First, he warmed them up with a joke: “I’m living proof there’s a big difference between fishing and catching.” Then he played to their emotions: “You are living the example of early Canadian life.” And with that, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had them eating out his hands during last night’s gathering of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters in Mississauga, Ontario.
Of course, then came the political messaging: the “misguided philosophy” of the Conservatives’ predecessors at the helm in Ottawa sought to divorce Canadians from the land, to “conserve nature from us, not conserve nature for us.”
And one result of that paternalistic way of governing, Harper noted, is the long-gun registry. Cue the call for political support, with the Prime Minister exhorting the audience to push non-Conservative MPs to vote for the scrapping of the registry through Bill C-301.
And so ended Harper’s talk at OFAH’s annual awards banquet, book-ended with energetic standing ovations. It was the kind of partisan engagement politicians live for, and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters certainly delivered.
Important questions that should be of concern to outdoorsman across the land remained unanswered, however. For example, why doesn’t the government itself sponsor the bill to scrap the registry, rather than let it fall under the guise of a private member’s bill? And why didn’t it deal with this issue in previous parliaments, when the Conservatives so clearly had the Liberals on the ropes, unwilling to vote against the government for fear of bringing on an election?
And whither the environment? Nary a word was mentioned last night on what plans Ottawa has to tackle the greatest problem the planet now faces: climate change.
Back-slapping, handshakes, smiles and telling folks what they want to hear is nice, but it’s not going to save our wild places, and our outdoor traditions, for our children. We need to hold our politicians to better account. Including the Prime Minister.