What a curious development:
In his latest column, Stephen Harper offers an update from Ottawa. "It's been quite a ride," the PM reports. Since the election, the new Conservative government has made progress "on all of our five priorities -- from cleaning up the federal government, to cutting taxes, cracking down on crime, supporting families, and strengthening our country at home and around the world."
Read that list again.
Maybe not if you don't live in Ottawa. But in the capital, everybody who read that list spotted it immediately. Harper is playing Hide-the-Priority. And he's being pretty clumsy about it.
The fifth item in his list was never among the five priorities the Conservatives campaigned on. The fifth Conservative campaign priority was: "work with the provinces to establish a Patient Wait Times Guarantee." Harper has replaced it with this business about "strengthening our country."
And it's not a typo. He lists his priorities, newly amended, at the top of his column. Then he lists them again further down. There's the federal accountability act ("cleaning up the federal government"); the GST cut; the tough-on-crime stuff; the $1,200 in annual payments to parents of young children. And then once again, where health care used to be, Harper announces he's "begun work on uniting the country and making sure Canada's voice is heard internationally." ...
The Report Magazine column isn't an anomaly. It's part of a trend. You can still find the health care commitment if you go looking for it on government websites. But it has vanished from the government's "push" product -- the messages it sends out through speeches, broadcasts and written opinion articles. During a cabinet meeting in Quebec City at the end of June, the PM read a statement congratulating himself for "significant progress in addressing the priorities of Canadians." He listed four of the five priorities, but not wait times.
Ah, but I'm sure that we're just mistaken. Nothing to see here ... move along:
It was about this time that the pigs suddenly moved into the farmhouse and took up their residence there. Again the animals seemed to remember that a resolution against this had been passed in the early days, and again Squealer was able to convince them that this was not the case. It was absolutely necessary, he said, that the pigs, who were the brains of the farm, should have a quiet place to work in. It was also more suited to the dignity of the Leader (for of late he had taken to speaking of Napoleon under the title of "Leader") to live in a house than in a mere sty. Nevertheless, some of the animals were disturbed when they heard that the pigs not only took their meals in the kitchen and used the drawing-room as a recreation room, but also slept in the beds. Boxer passed it off as usual with "Napoleon is always right!", but Clover, who thought she remembered a definite ruling against beds, went to the end of the barn and tried to puzzle out the Seven Commandments which were inscribed there. Finding herself unable to read more than individual letters, she fetched Muriel.
"Muriel," she said, "read me the Fourth Commandment. Does it not say something about never sleeping in a bed?"
With some difficulty Muriel spelt it out.
"It says, 'No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets,"' she announced finally.
Curiously enough, Clover had not remembered that the Fourth Commandment mentioned sheets; but as it was there on the wall, it must have done so. And Squealer, who happened to be passing at this moment, attended by two or three dogs, was able to put the whole matter in its proper perspective.
"You have heard then, comrades," he said, "that we pigs now sleep in the beds of the farmhouse? And why not? You did not suppose, surely, that there was ever a ruling against beds? A bed merely means a place to sleep in. A pile of straw in a stall is a bed, properly regarded. The rule was against sheets, which are a human invention. We have removed the sheets from the farmhouse beds, and sleep between blankets. And very comfortable beds they are too! But not more comfortable than we need, I can tell you, comrades, with all the brainwork we have to do nowadays. You would not rob us of our repose, would you, comrades? You would not have us too tired to carry out our duties? Surely none of you wishes to see Jones back?"
The animals reassured him on this point immediately, and no more was said about the pigs sleeping in the farmhouse beds. And when, some days afterwards, it was announced that from now on the pigs would get up an hour later in the mornings than the other animals, no complaint was made about that either.
AFTERSNARK: And the revelation continues to spread.