Who is this guy and why is he Science Minister if he doesn’t believe in science?
A few days later, in Southwestern Ontario, we had the normal Harper fare: a prefabricated backdrop, a selected crowd, an "announcement" about labour training programs the government had already announced in the budget. This was the usual Harper pattern: an "announcement" of what has already been outlined, or a repetition of known government policy.
Mr. Harper is, by his own admission, an anti-visionary politician. He doesn't like what former U.S. president George H. W. Bush called the "vision thing."
Visions get people all riled up. They set expectations that cannot be met. They demand the speaker reach into his own soul, and try to tap into those of his listeners. Visions can raise existential questions, always the most dangerous variety. They require public passion, again something potentially dangerous. They can lead to spontaneity, something Mr. Harper has trouble handling.
Great speeches speak to vision, and superior politicians use such speeches to summon fellow citizens to greater efforts, conceiving their society in certain ways, urging them in certain directions.
Today, in Washington, Americans have a leader who gives speeches in this sense of the word. Of course, Barack Obama talks about what his government is proposing, but he tries to point the way forward for his country. In other words, his speeches are more than announcements.
Nobody ever left a Stephen Harper speech, except perhaps for his most fervent partisans, ready to rethink anything and to adjust to new challenges, or feeling really good about their country. A check list of government policies, yes. An announcement, or rehashing of a previous one, yes. A pretty backdrop for the television cameras, yes. But inspiration, excitement, commitment, passion, sorry.
It's all so pre-fabricated, utilitarian, devoid of passion.
It's the politics of control that permeates Ottawa and makes fearful everyone who is supposed to give out information but is afraid to do so.
There's no point complaining about this way of communicating, because it comes right from the top. It's the way the Prime Minister wants things, and no one deviates from script. It's flat and uninspiring, one announcement after another. It hasn't worked yet in building a bond between the leader and the voters. But he's comfortable with this style, because it reflects him, and so it won't change.
Mr. Simpson has pegged the Harper "Big Mac Pickle" style quite well. But, with all due respect, the statement in the last sentence is quite wrong. We know this from a speech he gave last week to The Manning Centre for Building Democracy. The vision he is passionate about he is careful to hide from the rest of us.
Harper's public speeches are meant to blind us to his real actions like the blue blandness of his sweater vests and the way the amount of gray in his hair varies with time distracts us from his record.
The statement by Mr. Goodyear was a headfake. He wasn't asked about his religion. He was asked if he believed in evolution. He made a point of alluding to Creationism.
Canada's science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won't say if he believes in evolution. “I'm not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
Canada's science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won't say if he believes in evolution.
“I'm not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
Evolution is not a religion. He deliberately misconstrued the question. In this way, the cuts to basic research are bumped from the lede. This strategy works for the Conservatives. Their allies in the media are very happy to focus on Goodyear's odd beliefs rather than the details of science funding.
The challenge for progressives is to find a way to move attention beyond the false blandness of Harper and the necrotising fasciitis of his government. We need it and we need it fast.