The Harper Government

When CP’s Bruce Cheadle isn’t determining the hue and photo content of Government of Canada websites carefully determining whether or not the name and image of the office holder is inappropriately um, representing the office, he’s looking at the Prime Minister’s name on press releases and finding people to label Harper an autocrat.

“The effect of this subtle framing just before an election is to equate government with Harper,” said Rose. “It creates a perception of a natural affinity between one party’s leader and the act of governing.”

The Harper-centric messaging prompted Rose to recall French King Louis XIV and his 17th century divine right of kings: “L’État, c’est moi,” quipped the political scientist. “The state is me.”

But Mel Cappe, a former clerk of the Privy Council, finds nothing amusing in the development.

“It is not the Harper Government,” Cappe said in an interview, tersely enunciating each word. “It is the Government of Canada.

First, Canada Day was too blue for some, then the Economic Action Plan website was too blue and too Harper for Cheadle’s liking.  The Parliamentary Press Gallery mocked the wordmark “Canada’s New Government” when the Tories used in after they were elected in 2006, now “Harper Government” is inappropriate personification!

Nevermind that subtle bias is usually shown against government by affixing the person label.  It is easier to attack a person than a more nebulous concept such as party.  To diminish good news of a government, headlines will credit “Ottawa” for its accomplishments.

But what is appropriate? In government, how do we parse concepts such as the executive (the cabinet), the bureaucracy and Parliament? Certainly Parliament isn’t government, and the bureaucracy only executes the political will of ministers.  So, where does that leave the executive? Since Harper is chief executive of his cabinet and his cabinet governs, is it the Harper government?

And why the sudden outrage? I don’t remember such anger when Paul Martin ran a government:

Paul Martin government announces prudent and ambitious budget

Budget 2004, announced today by the Paul Martin government, is a focused plan of responsible financial management and fiscal prudence that gives tangible shape to the goals presented in the Speech from the Throne.

By definition, the head of state is the GG. The head of government? His name is Stephen Harper.