It’s no secret that the Harper government holds our natural environment in contempt. In fact, as Rick Mercer so saliently ranted recently, for many people the Conservative’s disdain for our environment is a significant selling point. Now if only, as Mercer put it, the Conservatives would stop insulting our collective intelligence by pretending to give a shit about climate change and sea turtles and the like, we could stop mocking their two faced hypocrisy.
Sadly, this seems to be too much to ask, and Harper and his ministers persist in professing their love for trees and things, while all the while ravaging our natural environment. Recent cuts to environmental protection, which could reach a staggering 1.5 billion dollars by 2015, amount to slapping an ‘open for business’ sign on our pristine wilderness, and have sent hypocrisy detectors spinning out of control across the country.
Thankfully, along comes the latest offering in an ongoing campaign by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (Quebec and National Capital regions), to articulate the screaming meemies of inchoate rage so many of us feel when presented with the words ‘Harper’ and environment’ in the same sentence.
“The True Nature of the Harper Government”, which hit 10,000 views in its first day, is the third video in a series designed to draw attention to the dangerous character of Harper’s cuts to public services. Although it mirrors the slick production values and clever use of visual metaphor of the first two, targeting food safety and aviation security, this latest offering from Quebec production house Tope la! treats the complicated subject of cuts to environmental protection to a satirical send up which is pitch perfect.
The video opens on a woman, alone, drinking a glass of water in her living room. Her front door splinters under the impact of a jack booted foot, and two characters dressed in black suits and gas masks come crashing into her home. Seemingly stunned silent, she watches in disbelief as they kidnap her goldfish, pour dirt into its bowl, and uproot plants willy nilly. Having stolen the plants and animals (a parallel to the disappearance of wild plants and animals in response to rising levels of pollution), they leave behind dirt, destruction and a shattered home (read earth). The coup de grace however, comes as they advance on the terrified homeowner before leaving, lifting their masks and pausing to light a cigar, which one intruder puffs deeply on, before dropping it into the woman’s water glass.
There you have it, summed up in an allegorical silent film which clocks in at under two minutes: the abject contempt with which the Harperites treat those who dare advocate for a healthy environment. Tope la! clearly have a way with images, and all their videos, conceived as silent to facilitate releasing them bilingually, are expressive, allegorical and tightly wound. This one however, soars above the previous two and seems to connect with the zeitgeist of the moment as it so deftly articulates a feeling we all share at a deep, emotional level. I expect this video to strike a nerve with many Canadians, and I won’t be surprised in the slightest if it goes viral, expressing so deftly as it does the generalized rage felt by all Canadians who care a whit for the survival of our species, and our planet.
In addition to the aforementioned 1.5 billion dollars of cuts to environmental protection, the campaign website points out that the Harper government has slashed laws protecting fisheries, navigable waterways and requiring environmental impact assessments, not to mention seriously soiling the bed when it comes to acting on the foremost challenge facing our generation: climate change.
It bears mentioning that this campaign has not been free of snafus. Last week an interactive tool which allowed users to make up captions and insert them into thought bubbles over pictures of Stephen Harper was pulled after Canadians were predictably crude in their assessment of the Prime Minister. The eagle eyed may also have noticed that the name of the campaign has changed, with the original (and presumably overly provocative) “Harper hates us”, replaced with the inoffensive “No to the cuts."
I think this gutlessness is unfortunate. PSAC are in nothing less than a battle for the soul of the country, not to mention countless thousands of their members jobs. If now is not the time to push the envelope, however slightly, then will such a time ever arrive? Canadians crave bold leadership, and yearn for strong challenges to the destructive ways of our government. If PSAC are scared off by a few complaints, and a hurt feeling or two, then how on earth do they propose to win a battle in which they are already prohibitive underdogs?
I hope that the union finds the steel in their backbone as the campaign rolls to a close, because gawd knows we could use a little fearless leadership. Harper’s goal is no secret, in fact it’s explicitly stated in his Economic Action Plan: “to make Canada the most attractive country in the world for resource investment and development.” Halting the sell-off of our precious natural resources, so that our environment may be preserved for future generations, is our challenge. Let’s get on it.
Meanwhile, for those fearful for the poor goldfish, I am pleased to report that no innocent plants or animals were harmed in the production of this video, as a cheeky small print line at the bottom of the website declares. “About the video: After his stunning performance, the goldfish was immediately transferred to a big clean bowl. As for the plants, they have all been re-potted.”
For more information on the campaign, and to watch all the videos, visit the campaign website: notothecuts.ca