It must have been a dull media day for there to be so much coverage of Stephen Harper's short talk in Calgary to some of his supporters.
To the shock and horror of some of the assembled media, Harper went so far as to predict the NDP honeymoon in Quebec wouldn't last and he even pointed to the eventual demise of the Liberal Party. If one stops and thinks about it, it would have been more newsworthy if he didn't make such comments. I can't think of too many generals who would give a pep talk to their troops and at the same time make a point of telling them that they were going to be defeated in four years time.
What was really a pretty normal political speech resulted in a number of headlines that blared out news about Harper's arrogance, all because he had the nerve to say:
"I believe the long Liberal era is genuinely, truly ending."
"Quebec's honeymoon with the NDP will pass."
Those were pretty tough words, even arrogant ones if you read the media coverage. And just what would they have preferred Harper say -- that the Liberals will rise again or that the NDP has a lock on Quebec voters for decades to come? In the end this was nothing more than a political speech with a bit of humour thrown into the mix and nothing out of the ordinary.
However the NDP were quick off the mark to attack Harper's criticism of their party with Joe Comartin firing away at the Prime Minister with "Here we've got a guy who's saying our honeymoon is going to be over quickly with the people of Quebec after he didn't have anything more than a one-night stand." That was an amusing comment, but is anyone shocked that the NDP made it?
Even Bob Rae got into the act offering his few comments as he referred to Harper's "triumphal arrogance."
I wonder if the same folks attacking Harper's comments would consider these other comments as arrogant?
"Starting Tuesday morning, as your prime minister ..." Jack Layton, NDP leader
"I think we demonstrated that it is the NDP that is the true alternative now." Jack Layton, NDP Leader
It's a fact of political life that leaders give speeches to the party faithful that mention their own party in glowing terms and that are less than complimentary to their political opponents. I expect most Canadians would have a hard time remembering when our politicians last gave a nice speech about one of their opponents -- the exception of course being when one of them retires and occasionally when a member of another party is defeated.
As we move further into the Conservative four year mandate there will be plenty of opportunity to observe this prime minister's actions and dissect his speeches to see if the Conservatives are becoming arrogant. That applies equally to Conservative ministers, MPs and staff.
They would do so at their own peril as Canadians have never been very accepting or forgiving of arrogant politicians. However, the reaction to the Harper speech does emphasize the need for both his speech writers and the prime minister himself to choose their words with care. Perception is often reality in politics and there is always a need to choose your words wisely. It's not arrogance, not yet at least, unless it becomes a pattern and at this point in time there is no indication of that.
Keith Beardsley's political blog can be found at www.atory01.com