For me, whatever might be worthwhile in Stephen Harper’s speech is degraded by his choice of location for delivering it. The Prime Minister of Canada flew to Switzerland to join the world’s rich and powerful to articulate his vision for our country. Instead of being an end-of-day addendum to a disinterested audience—which it was—Harper’s vision should have been boldly stated and debated in the Canadian Parliament.
In Davos, Harper said to a lecture hall emptying for the dinner break:
Our number-one priority as a government is prosperity.
Mind you, the statement does not surprise. It fits with the Conservative strategy of deeming any who hesitate to support unfettered industrial and commercial expansion to be enemies of Canada. The Harper Government regularly displays contempt for Parliament and contempt for the people of this country.
This week, Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver jetted into town to speak with prosperous plutocrats at Vancouver’s Terminal City Club. His message was familiar: Canada’s government has a responsibility to make sure that business can take advantage of Alberta’s tar sands and any who gets in the way of Enbridge are “radicals” to be ignored.
Despite having loaded the National Energy Board with industry insiders, Oliver worries the results of their regulatory hearings are “unpredictable.” Accordingly, he plans to streamline the process so that approvals are granted without delay. The Harper Government wants rubber stamp providers not regulatory agencies.
That’s the same philosophy that served Joe Oliver so well when he was CEO of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada:
Protect small investors from chicanery of fraudulent predators? Hell no, that would slow market activities in unpredictable ways.
A couple of weeks ago, BC Finance Minister Kevin Falcon gave a speech that reviewed the state of the 2011 provincial economy and the outlook for 2012. Where did he give that speech? Again, to a gathering of plutocrats at the Board of Trade.
I’m reminded of the first major political speech I ever attended. Prime Minister Lester Pearson spoke to thousands of students at UBC’s War Memorial Gym. He took applause along with derisive hoots and hollers and gave lowly frosh like me a sense of respect and attachment to the leader of Canada’s government.
Quite a change today when government ministers fly on private jets to luxurious enclaves where a chance encounter with a citizen is impossible.