Neither here nor there

Peter Pickersgill
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Igor and Steve

On the TV screen the handsome, young man gestures towards a mass of swirling cloud offshore the east coast of North America.

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The scene shifts to a stand of palm trees bending in strong winds. The young man explains the trees are in Bermuda, which is being battered by hurricane force winds. The storm, it is named Igor, is tracking at high speeds toward the island of Newfoundland, and should arrive shortly with torrential rain and high winds. It is September in Newfoundland and Labrador and the predictable is happening. You can predict a storm is coming, but not how destructive it will be. The predictable is happening in Ottawa, too.  Parliament is opening and with it the mouths of a large room full of MP’s shouting their way through question period.  At home the mouths of voters are opening too, some in shouts of protest at their TV screens broadcasting the shenanigans from the House of Commons, and others with wide yawns as they reach for the channel changer. You can predict a new session of Parliament with a new government agenda that will happen in September, but not how destructive it will be. In Ottawa, the government of Stephen Harper is embarking on a project to build new prisons at a time when the crime rate is falling. It will make Canadians understand that the Stephites are tough on crime. Think the crime rate is falling? Now, why would you believe those statistics that say it is? In any case, soon you won’t have to be troubled by those pesky numbers, because the Stephites are scrapping the long form of the census. The chief mouthpiece for the Steve, a man named Kory Teneycke, recently left the Prime Minister’s office to head up a new television channel called Sun News. It’s modelled on Fox News south of the border, whose mission is to make each and every American think he or she is under threat from a host of sources: The Muslim Plot to destroy America, The gay takeover of Christianity, the danger that haunts America’s streets, the threat to whites by blacks and...the list continues. 
A long list of reasons for you to be scared is crucial to a government that wants you to think they are protecting you when they take bold and decisive measures. If you think crime is rising because there are no statistics available to show that it is not, you are easy prey for a news network that exists to make you think that crime is the major threat to Canada, just like it is in the States. So, naturally, the next logical step in the absence of a long form census to disprove the rise of crime is to scrap the long gun registry so you, the frightened citizen, can better defend yourself.  
It helps if the Stephites have the National Rifle Association in the United States as an ally to plant the idea in the minds of the Canadian public that registering guns is something you should be scared of.  It is the NRA that made popular the slogan, If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.  
If all this is starting to sound unlike the Canada you are used to, you may be right.  The Americanization of our politics is unfolding rapidly.  A little too rapidly for Quebecor, the Sun News owners who realized the elapsed time between Kory Teynecke leaving politics and popping up as the head of Sun News was maybe not quite long enough. A week after his appointment he was gone.  Luc Lavoie, former chief mouthpiece for Brian Mulroney, is the new head of Sun News.
But the American-inspired protection of Canadians by the Stephites continues.  This time it takes the form of 65 new fighter aircrafts the government feels are crucial to making us safe. From what is not clear.  
Some critics refer to the F-35 as a high tech evolution of a concept whose origin dates from the Cold War.  Remember that?  Kruschev pounding on his podium at the UN with a shoe?  The last attack on North America, if memory serves, would not likely have been thwarted by high tech fighters at 140 million a pop, 9 billion for the lot, 16 billion when you spring for the maintenance contract.
The last attack was from several guys with $1.99 knives they picked up at a hardware store.
Something we really do have a reason to be scared about is the way the contract is being negotiated. No bidding process. Once upon a time I did some contract work for the federal government. In those days, any contract over $2,000 had to go to a competitive bid.  Now, I realize time has passed and with it inflation has, well...inflated, but 16 billion with no bid? Wouldn’t it be prudent to at least kick the tires on a couple of other planes before signing the contract?  Particularly when you have just announced that a period of belt tightening is right around the corner?
What is predictable about all this is that politicians in power who sense a vacuum of leadership in the opposition will try to take advantage of it to get away with things that an alert public would never stand for.  
What is predictable is that politics has its cycles. That following a period when the Canadian public had a severe allergy to George W. Bush, there would come a time when Canadians would cease thinking all things American were all that dangerous and they would go back to sleep. What isn’t predictable is how fast it can happen and how destructive it can be. If Stephen Harper was a hurricane, say hurricane Igor, the handsome young man pointing at the swirling mass on the weather map would be saying: “Man, this thing is big, it’s coming fast and it’s going to do a whole lot of damage.”

“If you think crime is rising because there are no statistics available to show that it is not, you are easy prey for a news network that exists to make you think that crime is the major threat to Canada, just like it is in the States.”

Organizations: Sun News, House of Commons, National Rifle Association Fox News Quebecor UN

Geographic location: Ottawa, United States, Bermuda Island of Newfoundland Newfoundland and Labrador Canada North America

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