This is what you get when government tries to do something without spending money

Fiddling with the national anthem is such a terrible idea that it’s not even worth mocking. So we’re going to go and change “in all thy sons command” to “thou dost in us command,” are we? What are we – knights of olde? It’s never going to happen.

There are, however, at least two questions of interest that arise. There’s a simple answer to the first. The second one is a stumper.

The first question: where did this eighth-baked idea come from?

When governments are up against it financially, but eager to put shiny new “achievements” on display in the window, the call goes out to staffers: We need ideas that don’t cost any money – something that looks real and feels real, but doesn’t set us back. In Paul Martin’s government, for instance, the idea was hatched in 2004 to make tax-free the pay of any member of the Canadian Forces on active duty in most overseas deployments. It was well-received and cost very little. (The out-of-the-blue idea to prevent the notwithstanding clause from ever being invoked by Ottawa also cost nothing, assuming you don’t tally losses to credibility.)

In yesterday’s Speech from the Throne, we got a special day to celebrate seniors – I do not want to see the lineup at Swiss Chalet on that night – and we got an award for volunteerism and we got the idea of making our anthem sound like a Merchant Ivory production. Three ideas, three “achievements” about which the government can crow. Price tag: $0. Simple enough.

It’s the second question that confounds me: how did an idea like altering the anthem get past Stephen Harper? Isn’t he the very last political leader you’d expect to get up to this sort of thing? Isn’t he the one who usually stands – or used to, at least – against this sort of try-(and-fail)-to-please-everyone nonsense? (Wait until Quebec hears the words of the anthem are up for edit: they might have some notes.) Harper just finished belting out O Canada after gold medal performances in speed skating, in curling, in hockey and more. And suddenly he’s keen to tinker with the words so we all sound like jousters at a Renaissance Fair? Riiiiiiight.

Did he lose a bet? Did King Lear leap from the pages of Shakespeare and take on the Prime Minister’s corporeal form? Answers, please.

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