In the first week of the federal election campaign, the Leader of the Canadian
Alliance, Stockwell Day, has already made a number of gaffes that have shown us a
new side of him.
Let us examine them.
The first one took place behind Parliament Hill, in one of Day’s quests for the perfect
“photo op.” His intention was to have Parliament in relief behind him as he dramatically
asserted the building belongs to the people, and not Jean Chretien; his point that it is
time to throw out the old government, and bring in a new one--his.
A fair use of the building, and not incorrect. But as Don Newman, Senior
Parliamentary Editor for the CBC pointed out, in the morning the sun is BEHIND the
Parliament Building, and so from the position Day took, all that could be seen was a
For my part, I would never have thought it a gaffe, if I hadn’t heard Newman say it
was; just a small fault of the advance work, Newman said: the advance man observed the
building under clouds, and hadn’t thought what it would look like in sun. A small thing,
The next took place at Quake Technologies, where Day was seeking another “photo
op,” to demonstrate a “brain drain” due to an onerous income tax system--that he will
cure with an almost flat tax.
Just one problem: the founder, Michael Trepannier, a Canadian, had come
back from the United States to establish this company--and he had hired
Americans away from the unrestricted capitalism down south.
A somewhat larger gaffe, demonstrating exactly the opposite of what Day intended:
an environment conducive to innovation based upon universal health insurance, and all the
things his platform is out to change. Though in honesty, Trepannier did say he found the
red tape associated with the GST a hassle--and the Alliance is innocent of it, unlike the
Liberals and Tories.
Still trying to illustrate the, to him, apparent inevitability, of the “brain drain,” Day
took his next “photo op” to Niagara Falls. A truly great symbol of something, draining
But when it was pointed out the Niagara River flowed north, the same way the Falls
fall, Day seemed only to accept it as some kind of theoretical possibility, making a
convoluted statement that if he had been mistakenly informed as to the direction of the
flow of “this particular body of water,” he would be having “an interesting discussion”
with the responsible person.
Two more examples of poor advance work--maybe.
I don’t fault Day for not knowing the details of Quake Technologies; I don’t, and I
don’t know anyone who does. However, I would have expected workers in the Leader’s
Office, or the Campaign, to be smart enough to find out--why else on they on
I do expect a prospective Prime Minister of Canada to know one of
the more salient features of Canadian geography, and of some small importance to
Ontario--a piece of geography of some small importance to Day.
Day, and his supporters, have attempted to downplay these gaffes, saying what is
important is the message. But the failure to discover the details of a business by the
man who says he knows business sends what message? And what is the message of
a would be Prime Minister who has no knowledge of basic geography? Will he
understand the elements of geopolitics that govern our world?
For better or worse, modern media have telescoped the political party into the person
of the Leader. And at least since Trudeau have political parties
made use of this. Day and the Alliance are no different throwing up his youth and vitality
against what they claim is the age and fatigue of Chretien.
Even in a Party espousing the grassroots as Day’s does requires the Leader to carry
the message. It is the Leader that the Party presents in the Maritimes, in Ontario.
I am not the first to decry it, but I know that the Leader is the Party, and the Party is
the Leader. The test of the Leader is the running of the Campaign. If he can’t present the
political theater, if he can’t show us all he says is really out there--maybe it isn’t.
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