AUGUST 27. A friend of mine, a Canadian environmental biologist (let’s call him Ian), swears that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will announce in the next few days that the remains of arctic explorer John Franklin have finally been found. The government, through Parks Canada, has ploughed millions into the search in recent years and it seems now might be the time – with Harper on his annual northern sojourn – for the big reveal.
Harper would prefer, of course, that its scientists don’t talk publicly about their findings, unless the scientist in question is a charismatic lunatic declaring that the climate isn’t changing (“We’ve just been reading the data back to front,” he’d swear). It’s a fundamentally offensive attitude for a country’s leader to take (“to hell with scientific progress, and full disclosure,”) and if Ian is right, and succeeds in stealing some small amount of Harper’s thunder, he’ll be doubly unpopular (if they can find him).
I don’t know whether they’ve found Franklin’s bones. But I do know that if Mr Harper’s grinning mug does show up on CBC in the coming days to make that claim, I’ll like and respect him even less than I do now. I suppose that all politicians release news when it best suits them, but passing off a discovery like that as historical and important (because you know that’s how it will be framed), while at the same time implicitly admitting you sat on the story until a parka was found that best set off the glint in your eyes, is pretty low. It’s also pretty much exactly what I’ve come to expect from this government, and why I feel just fine criticizing it for things it hasn’t even done (yet).