Friday, December 16, 2005

Old Wounds Reopened...

Back in the waning years of the last century, an Elite Oi! Thump! Speech Annotation Team:

was sent out to annotate a speech by a then-unknown Stephen Harper, a speech delivered to the Council for National Policy. Which was pretty good work, if you ask me, since Oi! Thump! didn't begin until 2004. Nevertheless, contact was lost during the course of the mission, and the team was never heard from again. However, an Elite Oi! Thump! Speech Annotation Team Recovery Team:

managed to find their notes on Harper's speech. They tell a tragic tale, and when the speech resurfaced in the context of the current election campaign, I have to confess the Oi! Thump! staff hit the bottle pretty hard. Anyway, here is Harper's speech, with the notes of the doomed annotation team appended. Read it at your peril.

Text of Stephen Harper's speech to the Council for National Policy, June 1997

Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by giving you a big welcome to Canada. Let's start up with a compliment. You're here from the second greatest nation on earth. But seriously, your country, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world.

Oh God, people. He's not even a paragraph into it, and already he has revealed himself to be the bitch, in the correctional services sense of the term, of a powerful group of American conservatives. Pray that this imbecile never decides to run for PM.

Now, having given you a compliment, let me also give you an insult. I was asked to speak about Canadian politics. It may not be true, but it's legendary that if you're like all Americans, you know almost nothing except for your own country. Which makes you probably knowledgeable about one more country than most Canadians.

But in any case, my speech will make that assumption. I'll talk fairly basic stuff. If it seems pedestrian to some of you who do know a lot about Canada, I apologize.

At this point Smidgins formally requested permission to vomit. Permission was granted.

I'm going to look at three things. First of all, just some basic facts about Canada that are relevant to my talk, facts about the country and its political system, its civics. Second, I want to take a look at the party system that's developed in Canada from a conventional left/right, or liberal/conservative perspective. The third thing I'm going to do is look at the political system again, because it can't be looked at in this country simply from the conventional perspective.

What he means here is that he is going to look at one thing, three times. And not one of those three examinations will be based in reality. Just see if we're wrong.

First, facts about Canada. Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it. Canadians make no connection between the fact that they are a Northern European welfare state and the fact that we have very low economic growth, a standard of living substantially lower than yours, a massive brain drain of young professionals to your country, and double the unemployment rate of the United States.

In terms of the unemployed, of which we have over a million-and-a-half, don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance.

Alright, so he thinks Canada's in Europe, and he's happy that people don't have jobs. This is going to be a tough one people. We're going on half rations, as of now.

That is beginning to change. There have been some significant changes in our fiscal policies and our social welfare policies in the last three or four years. But nevertheless, they're still very generous compared to your country.

Now he thinks generosity sucks. Christmas around the Harper farmstead must be a real blast...

Let me just make a comment on language, which is so important in this country. I want to disabuse you of misimpressions you may have. If you've read any of the official propagandas, you've come over the border and entered a bilingual country. In this particular city, Montreal, you may well get that impression. But this city is extremely atypical of this country.

While it is a French-speaking city – largely – it has an enormous English-speaking minority and a large number of what are called ethnics: they who are largely immigrant communities, but who politically and culturally tend to identify with the English community.

I am beginning to worry about Smidgins; he just sits in the corner, shaking and whimpering. Browning-Hawkins, as well, is looking peaky. And, I have a feeling this isn't going to get any better any time soon...

This is unusual, because the rest of the province of Quebec is, by and large, almost entirely French-speaking. The English minority present here in Montreal is quite exceptional.

Furthermore, the fact that this province is largely French-speaking, except for Montreal, is quite exceptional with regard to the rest of the country. Outside of Quebec, the total population of francophones, depending on how you measure it, is only three to five per cent of the population. The rest of Canada is English speaking.

Except for those who speak Cree, or Gwich'in, or Chipewayan, or Chinese, or Vietnamese, or Korean, or Italian, or Arabic, or Bantu, or Punjabi, etc, and who gives a fuck about those groups anyway? Not this guy. Wait, did I actually write "fuck"? I did, to my shame. I pray that Oi! Thump! never descends into the hideous depths of such lewdness.

But the important point is that Canada is not a bilingual country. It is a country with two languages. And there is a big difference.

Um, no there isn't? One might as well say that this Mr. Harper is not a sychophantic fat-head, but rather a fat-headed sycophant. As you can see, there is not difference at all.

As you may know, historically and especially presently, there's been a lot of political tension between these two major language groups, and between Quebec and the rest of Canada.

Let me take a moment for a humorous story. Now, I tell this with some trepidation, knowing that this is a largely Christian organization.

Is he going to tell a dirty joke? This oughta be good...

The National Citizens Coalition, by the way, is not. We're on the sort of libertarian side of the conservative spectrum. So I tell this joke with a little bit of trepidation. But nevertheless, this joke works with Canadian audiences of any kind, anywhere in Canada, both official languages, any kind of audience.

Awright, so you're afraid to tell the goddamn joke already. Just fucking tell it already!! I begin to think that we are doomed.

