"Because, because, friends we believe that in a dangerous world, Canada must without apology advance our values and our interests...." As those words passed by former prime minister Stephen Harper's lips, I felt like I had closure. Everything became clear about this man, his policy and the legacy he leaves behind him. In a "dangerous world" he said, and to me that said everything. Suddenly the man I saw standing at the podium giving the last important address he will give as leader of Canada, I saw a man who was scared. A man who made his decisions and policy out of fear. It all made sense -- the fearful perpetuate the fear.
After the polls had long been decided, election night between Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau played out like some kind of modern day lore -- an exceptionally crafted story of hero and villain, rising and falling with each playing their part flawlessly.
Those who know me have long been aware of my, shall we say, distaste for Stephen Harper and his tenure as prime minister. To me his concession speech reads more like an unapologetic confession for the manner in which he has conducted himself. He stated, "... our economy is growing and new jobs are being created. The budget is balanced..." for which I believe a citation is needed. Mr. Harper also claimed he had "no regrets" despite the repugnant discrimination we all came to know in the form of niqabs and "barbaric practices hotlines" -- just some good old fashioned Islamophobia. There was no admittance of mistake even in the face of countless investigations and scandal all the way from Rob Ford to the refugee crisis, nothing. In many ways his speech was as much about what he didn't say as what he did. In a strange twist, Mr. Harper took sole responsibility for the Conservative Party in the result of their campaign. I suppose it's something.
From there he proudly went on to say he opened up free trade with Europe, the Americas and to Asia Pacific, and gave "our men and women in uniform... the tools to do their jobs...." which I might argue could also be interpreted as, I sold our country to foreign corporate interests, and armed us with lethal weapons, but I digress.
Harper also made point to address "all Canadians of every stripe" at a select moment and also cited that "the people are never wrong." Probably the most virtuous moment he mustered in his concession, while the rest felt more like a sober pep talk to his supporters. As a bit of a side note, I did get some amusement in his closing remarks that Canada is "more united than ever before." Very true Mr. Harper, you did unite this country, just under a different banner.
Harper's speech was in many senses absolutely perfect for the way this man ran this country for close to ten years. It was unapologetic, smoothly arrogant and subtly defensive. An admittance to his crimes and yet not whatsoever. Hat's off Mr. Harper. Hat's off.
In stark contrast, Justin Trudeau emerged amidst a sea of excited supporters with tears in his eyes. "Sunny ways," he said, "sunny ways." I didn't vote for the Liberals on election day, and perhaps my romantic side got the best of me, but the poetry of the language he used was hard to resist. Suddenly I found myself wrapped up in the optimism, passion and idealism of his message and wondered how I had missed it. Like a bolt of lightening I became aware of a strange cynicism I had been harbouring for my new Prime Minister....
It was all too perfect. The handsome son of one of Canada's most celebrated prime ministers in recent history pulls the Liberal party from the ashes and defeats one of Canada's most tyrannical leaders in it's entire history. Far too perfect. Another realization hit me. What exactly has been perfect about Justin Trudeau's rise to Prime Minister? He was handed a party that many analysts had said was finished in this country, his appointment was criticized as a desperate popularity move (which I still wouldn't argue), and his party trailed the polls through most of the campaign. And even if it was "too perfect," why is that so wrong? Maybe we all need a little perfect in this country right now.
As the words continued to pour out of Mr. Trudeau, and the mist welled up in my eyes, my heart filled with something I hadn't felt in a long time. I said to myself aloud, 'I feel like a Canadian again,' and a tear pried itself loose. His hopeful vision rushed into me without the air of naivete that can often come with it. He spoke not to peril in the world, not to grim realities but to the best in all of us. "You can appeal to the better angels of our nature, and you can win while doing it."
The speech came to a close and the analysts tried their best to objectively critique Justin Trudeau's address, but I could see an excitement in all of their faces. Peter Mansbridge looked like a giddy young boy who could hardly find the words to express himself. There we all were, enamoured with our new leader. While there certainly was some skepticism, it seemed even the most cynical of hearts had a glow of hope for a better future.
Maybe we could all use a little perfect, even though the road has been anything but. Justin Trudeau has already defied some odds and overcome no small amount of adversity. If this is any indication of what kind of Prime Minister he will be to this country then there is reason to be hopeful. There is reason to join the paths of sunny ways.
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