26 April 2006

Dignified vs....something else

To add to the comments on changes to the federal government's website, consider the following.

The main web portal for the Government of the United States is located at firstgov.gov.

Note that it is devoid of partisan advertising since it is...the government website.

For those unschooled in the art of subtle but meaningful distinctions, i.e. the current administration in Ottawa, government is not the same as partisan.

In other words, just because the Republicans happen to be sitting in the White House, the entire United States federal government does not suddenly sprout elephants on it everywhere.

That's because American partisans, like more sophisticated Canadian politicos, realize that their party merely forms an administration in a government that isn't theirs to do with as they please.

The symbols and image of that government and the country are not things to be shagged about with. The President is still the President, after all. He walks like one and, more often than not acts like one. Try catching George showing up to a heads of government meeting in a hunting vest. You don't have to like the guy's politics, but he does know how to comport himself appropriately.

Then take a trip to the White House site. Now here we might reasonably expect to see the odd pachyderm; but we don't. Not a one. There is George Bush and plenty of him, but the site is low keyed and dignified. Again, that's because it is a government website, not the home of iheartgeorge.com.

Now visit the new home of the Government of Canada website.

And the prime minister's site.

The word dignified is not the first word that comes to mind here.

Nor is government.

But partisan leaps up there pretty fast. Notice the similarities between the Conservative Party's own site and new home for Steve Harper's leftover campaign photos.

To add to the contrast though, take a look at the Grand Old Party's political website ... clean and professional looking. It doesn't seem like it was designed by someone who last week built a site for a used car dealer and next week will be building a site to lure men into purchasing a monthly membership in a site where women do unusual things with parts of their anatomy.

The new Canadian government site is garish. Tawdry. Cheap.

Low-rent, as in using a line from our national anthem as an advertising tagline for the country.

Like we were missing a slogan or a catchy jingle to help us stand out in the crowded online world of porn hucksters and the guys who promise they have a miracle cure for brewer's droop that also works as a good car wax.

Imagine going to firstgov.gov and seeing this one:

United States of America
"and the rockets' red glare"

Somehow, there's no no way I could imagine that the Government of the United State's website - that is the Internet presence of the government of all Americans irrespective of race, creed, colour or partisan affiliation - could be turned into an assault on the world's eyeballs by a bunch of second-rate pitchmen.

But we have it Canada.

Another word that springs to mind about harpersthepm.ca is insecurity. It's a word that seems to come to mind quite often with Harper as the prime minister. Insecure. The media control issues, the gag orders, the flag business and now this website with Steve's picture every and the fact he's the prime minister on every page.

The Conservatives - or maybe just their boss - don't feel confident in running the country. So, they engage in petty displays of authority and, as in the case of the website redesign, take an opportunity to remind the world that Harper is the Prime Minister. That's Stephen Harper, the prime Minister. The guy with the five items on his agenda. The Stephen Harper agenda for a Stephen Harper Canada.

And in case you didn't notice, that was Stephen Harper. You know. The Prime Minister.

of Canada.

This is not a government administration in perpetual campaign mode, as some have suggested. These are guys who act like they don't think they belong where they are. So they need to keep reminding us, or, more accurately reminding themselves.

And that's the thing.

Even for those of us who didn't vote for Harper's crew, even for those of us who worked so they wouldn't get elected, some of us figured they would change a few things for the good. We figured there was a good chance they'd accomplish something - that they had a plan and by God-bless-Canada, they'd work to put it in place. Fresh-faced and eager, they'd work their butts off.

They'd do something.

We never expected what they would do is start mucking around with Canada's national symbols and treat the government of our country like it was the plaything the Liberals supposedly used it as when they were in power.

Colour me surprised.

Colour me embarrassed.

And for all those people who keep screaming that Stephen Harper is trying to be like George Bush:

We should be so lucky.