The PM At The FCM

June 1, 2010

Sitting watching the video of Prime Minister Harper’s speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities from last Friday and I think it safe to say without fear of contradiction that I have not seen such a perfunctory public performance since paying $17 000 to witness the Eagles play Hotel California during their Hell Freezes Over For A Third Time reunion tour.

The man so didn’t want to be there. (Just like Don Henley.) He had nothing but contempt for those he had deigned to speak to. (Just like Timothy B. Schmit.) He chanted the phrase ‘Canada’s Economic Action Plan’ relentlessly as if to ward off evil spirits. (Just like Joe Walsh.)

Our Prime Minister couldn’t so much as muster up the pretense of graciousness to try and appear that he gave even a passing shit about the speech or who it was he was talking to. With the whole G20 meeting heat swirling around him, he put in an appearance and left the stage without taking any questions from the audience. Thank you and good night! Actually, it was less of a rote performance and more of a sound check.

And Conservatives wonder why they can’t make an electoral breakthrough in the country’s biggest cities? Even just a little love from Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto would put them securely into majority territory but somehow they are simply unable to reach out. Toronto should fuck off, we were told by Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Minister John Baird in the midst of the biggest economic downturn in decades.

While Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff didn’t exactly blow the roof off the place, he gave the impression that he’d at least put some thought into what he was going to say rather than slapping something together in the limo ride from the hotel. Ignatieff talked about the future, with cities being offered a more equal partnership. He talked about a national public transit strategy. An affordable housing strategy. A national infrastructure bank. To his mind, cities weren’t merely a “delivery system for the federal government’s stimulus program…” but “… ladders of opportunity.”

Hokum? Quite possibly. There is little question that many of the problems cities face currently can be traced back to a federal Liberal government’s budgetary slashing and burning in the early-to-mid-90s. A wrong they never even thought of righting until Paul Martin’s minority situation more than 10 years later almost, a cynic might argue, as a ploy to shore up their urban base.

Still, it’s preferable to a prime minister who steps in front of an audience of municipal leaders and refers to them as pothole fillers. That’s a level of smug self-importance and lack of awareness that is nothing short of staggering. Or maybe in Harper’s case, it’s completely calculated.

Like their eagerness to be seen dissing the “experts”, “academics” and “eggheads” in order to play to their perceived Sarah Palin base, maybe the idea of coming into Toronto and calling its mayor a filler of potholes went exactly as planned. This might also explain their whole lack of concern about the G20 controversy. Knowing how you can never not score points from coast to coast to coast by being seen sticking it to Toronto, it is very possible for this very political prime minister that he’s using the event to mark his territory as the top dog, alpha male boss. We’re bringing the G20 meeting here, see. We’re not even going to ask your permission, got it. We’re putting it on where we want with complete disregard for any suggestions you may have about where would work best. Because I’m the Prime Minister of Canada and you’re just a pothole filler.

If you’re a believer that the building of strong, sustainable cities is the future of building a strong, sustainable country, there is nothing our current Prime Minister says or does that can fill you with any confidence whatsoever. He clearly doesn’t share that view. To him the future is little more than balanced budgets and low, low corporate taxes. Cities aren’t even on his radar. They’re an after-thought, places to host international gatherings where he can sit beside other world leaders, basking in significance. Cities are just somewhere we live, where there are pot holes to be filled by lesser politicians than he.

submitted by Cityslikr