STEPHEN HARPER UNITING CANADIANS

Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers questions at a news conference at the Quebec Citadelle Friday June 23, 2006, in Quebec City. (CP PHOTO/Clement Allard )

It is good to see some of the headlines this week still holding Stephen Harper to the fire. I would be worried were all of the press ready to embrace him for what he is instead of what they believe him to be.

With headlines such as “Lack of Flags at Harper’s Quebec Speech” and “Harper Dodges Question on Quebec ‘Nation’ “, it is obvious to some journalists that every silver lining has a cloud.

For the most part, the Conservatives have been uniting Canadians from all groups. Since coming to power only five short months ago, we have seen much change.

We have seen the Islamic community working with the government to root out extremists. This has shown that those in Canada’s muslim community wish to adopt and adhere to Canada’s values. In fact, many from the muslim community have openly stated that they came to Canada to flee religious extremism. That is sort of what the settlers of the New World were doing. This has caused there to be more acceptance of the same group and less division.

We have seen the families of the Air India disaster finally get an inquiry to put some of the nagging questions that trouble them to rest; we have seen Canadians with ties to China finally receiving an apology for wrongs they felt were perpetrated against them.

We have seen concrete steps taken to deal with gun crimes, not simple sound bites to impress this group or that. We have witnessed the government keeping its promise on the GST like never before. Oh, we have had promises, but none that Mr. Chretien was willing to keep. Our border guards will finally be able to shoot back at suspects who are armed. Our defence department finally has a sustainable budget and our troops have had a visit from a leader who is proud of them and believes that they are capable of doing what is right, and one who was willing to spend a few days with them in ‘the zone’. This is completely unheard of.

Our children will now have added protection in the form of a raised age of consent, something that child advocates (real ones) and law enforcement have been seeking for years. Nothing was done before now when such a move makes so much sense and would have been so easy to implement. After almost a decade of a faltering U.S.-Canada relationship, we are now on the path to a once again open relationship where there is no need to bash one another for political showmanship in which real Canadians, such as our lumber workers, pay the price.

Here is hoping that the next session is as fruitful.

QUEBEC

The charges by some newspapers that Stephen Harper has been dodging the question of Quebec’s nationhood are simply false. He has openly stated that Quebec’s provincial legislature has the right to declare whatever it wants, but as the prime minister of Canada, he has an obligation to support only one nation and that nation is Canada. While the French people often use the term nation to describe themselves in the context of exactly that, a people, it is also obvious that a national leader acknowledging a political region as a ‘nation’ has far reaching legal and constitutional implications.

Stephen Harper isn’t dodging anything. He simply isn’t willing to make the same mistake that Paul Martin did in the late 2005 leaders debate.

With the Conservative cabinet meeting last week in The Citadel, a British fortress in days of olde, it is the first time since the 1950’s that the government has held a cabinet meeting in Quebec City.

In what some have called a provocation against sovereigntists, others have called a wise move.

This week Quebecer’s celebrated Fete Nationale which is also known as St. Jean Baptiste Day. While sovereigntists have, for decades, tried to tie the holiday in with their struggle for nationhood, Prime Minister Harper is fully aware that the celebration far outdates the Quiet Revolution in the1960’s; the birth of the latest sovereignty movement, and he wasn’t afraid to say so.

“This St-Jean day reminds us all of the riches and greatness of the Quebec and francophone Canadian experience,” he told a small crowd at a small country event on Saturday. “This Fete nationale was being celebrated long before the Quiet Revolution and even before Confederation.”

It seems that Harper is declaring that he will not simply come to Quebec as a quiet observer, but as one in command of the province as its national leader. One who is not simply going to walk on eggshells, but one who knows what he wants to accomplish and is set on doing so. For a great deal of Quebecers, this is all new to them.

Leadership? From Ottawa? Incredible! Magnifique! It is amazing how much more people will respect you when they don’t feel that you are simply weak kneed and pandering to them.

Some separatists have declared that Harper has entered Quebec as a conqueror to once again rule Quebecers. That is simply not the case, but what are the separatists to do? They have not had to deal or negotiate with anyone with substance or back bone for more than a decade. It must be a little intimidating. They can see their influence waning.

Others have decried the move as a cheap political stunt and a vote fishing expedition. While one could easily construe many of the Conservative Party’s actions of late as vote garnering ploys, there is one variable that is so absent that it is being overlooked. Unlike the last party which ran Ottawa, the new team is actually getting things done now. Unlike the Liberals, Harper hasn’t waited until he is in an election campaign to do the things which should be done. What a concept; year-round governance.

As for the media, it seems that his hard line stance in demanding a little respect from them has paid off. Not one front page has been devoted to his new eyeglasses.