a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Branding Canada as Harperland

Amid all the things going on in the world, it might seem like a small development. But a federal decision to direct civil servants to refer to their employer as the Harper Government rather than the Government of Canada seems to have hit a national nerve.

One cartoonist has doctored the Canadian flag by replacing the centre Maple Leaf with the Great Man’s face. There have been alterations of the government’s familiar Canada logo to include you know who. There was even a cartoon about Elections Harper.

Even the Tories themselves are getting in on the fun by taking time out from bashing Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff to run feel-good TV ads of our prime minister working at his desk for a better tomorrow for you and I.

It should be clear to anyone that a decision was made months ago at party headquarters to treat Stephen Harper as the Conservatives’ prime asset whenever the election does come.

And why not? The Tories have successfully defined and cast Ignatieff as a hapless political tourist who thought he would come home from Harvard to lead the country of his birth.

Harper has done better in the polls than his own party. Most Canadians were convinced long ago that Harper is a capable political leader, whether they liked him or not.

Just a few weeks ago when the Tories seemed to be on cruise control toward majority government, party insiders were probably congratulating themselves on a very successful branding strategy. Canada’s economy is better than most countries’ and why not position the prime minister to take the credit?

The late Harold Macmillan was asked by a journalist when he was the prime minister of Britain what was the biggest challenge a government could face. His reply was ``Events, my dear boy. Events.’’

The prime minister’s handlers here in the People’s Republic of Harperland may now be wishing they had remembered Macmillan’s words.

The Harper government has been hit with a tsunami of allegations of contempt of Parliament, doctoring document lying, cheating and interfering with the Access to Information law.

The Opposition can’t believe its luck. The sudden reversal of fortune for the government (oops, that is the Harper Government) is taking attention away from the economy and casting it on ethics. That would be the government’s ethics and therefore Harper’s.

The sudden decisions by two more prominent western ministers to retire from politics over the weekend will likely mean the attention on Harper’s governing style will be all the more intense.

If ethics does become the ballot question in the next election, Harper’s style of government could cost him his long coveted majority.

Then again Canadians’ opinion of politics may be so low, that nothing in Ottawa shocks them anymore. No doubt the opposition parties will be weighing this question before deciding whether to defeat the government next week.


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  3. Branding Canada as Harperland. Amid all the things going on in the world, it might seem like a small development. But a federal decision to...click here