Whose values are Canadian values?
Yours, perhaps? As you may have heard, but likely didn’t, some federal Liberals and New Democrats were in a bit of lather last week.
During his mandatory annual visit to the Calgary Stampede, Prime Minister Stephen Harper bashed his opponents (as expected) and insisted his Conservatives are super-duper winners (ditto).
Then he said this: “Conservative values are Canadian values.” And: “Canadian values are Conservative values.”
Hoo boy! When he said that stuff, the progressive side of the commentariat promptly went bananas. Liberal Leader Bob Rae — whose party Harper amusingly described as relevant as “disco balls and bell bottoms” — declared Harper was sounding pretty arrogant, which was true.
The Globe’s Lawrence Martin agreed it was arrogant, and he would know. So did a Saskatoon Star-Phoenix columnist, who opined it reeked of “annoying arrogance.” In the Winnipeg Free Press, Frances Russell — not noted as a Harper cheerleader — agreed the Stampede tub-thumper was a lot of triumphalism, hubris and arrogance.
You get the picture: “Arrogant.”
It was “arrogant” to say Conservative values and Canadian values are the same thing. (I thought Harper’s crack about disco balls and bell bottoms was pretty funny, coming as it does from an unhip guy so square, he needs to walk around the block to turn over in bed.)
So, when on Krista Erickson’s Sun News show this past week, Harper’s “values” claim came up again, I shrugged. “Meh,” said I.
First off, I reminded her, I am a Calgarian who — like most sane Calgarians — is no fan of the Stampede. The Stampede, I told her, is mostly an opportunity for uptight businessmen and repressed Easterners to descend on downtown Calgary, drink too much and throw up in public.
“If you’re a Calgarian, Stampede’s a good time to leave town,” I said to a horrified Krista, who is from Winnipeg, thereby neatly explaining why she thinks the Stampede is swell.
Secondly, I suggested, Canadian politicians have been claiming their party’s “values” are identical to Canadians’ “values” since Jesus was a little feller. One 1981 speech by Pierre Trudeau to Grits in Vancouver saw the thenprime minister saying Liberal values were all- Canadian and “accepted from coast to coast.”
And, before he became prime minister, way back in 1978, Brian Mulroney gave a speech in honour of my friend Sam Wakim, and he also suggested Tory values were “real values” and Canadians deserved “no less.” Get the picture?
Politicians are always going on about “values” and always insisting their values are identical to yours. What Harper said at the Stampede wasn’t something about which anyone needed to get their lasso in a knot.
Here’s what I think: The best people to determine the ownership of Canadian “values” are Canadians. And, since there is usually a broad range of opinion on any subject you can think of — gun control, abortion, debts and deficits, hockey and Justin Bieber — there are precious few things which all Canadians agree.
Here’s my stab at a values list:
One, we all agree our beer is better than American beer.
Two, we all agree our TV shows generally aren’t as good as American TV shows.
Three, we all agree we’d much rather live here than somewhere else.
Four, we all agree it’s pretty much impossible to answer the question: “What is a Canadian?”
Fifth and finally, we all agree politicians, irrespective of party affiliation, will always claim they share our “values.” We all agree that’s Canadian, too. And, also, silly.