne Speech.