It's about a constitutional lawyer who dies and goes to heaven. There, he meets God and gets his questions answered about life. One of his questions is, "God, will this problem between Quebec and the rest of Canada ever be resolved?" And God thinks very deeply about this, as God is wont to do. God replies, "Yes, but not in my lifetime."

That was it?? That was it?!?!?!??? That was the big laugh that you were so afraid to deliver to this august audience. I told that fucking joke better when I was in Grade 3!!!! This is all going horribly wrong; Smidgins has eaten his gun (and I mean that quite literally), Brown-Hawkins is catatonic with ennui, and our native guide is performing some sort of tribal pre-death ritual. Pray for us...

I'm glad to see you weren't offended by that. I've had the odd religious person who's been offended. I always tell them, "Don't be offended. The joke can't be taken seriously theologically. It is, after all, about a lawyer who goes to heaven."

Oh for fuck's sake, Harper, put your pants back on. They're going to roger you after the speech, not during it.

In any case. My apologies to Eugene Meyer of the Federalist Society.


Second, the civics, Canada's civics.

On the surface, you can make a comparison between our political system and yours. We have an executive, we have two legislative houses, and we have a Supreme Court.

However, our executive is the Queen, who doesn't live here. Her representative is the Governor General, who is an appointed buddy of the Prime Minister.

Yes, the Queen lives in big house in a place called England! Can you say "England," boys and girls? I thought you could. I am now the last one left. Miss Maperly has gone to try to find help, but I am not optimistic.

Of our two legislative houses, the Senate, our upper house, is appointed, also by the Prime Minister, where he puts buddies, fundraisers and the like. So the Senate also is not very important in our political system.

And we have a Supreme Court, like yours, which, since we put a charter of rights in our constitution in 1982, is becoming increasingly arbitrary and important. It is also appointed by the Prime Minister. Unlike your Supreme Court, we have no ratification process.

Yeah, because the problem of a country's leader stacking the Supreme Court with political fellow-travellers could never, ever, occur in the United States. It's unpossible!

So if you sort of remove three of the four elements, what you see is a system of checks and balances which quickly becomes a system that's described as unpaid checks and political imbalances.

What we have is the House of Commons. The House of Commons, the bastion of the Prime Minister's power, the body that selects the Prime Minister, is an elected body. I really emphasize this to you as an American group: It's not like your House of Representatives. Don't make that comparison.

Try and stop me Harper, I dare you! "The Canadian House of Commons is like the U.S. House of Representatives." See, you are powerless!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH-HAHA-ha. Tell my wife I love her.

What the House of Commons is really like is the United States electoral college. Imagine if the electoral college which selects your president once every four years were to continue sitting in Washington for the next four years. And imagine its having the same vote on every issue. That is how our political system operates.

Now he's just making shit up. No sign of help arriving.

In our election last Monday, the Liberal party won a majority of seats. The four opposition parties divided up the rest, with some very, very rough parity.

But the important thing to know is that this is how it will be until the Prime Minister calls the next election. The same majority vote on every issue. So if you ask me, "What's the vote going to be on gun control?" or on the budget, we know already.

Ph'nglui mglw 'nahf Cthulu r'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!! Ph'nglui mglw 'nahf Cthulu r'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!!

If any member of these political parties votes differently from his party on a particular issue, well, that will be national headline news. It's really hard to believe. If any one member votes differently, it will be national headline news. I voted differently at least once from my party, and it was national headline news. It's a very different system.

National headline news...national headline news...national headline news... This speech would fail as a first-year poli sci paper. Um, I mean Ph'nglui mglw 'nahf Cthulu r'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!

Our party system consists today of five parties. There was a remark made yesterday at your youth conference about the fact that parties come and go in Canada every year. This is rather deceptive. I've written considerably on this subject.

Ok, you get a gold star for having written considerably. Well done. Moving along...

We had a two-party system from the founding of our country, in 1867. That two-party system began to break up in the period from 1911 to 1935. Ever since then, five political elements have come and gone. We've always had at least three parties. But even when parties come back, they're not really new. They're just an older party re-appearing under a different name and different circumstances.

Strength...failing... So cold...

Let me take a conventional look at these five parties. I'll describe them in terms that fit your own party system, the left/right kind of terms.

Let's take the New Democratic Party, the NDP, which won 21 seats. The NDP could be described as basically a party of liberal Democrats, but it's actually worse than that, I have to say. And forgive me jesting again, but the NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men.

That's it, I'm outta here.

The rest of the team's report is, unfortunately, completely indecipherable. It appears that Mr. Harper's attempts to liken Canadian political parties to U.S. equivalents caused some sort of "stupidity vortex" that messily devoured the mission's last survivor. Phrases like "So you see the syndrome we're in" are believed to have been a major cause of this, but the evidence is not conclusive. Anyway, there you have it: the tragic tail of an annotation mission gone horribly wrong. We remember our fallen heroes, and pray for the souls of next group of people who have to listen to a Stephen Harper speech.

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