Is Stephen Harper still a kid? Sure, his hair is grey and he doesn’t look like he’s familiar with what humans call fun, but there are plenty of reasons to think that Canada’s favourite autocrat is actually a boy in adult clothing. This week, for example, after releasing the text of the Canada-EU trade deal (CETA), Stevie unleashed his child-side.
The first indication of the inner childishness is the fact that he only just released the text of the CETA, even though he has been bragging about it since last October. He even called it “the biggest deal our country has ever made” before it was finalized. Only a child can brag like that. Furthermore, only a child can brag like that and then refuse to let anyone else see the deal for an entire year. Most kids keep secrets for a day or two, not a year. Stephen Harper is an expert kid.
Those who doubt his inner child surely bit their tongues after his CETA-text release press conference, where Harper’s inner child took full control. For the media outlets in attendance, watching Harper discuss the trade deal must have been like watching a young boy describe his LEGO empire or his team of stuffed animal superheroes. CETA “will not only change the game for Canadian businesses,” the young man said, drooling delightfully over his creation, “it will create an entirely new game.” As if symbolically ironing a new patch on his Boy Scout uniform, the Prime Minister added, “now we will be playing in the big leagues.” Picture a boy holding a new baseball bat, brimming with excitement because he is certain that this particular bat will finally make him relevant to the people he wishes were his friends. Now, replace the baseball bat with a free trade agreement, and put Stephen Harper’s hair on that kid (here: we’ve done it for you with Kim Jong-Un). That’s what we’re dealing with.
There’s nothing wrong with being a child, but there are times and places that are more and less appropriate for this sort of behaviour. For a variety of reasons, Stephen Harper picked one of the least appropriate occasions. Firstly, the European Parliament hasn’t approved CETA. In fact, reports indicate that there is significant, powerful opposition to the deal. While there is no way to forecast an outcome, activists and academics say there is a considerable chance that the deal will not make it through the European Parliament. Secondly, by announcing that the deal was effectively completed one year before releasing it, Harper guaranteed that his Canadian opposition would mobilize against him—and it has. The Council of Canadians has already launched an anti-CETA campaign in Europe, and believes that have a decent chance of killing the deal. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Canada’s future isn’t a game. It’s wrong to treat it like one. To do so is to make the tacit assumption that Canadians’ lives serve some singular purpose. They don’t. We aren’t here to massage the boy-King’s ego. We don’t care if we play in the big leagues.
As always, we want a government that respects us as a society and as individuals. If CETA is a good deal, then let us read it and debate it—don’t hide it from us, bragging all the while, and then shove it down our throats at the last minute. Stephen Harper has made every effort to make this deal seem great, and to attach himself to its supposed greatness. It’s painfully clear that he wants this deal to be his legacy. That doesn’t help Canadians. We don’t care if he irons a new patch on his uniform. We don’t care if he wins his pissing contest with Brian Mulroney. If the Prime Minister wants to do something to impress Canadians, he should consider working on accomplishing our goals, not his.