I heard a funny thing past weekend. A friend of a source said that at the official launch of the one year countdown to the Vancouver Olympic Games, our illustrious PM - refused to high-five the people portraying the mascots: Sumi, Quatchi and Miga. To recap: Prime Minister Stephen Harper had to be talked into giving the three Olympic mascots a high five.
He refused to do it. Just refused.
Being a square is one thing, but even squares have a sense of fun and will pursue it if given a right, swift shove out the door. But usually your PR guys don't have to spend five minutes explaining the mechanics of being cool. And before you say it, or think it, this is not a made up story. The names of sources are being withheld to protect the innocent because God knows Harper has a mean streak.
But why bother mentioning this? Is it news?
No, not really. But it does highlight what I think we're missing in our government these days, which is a sense of openness. I'm not talking about freedom and rights, but of something more simplistic. I don't want to say a "sense of fun" because that sounds frivolous, but its definitely what the hippies would observe as a downer. Yes, Stephen Harper is the ultimate Captain Bring-Down.
Now that's not a crime, but it seems that ever sense Harper came to office there's just been a little less whimsy in politics. Everything now is too partisan, too demonstrative, too wrapped up in the back-fighting and jingoism that makes American politics often so unpalatable. This isn't solely the fault of Harper and the Conservatives, mark you, but it's a top down effect. This is the government that said that the open green on Parliament Hill presented too great a security risk and now there's this whole High Five-gate thing, which just makes Harper look like the gym teacher from Hell.
But there's also this other matter, the visit of the U.S. President to Ottawa this Thursday. It's Barack Obama's first trip to Canada, and he's got a lot of fans here, but there's no public events through which to honour his first foreign visit. Thanks guys. He just pretty much single-handily changed shifted the tone of politics in America to a state of hope and optimism. Seeing him talk in Parliament would have been awesome, it's just too bad that nobody in authority seemed to want to recall the House.
The government's been clear that this is a working visit, and Obama's only here a day and there's a lot to do, but come on. Not matter if this is true, one can't help but feel that the share-averse Harper Conservatives didn't want Obama to steal their thunder, or the spotlight, which of course he would because so many Canadians think so much better of Obama than Harper. It feels wrong that for his first visit, Obama's doing a driveby, and although he's a busy guy, I highly doubt that if the opportunity was extended to for the President to speak in the House he'd say, No, I'd rather not.
If there had been something more public, I would have packed a bag and headed to Ottawa for Thursday. I like Ottawa, and Parliament Hill is awesome. So imagine my disappointment when the PM's flacks were all like, Not so fast buckaroo, Obama's going to be working not speechifying. Dollars to donuts though there's going to be some last minute thing for the public to enjoy making Harper look like the man that gave us Obama when we thought there'd be none.
And that kids is why even when Stephen Harper makes things look fun, they're still not fun. He's for carefully structured enjoyment, like the guy that wants to assign which Monopoly pieces everybody gets. Harper's got to learn that Canada's the country of the party train to Confederation; we didn't fight a war to get our independence, we just told the Queen how it's going to be, got loaded and woke up hung over with a nation.
So welcome to Canada, President Obama. Wish we were there