Like Sir John A. Macdonald, a British subject I was born and now, apparently, a British subject I may die. What's with that?
Or did I fail to get it right yesterday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his gang of so-called Conservatives have decided to give up he trappings of independent nationhood and, just as the Scots are about to head out for the Highlands, go in with the British on a joint-venture diplomatic service?
This has got to be the weirdest story of the long, weird Harper government. Who thought we'd ever see the leaders of a sovereign nation state, even this one, so glibly toss aside the trappings of sovereignty and nation statehood?
What's next, a cheerful bon voyage et bon chance to Quebec? (Scary answer: Don't bet against it.)
What gives with these guys, anyway? Sovereign countries run by sensible politicians don't just volunteer to stop being countries, even a piece at a time -- not, leastways, until after a sustained bombing campaign by the U.S. Air Force and the other occupants of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Preferred Customer Lounge, formerly known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
But Harper and his minister of foreign affairs, John Baird, have glibly done no less -- all the while assuring us it's just a cost-saving measure, doesn't mean a thing, it's simply a way to save Canada's hard-working taxpayers a modest sum of free-floating Northern Credonias, or whatever the British-Icelandic-Canadian currency is called nowadays, by going back in with our previous colonial masters on their nice ambassadorial digs in Burkina Faso and what have you.
This prompted NDP Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair to sound like he was channeling Perfesser Dave and riff that there's plenty more the Harperites could do next. "Why stop at the embassies," he wondered. "They could merge our armed forces. No wonder they’re so nostalgic for the war of 1812! Why not merge the Senate with the House of Lords? It’s the same difference. …" (It is true, Mulcair and the Perfesser chatted over the weekend at the Alberta NDP convention, but I can assure you they didn't talk about diplomacy.)
Seriously, speaking of the War of 1812, was the young Stephen Harper so excited about that conflict that he missed the lesson on the Statute of Westminster?
The Statute of Westminster, for those of you who voted for Harper's Conservative Party and may like him have missed that class, has nothing to do with the port up the Fraser River from the offices of the market-fundy "institute" of the same name. Rather, it was a law passed in the British House of Commons in 1931 that essentially established Canada and the other dominions of the British Empire as independent countries.
Among other things, the Statute of Westminster meant that never no more would our Canadian interests abroad have to be represented by the British Legation, even before prime minister Pierre Trudeau got us our own Constitution with an amending formula and everything. At least, that is, until Messrs. Harper and Baird came along.
So, seriously, people … are they nuts? The answer, I think, is probably yes. Let me explain.
Canadians and the citizens of other Western democracies that have been pushed relentlessly to the right for the past 30 or so years still count on their most right-wing politicians to entertain a certain amount of sensible hypocrisy when spouting their foolish bromides.
They can't actually believe that nonsense, we tell ourselves after a night like the one in May 2011 on which Harper and his party finally got their coveted majority government, so they'll probably run the place in a pretty sensible fashion.
It's like in George Orwell’s 1984, the Party -- and especially the Inner Party -- isn't supposed to consume the same tripe they spout over the Prolefeed. It's supposed to understand the true Party agenda and vision (a boot stomping on a human face forever).
Now, in deference to my one-time supervisor at the Globe and Mail, Peggy Wente, I have to confess that I didn't actually write the previous line myself, but pretty much stole it outright from a blog post economist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times, just throwing in an extra word here and there to confuse the no-longer-so-anonymous blogger at Media Culpa. I just forgot to put quotation marks around it because I’m tired and have to get up in less than six hours and drive to Red Deer, and because, anyway, I don't really care that I'm falling short of the Globe's journalistic standards in terms of reasonable credit for the work of others because … oh, wait. I just provided reasonable credit!
Whatever… Don't expect Wente to be punished very severely for her transgressions. She knows where most of the bodies are buried at the Globe, including who authorized the payments to Conrad Black for that column his driver used to bring her in his limo. (Really!)
Anyway, it's kind of scary when you start unearthing bits of evidence that Harper might actually believe what he said back when he was the Top Dawg at the National Citizens Coalition (which, readers are reminded, isn't national, doesn't represent citizens and isn't a coalition).
It's sort of like finding out that Ronald Reagan was relying on a tarot card reader for advice and may have really believed it when he whispered into the microphone, "I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."
Alert readers will recall Harper's actual words to the NCC's Colin Brown Memorial Dinner in 1994: "Whether Canada ends up as one national government, or two national governments or several national governments is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion. … And whether Canada ends up with one national government or two governments or 10 governments, the Canadian people will require less government no matter what the constitutional status or arrangement of any future country may be."
In other words, yesterday's embassy timeshare announcement suggests that Harper actually believes the kind of nutty tripe he spouts! He may sincerely be the pure, globalized market fundamentalist fruitcake that the more excitable residents of the tinfoil-hat-wearing corners of the blogosphere keep saying he is!
And if that's the case, he really may not give a hang who represents us abroad, who owns all our bitumen or anything else -- be it the British, the Chinese, the Americans, KPMG or Coca-Cola -- as long as they share his market-fundamentalist convictions.
And if that's really the case, we Canadians might just be advised to skid his loony government as quickly as possible while we still have a country!
This post also appears on David Climenhaga' blog, Alberta Diary.