Daily Archives: April 12, 2011

Frye on Lester Pearson

Lester Pearson receiving the Nobel Peace Prize

Further to yesterday’s post in which former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney conspicuously does not endorse Stephen Harper but does praise Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson as an example of how to run a productive minority government, here’s Frye in his 1972 Victoria College memorial address on Pearson:

Canada never gave him a clear mandate as Prime Minister, yet he managed to get through an extraordinary amount of legislation. His ambition for Canada was founded on his experience of external affairs: he wanted it to be, in the international scene at least, a quiet and sensible country, with no interest in fighting or aggression, devoting itself to discouraging fighting and aggression among its more powerful neighbours. We honour his memory today, not merely as a graduate of Victoria who achieved unique fame and admiration, but primarily as the faithful servant of a Master, who, as far as the political world is concerned, reserves his blessing for the peacemakers. (CW 12, 428)

Mulroney’s point is well-taken. Harper resembles nothing like the man described here.

In fact, a friend has observed that Harper’s policy can be characterized as simply jets and jails, neither of which we need. (Our crime rate, all across the board, for example, has been in decline for a decade.) But the fact that Harper insists on both jets ($30 billion) and jails ($13 billion) despite no demonstrable need for either says about all we need to know.

All of this is familiar as the politics of fear; just one of Harper’s many American imports designed to confuse, anger and render uncertain an increasingly intimidated public. It is not traditionally how we do things here, and there are increasing signs that this is beginning to show. Harper and Ignatieff were both in Hamilton on the same day last week. Ignatieff’s rally outdrew Harper’s three to one. This seems to be the slowly emerging pattern in the parts of the country that could swing the election, southern Ontario especially. As Mulroney said yesterday, Ignatieff could win this if things continue to break his way. The aura of menace Harper gives off is increasingly unpleasant, even threatening, and it seems to be all he’s got on offer. He calls it “stability.” To us it looks like a pathological need to control and an unhealthy appetite for power.