Minister’s business cards are one thing, Lester Pearson’s name is another.
Is it a big deal that John Baird has bucked protocol and put his own personal twist on his business cards?
Sure, they’re just business cards, a few hundred bucks in cost overrun at most. From that angle, it’s not really a big deal at all.
But look at a bigger picture, a wider angle and the answer may not be quite the same.
Baird and the Conservatives continue their battle against good graces and time worn practices without, it seems, being satiated. This is just the latest in a long line of slaps to the face of Canadian political tradition, history and protocol.
Changing “Government of Canada” to “Harper Government” on official stationery, ending the decades old informal media scrum outside The Commons and replacing it with rigidly controlled media conferences and limiting the number of questions the Prime Minister would answer daily on the election trail all have flown in the face of time-worn Canadian political traditions.
According to The Canadian Press, Baird had the word “Canada” erased from his new business cards, shortly after taking the office of Foreign Affairs. To offset that loss, I suppose, he felt it was appropriate to emboss the country’s coat of arms on the cards with gold.
Okay, you might argue that Baird is actually showing the country greater respect, by revving up the coat of arms. I could buy that. If he hadn’t simultaneously removed the word “Canada” as well. Did he think the shiny coat of arms didn’t “pop” enough with the word “Canada” cluttering up the space?
Removing “Canada” and gold embossing the coat of arms were apparently done against the wishes of Treasury Board Officers, whose duty it is to oversee protocols. According to The Canadian Press, the Board noted:
“The wordmark (Canada) is a requirement for ministers, parliamentary secretaries and their offices. … It is worth noting that the prime minister and his office follow these standards.”
And bravo to them for that. But not the Foreign Affairs Minister.
In the end, removing the word “Canada” while sprucing up the nation’s coat of arms doesn’t seem such a dirty crime. The word “Canada,” with a small maple leaf over the last “a” has been traditionally used only since 1980. The coat of arms, much, much longer. Still, is there any doubt that had it been introduced by a Conservative government, it would still appear on the minister’s cards?
Baird’s removal of Lester B. Pearson’s name from the address of the Foreign Affairs Ministry is much more heinous and should not be tolerated.
Regardless of political stripe, it’s hard to argue that Pearson wasn’t one of the country’s most accomplished Prime Ministers, at least of the second half of the 20th century. His name on the Foreign Affairs Building is no hollow gesture. He won a Nobel Peace Prize. And earned it. It’s a massive honour, one of which all Canadians can be proud. Attaching his name to the body that represents this country on the world stage is entirely appropriate and it should remain so attached.
Just the way the name of John Diefenbaker deserves to be attached to the building next to Pearson’s. The Government of Canada recently announced that it would be so. As well, earlier this year, they announced plans to create a human rights award in his honour and name a new polar icebreaker after Canada’s 13th Prime Minister.
Because in the end, our accomplishments aren’t achieved by Liberals or Conservatives, or Easterners or Westerners. They’re achieved by Canadians.
The Minister should be proud of Pearson, too. And not play petty political games with the names of great Canadians. If he’s afraid that his constituents might mistakenly identify him as a Liberal because his office is located in the Lester B. Pearson Building, then he has less faith in their intelligence than he should. If he feels that pointing out he works in a building named after a Liberal Prime Minister makes him somehow less a Conservative, maybe we have more faith in his than we should.
The government should also remain mindful that it represents Canada and not just the constituents that agree with it. Ignore that reality and they might be faced with the hard lesson of being dumped from office after one majority.
But by that time we’ll all be landing at Toronto’s Tony Clement Airport, anyway.