Pot Holes: Stephen Harper’s Sir John A. MacDonald speech

In quoting Canada's first prime minister, Mr. Harper demonstrated little knowledge of MacDonald's history or marijuana's.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

You’ll have to forgive his grin. He doesn’t know any better, and he won’t make an effort to learn.

On Friday, Stephen Harper delivered a speech in West Kelowna that – while aiming to centre on the country’s economics – will really be remembered (if at all) for his pot-targeted stand-up routine. The jokes received laughter and applause from those in attendance, but they were his contemporaries and his fanbase and they came to see him speak. I mean, hey, even It’s Complicated had the IHOP crowd giggling.

But, you’ll have to forgive Mr. Harper and all the misplaced comic wannabes like him, because he and they don’t know they’re on the wrong side of history – and they don’t care because they don’t have to.

To insinuate that Sir John A. MacDonald would somehow be on Harper’s anti-marijuana reform side – “Sir John A. spoke to British Columbians about the things that matter: About jobs and prosperity, about Canada united and strong, about economic growth, not grow-ops,” Harper said on Friday – shows just how little the Prime Minister knows about the country’s history, or how little attention he intends to properly pay to it.

MacDonald served as Canada’s first Prime Minister from 1878 to 1891. His departure from the position – by death – predates Canada’s outlawing of cannabis by a a good 18 years.

(Drug prohibition in Canada began with the Opium Act of 1908, which was introduced by future PM William Lyon Mackenzie King. King was a federal Liberal (not a Progressive Conservative, like Harper) who laid the groundwork for Canada’s welfare state with the motto “Help those who cannot help themselves”, but also a convenient racist who happily watched over British Columbia’s internment of 22,000 Japanese-Canadian citizens during World War II. There’s really no pattern with this stuff, so maybe our current heffe should stop trying to create one.)

If Harper really believes marijuana usage is some kind of moral vice, he should probably have read up on MacDonald’s, because the man drank like a fish during Frosh Week for his entire tenure, and you probably already know alcohol would become illegal in Canada and the United States by the end of World War I.

MacDonald may not have cared about grow-ops, but he did love his grown hops. (I’m sorry. I’m not a comedian, either.)

And, while we’re on this theme of historical pinpointing, MacDonald wanted Canada to be a highly centralized unitary state. In his mind’s eye, Ottawa would have dominant power over all its provinces, and MacDonald would be at the top of the heap.

This isn’t exactly the kind of willy-nilly power balance praised by Conservatives or those who see themselves as residents of the right, is it?

Personally, I can’t help but cringe and slam my fists into the wall when I see someone like our Prime Minister – who heads perhaps the only economically knowledgeable federal party in Canada – destroy his credibility because he can’t see 24 hours ahead.

Then again, maybe he’s just not willing to put up that fight. His lines have already been drawn, and they’re sandbagging up.

On gay rights, on marijuana reform, and on too many social issues that would be a bigger deal if it weren’t for Canada’s relatively stable economy since 2008 (globally speaking), Harper and his Conservatives seem to be chasing their American counterparts more and more every day, desperately clinging to the Tea Party’s bumper while their chins whack the road.

(And, let’s not forget about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – the founders of the founders of all founders – who personally grew and sold hemp from their own fields. Jefferson also kind of hated organized religion. How’s that for a twist?)

In an effort to re-establish itself as the authority, Canada’s Conservative Party is starting to sound more and more like that broken record we all know and all fear ourselves becoming – like the Johnny Unitas haircutted types who were whiffed into extinction in 1965, like the 70-year-old who bangs his cane on his roof when music’s playing too loud above him, and like the oxycontin addict who tears a strip of birth control advocates in the 48 states below us.

If our Prime Minister took a second to really understand what he was saying and if he really cared whether he was right or wrong, he could only help his case and help ours, too.

Then again, it’s not like it’s really going to matter.

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