On the advent of the Harper-versary – one year of a strong, stable, national majority Conservative government – the three main parties all held events for the media. After all, who doesn’t love a good anniversary speech? (Note: “good” being a particularly subjective measure).
Stephen Harper was up first, as is his wont, and after the media filed into the caucus room, we were treated to some happy clapping before the speech itself. Apparently, Harper’s mandate is for one thing above all – to secure the prosperity of Canadians. And here I thought it was about killing the long-gun registry, the Canadian Wheat Board, passing the omnibus crime bill and any number of other measures that they have invoked the words “strong mandate” to justify.
Harper says that in keeping their commitments, they are balancing the budget without raising taxes, making “modest but meaningful” reductions, and that hey, our economic performance is the envy of the world. Really? Somebody has better alert China.
Going forward, Harper says that they need to look beyond Question Period and the four-year election cycle, and that the financial and debt crises the rest of the developed world is facing may not be changing, so we’d best be on the right side of history, and hey, we’re making OAS and health transfers sustainable as part of that. And with a nod to milestones like today being not only a measure of how far you’ve come but also how far you have to go, and a round of “Canada is the best country in the world,” Harper basked in his applause while we were ushered out of the room.
Thomas Mulcair’s speech was preceded by a video presentation of the party’s “best of” moments in Question Period and a “good parts only” fast-forward of the past year before Mulcair himself arrived to great applause (but no drum line. Oh the memories).
Mulcair called his team the most united in Canadian politics (well, now that Bruce Hyer is gone), and declared that a year ago today, “millions of Canadians began to rediscover their voice in our democracy.” Apparently people don’t vote because they don’t believe it will mean anything and that government isn’t serving them. But the cure for this malaise, according to Mulcair, is apparently to vote NDP.
Unlike Harper, who kept his speech fairly focused on his party’s accomplishments, Mulcair’s was largely about taking swipes at the Conservatives, some of them fairly non-sensical (like the abortion debate, never mind that a leader shouldn’t be dictating private members’ business lest MPs forgo any shred of independence they have left). And he promised to fight the Conservatives, which is pretty easy to do in a majority situation when you’re one confidence vote away from a snap election.
But, with his last assurance that he was going to unite progressives of all stripes under the NDP banner, Mulcair promised to form the next government, and with that, it was applause and ushering us out.
The final event, this one by the Liberals, was held at the Convention Centre with not only Rae in attendance, but also party president Mike Crawley. Crawley started off by talking about how the party was concentrating on renewal, and on being a different and unique opposition party. He talked about the January convention in which 3300 party members met and agreed to the new “supporter” category.
Rae took over at that point, and without notes, his voice hoarse, said that making this announcement on today’s anniversary date was about the future of the party and of Canada. Rae spoke about the need for the new “supporter” category so that anybody can join the party, and distilled Liberal values as the belief in rights and the dignity of persons, of prosperity, and of creating a sustainable society.
It was a short speech, and he held a scrum for reporters, the red t-shirt clad human wall still behind him, and saying that unlike other parties tooting their own horns, the Liberals were humble, and warned both Harper and Mulcair not to read too much into their mandates.