Canada's New Government is a descriptive phrase that the government formed by the Conservative Party of Canada after the 2006 Canadian federal election used to describe itself for nearly two years in all official correspondence and communications. The length and frequency with which the phrase has been used by party brass has generated a fair amount of controversy among non-partisan Canadians and those supporting a variety of different political parties -- even the Conservatives.

The earliest use of the phrase was likely on February 6, 2006, when the new cabinet and prime minister were sworn in and and all official departmental websites were changed to reflect the new cabinet and administration. "Canada's New Government" appeared on the updated websites, later appearing on government documents such as the speech from the throne. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's first meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush and then-Mexican President Vincente Fox featured a backdrop reading "Canada's New Government." Before long, the phrase was everywhere, and it was clear that the Tories were taking extra steps to further distinguish themselves from the recently dethroned Liberal Party of Canada, which had governed for 13 years.

Of course, it wasn't long before the phrase started turning up in press releases: "Canada’s New Government ends tattoo program for convicted criminals," "Canada's New Government delivers on ten pieces of legislation in two weeks" and so on. People smiled and nodded, generally suspecting that the party/government would outgrow the phrase presently and resign itself to its fate as Canada's government. More than a year after formally being sworn in as (cough) Canada's new government, the government continued to refer to itself as "Canada's New Government."

The slogan made headlines in September 2006, when a senior scientist from the Geological Survey of Canada said he would no longer use "idiotic buzzwords coined by political hacks." He was fired, then reinstated after the incident was publicized. The Ministry of Natural Resources, of which the Geological Survey of Canada is part, had sent an internal memo stating that the phrase was to be used in all correspondence and that the first letters of all three words were to be capitalized. It was also stated that this was effective immediately and would be in effect until further notice. The memo is supposedly what set the senior scientist off, leading him to respond to his highers-up and then being terminated.

There has been much discussion regarding how well the attempt to use a phrase such as this has worked; many bloggers and pundits have been very direct about comparing this to commercial rebranding. Liberal member of parliament Mark Holland even went so far as to liken the use of "Canada's New Government" to the ill-fated New Coke. Political opponents have criticized the phrase as an attempt to politicize what should be a non-partisan entity. Even though the nature of a political party system causes governments to be elected through partisan means, it is widely believed that the operations of a government should be above partisan lines entirely. The decision to use "Canada's New Government" as opposed to the "Government of Canada" on websites and in press releases and materials has formed the basis of this criticism. As well, many of the civil servants who work within the bureaucratic branch of government have not changed in the past year-and-a-half, leading some to wonder whether a government can truly be "new" if its inner workings are generally the same.

As some pundits have pointed out, Canada's social democratic New Democratic Party was founded in 1961 and continues to refer to itself as the "New Democratic Party" despite being more than 45 years old. Since "New Democratic" refers to the party itself and not to a particular political movement, there has been speculation that the party might drop the "New," but there has been no indication as to whether or not this will ever happen. Members of the NDP have pointed out that whether or not they opt to change the party's name has nothing to do with the Conservative Party referring to itself as "Canada's New Government" more than a year after the election, and perhaps they're right.

It should be noted that the government is still referred to as "the Government of Canada" in all public service announcements (as in "a message from the Government of Canada"). How long the government continues to identify itself as "new" (it's been more than a year and counting) and whether or not it backfires remains to be seen. For the record, a number of conservative columnists have lobbied for the continuation of its use because, they say, it might finally put an end to phrases such as Soviet Canuckistan.

The phrase was dropped after the Conservatives hit the 20-month mark. 


Resources:
http://www.nupge.ca/news_2006/n21se06a.htm
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=6662bfbd-3aba-424b-94e4-901bcfc36b13
http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/267686

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