O, Stephen Harper’s Canada
Re-branding the federal government
After reports surfaced two weeks ago that suggested the federal Conservative Party was trying to, essentially, rename the “Government of Canada” the “Harper Government”, the response among Canadians has been overwhelmingly negative.
On Thursday, March 3, the Canadian Press revealed that a directive was sent to public servants last year, advising them that the term “Government of Canada” should be replaced in all federal communications with the term “Harper Government”. Public servants from four different line departments confirmed to the Canadian Press that they received instructions from the Prime Minister – and the Privy Council Office that serves him – to change their terminology.
Within a few hours, the story had proven to be a controversial topic, especially among Canadians on the internet.
While there are many who think the Conservative Party’s actions are appropriate, and many journalists and the general public have long referred to the governing party by the name of their leader, many have been deeply offended by what they believe to be an arrogant Conservative Party showing its hubris.
On the social media site Twitter, aside from a select few who defended the Conservative Party’s actions, the response from Canadians has so far been extremely negative.
As some Canadian social media users put it: “It soils our national administration and governing apparatus to even consider referring to them as ‘The Stephen Harper Government’. Shabby.”
“Sorry Stephen, it’s ‘The Government of Canada’, not ‘the Harper Government’,” said another.
One more stated, “Dear Stephen Harper: You serve the office. You are not the office.”
On March 3, a petition which “demand[ed] that all official references to the Canadian government continue to use ‘Government of Canada’ [and] any official reference to ‘Harper Government’ should be immediately ceased,” was put online. At press time, the petition, “I Am (Not Stephen Harper’s) Canadian,” had been electronically signed by nearly 15,000 Canadians.
In an effort to take advantage of the public’s disapproval, on Saturday, March 5, the federal Liberal party began airing radio ads in Quebec, expressing their disbelief in the Conservative Party equating the Canadian federal government with Prime Minister Harper.
“Like you, I am profoundly shocked,” Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said in the ad. “It’s totally unacceptable. The government of Canada is not the government of Mr. Harper. It’s the government of citizens, the government of all the citizens of Canada.”
Although the Conservative Party’s attempts to re-brand the Government of Canada have thus far received mixed reactions, to say the least, it is difficult to forecast what impact, if any, the Conservative’s Party’s actions will have on voters’ minds in the impending federal election in the coming months.