Harper’s Yukon visit failed to inspire

 Last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in the Yukon so briefly that I wondered why he didn't just use Skype. He met with some industry folks, had a picnic at Miles Canyon (after it had been closed to riffraff such as th

COMMENTARY

Open letter to MP Ryan Leef:

Last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in the Yukon so briefly that I wondered why he didn’t just use Skype. He met with some industry folks, had a picnic at Miles Canyon (after it had been closed to riffraff such as the public) and announced old programs. And he attended a private Conservative Party function at a ranch outside of Whitehorse.

The pretence that the prime minister is willing to meet with ordinary Yukoners has been left by the wayside.

There was a small protest held outside the ranch property as conservatives arrived. Our group included members of Idle No More, conservationists, an opera singer with opinions about the degradation of democracy, a First Nations song and drum group and me. We held signs and sang. The operatic voice filled the entire forest with a spirited rendition of “Oh Canada.” It must have also penetrated the closed vehicles because some of the guests flinched as they drove by.

The drum and song group wrote a special song for the prime minister. Translated it went, “Run away Harper, poor thing.” How prescient! The next day, Mr. Harper announced his intention to prorogue Parliament.

During this visit to the Yukon, the prime minister accused the NDP of being “dangerous” and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau of poor judgment. He went on to say that his party stood up for those “who played by the rules.”

Do Conservative supporters really live under a rock? The prime minister seems to think so. It’s as though the disgraced senators appointed themselves to the Senate. As though access to the Conservative Party database, which allowed Pierre Poutine to commit electoral crime, didn’t originate from someone high up in the Conservative Party echelon. Playing by the rules, indeed!

How enjoyable was that private Conservative function anyway? Our tiny gathering outside the gates was fun.

I attended a Conservative Party barbecue fundraiser for the food bank shortly after you were elected in 2010. In spite of Senator Dan Lang’s valiant attempts to get people to circulate, Conservatives clung to the walls. They didn’t invite eye contact. They didn’t talk to each other. Why were they so grim? Was it the presence of Tony Clement, fresh from the Fake Lake boondoggle? Perhaps Jack Layton’s recent demise and the outpouring of grief by so many Canadians made them feel low knowing that their guy was never going to inspire that kind of love. “Funereal” is the only way I could describe the event.

This summer there was a Liberal gathering for Justin Trudeau at Mount Mac. The room was packed. People were excited, chatty and engaged. Mr. Trudeau gave a short, lively speech about his aspirations for Canada. (By the way, he didn’t slander his political opponents.)

He took un-vetted questions from the audience and I asked: “Given that the First Past the Post electoral system is undemocratic and leads to negative campaigning, where do you stand on electoral reform?” He responded thoughtfully and at length. He endorsed changing to a preferential voting system. He also noted that it would be constitutionally simple to do. Mr. Trudeau did not endorse a system of proportional representation, such as that of Germany, saying that it would result in special interest groups, deal-making and division.

I don’t entirely agree with Mr. Trudeau. But I appreciated that he didn’t brush me off with catchphrases, that he had already given the subject serious consideration and that he was able to think on his feet.

I’ve attended other political parties. Charlie Angus performed with Kevin Barr at an NDP fundraiser this summer. And I have to say that the NDP sure know how to step dance.

A few years ago, we were at a party given for Elizabeth May. The Old Fire Hall was filled to capacity and just about everyone who wasn’t a Conservative was there, including Liberal and NDP politicians. Larry Bagnell’s infant daughter played at May’s feet while she spoke. Was there music? It felt like it.

There have been some political defections lately. MPs Brent Rathgeber and Maria Mourani have both broken with the fold for reasons of principle. They have my respect and I notice that Rathgeber walks with a lighter step these days.

Ryan, if you were to cross the floor and sit as an Independent, not only would you gain the respect of many Yukoners, you might also be invited to a better class of parties.

May you walk on the high road.

Linda Leon is a Whitehorse freelance writer.

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