Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Innovation a casualty of Conservative political speak

The latest move of the Harper government is to re-create the lexicon of government-speak. Harper's habit of ending speeches with the odious tagline "God Bless Canada" aside, this latest bit of information should be viewed as disturbing.

A memo from deep within the bureaucracy of the federal industry department shows that "innovation" and all its related forms may have joined other banned words, such as "equality," in the language-sensitive Conservative government.
Language sensitivity is one thing, but this is something quite different.

There is a place for changes in government lexicon where the use of words or language is offensive or derogatory but to expunge "innovation" and all its derivatives from government language suggests something deeper is going on.

In an update on a communications plan to be rolled out next month at the department, people involved with the effort are told of editing changes ordered by a director-general with the department: "We were required to delete or replace all the words `innovation,' `innovate,' `innovative,' in the text," the memo states.

The document in question revolves around the industry department's approach to sustainable development — part of the wider, environmental issue that is proving so politically problematic for the Conservatives. (Emphasis mine)
Now it starts to come clear. Given that the Harper approach to the environment is anything but innovative, it would indeed be the wrong word to use. In short, it would get tossed back in the faces of any minister who even suggested the policy contained anything like innovation.

But the memo leaves no doubt that "innovation" isn't welcome in Industry Canada's communication about sustainable development. The word has even been excised from the whole "vision statement" about industry's programs and priorities.

The old vision statement read this way: "In support of a growing, competitive and innovative economy, Canada is a leader in the development, commercialization and adoption of sustainable development tools, practices and technologies throughout the economy."

The new vision statement, according to the memo, reads this way: "In support of a competitive economy, Industry Canada is positioned as a leader in supporting sustainable development technologies and practices for businesses and consumers."
This is a change in philosophy; a very conservative change. What it basically suggests is that government will not engage in innovative research and development. That will fall to the corporate world. Government, and in this case, Industry Canada, will become little more than a service corps; a toothless entity. The next step is de-regulation in a variety of industries and the elimination of guidelines on a multitude of issues which directly affect Canadians.

Whether the Harperites want to admit it or not, they are displaying all the attributes of a government afraid to expose its real political shading to the population. Word-sensitive governments are message controllers and rather than spell out the whole agenda they would rather re-craft mission statements to prevent them being used to point out deficiencies in programs and policy.

As this editorial says:

... a new report from the Toronto Region Research Alliance says Ottawa must act with alacrity on that goal because Canada is falling behind other countries where "national investment in research and innovation is growing by leaps and bounds."

Canada devotes less than 2 per cent of its gross domestic product to research, the lowest among the countries surveyed in this report and lower than the OECD average.

Canada is at a crossroads, the report says. And it asks if Ottawa will choose "to make the dramatic investments which will move us into the top tier of innovation-intensive countries in the world?"

Outlawing the word innovation hardly inspires confidence that the "new" Conservative government intends to take up that challenge.
And, as words get eliminated, so goes the funding associated with the function.

Elimination of the word "equality" from the government mandate of Status of Women Canada was accompanied by a $5 million budget cut.

While Industry Canada may be in for a hit, you can expect this organization to be left a heap of smoking rubble.

Sad, isn't it? "Equality" and "Innovation", two words which actually stood high on a list of Canadian values are stricken from government pronouncements while Harper tips his hat to religion as often as he can.

BONUS UPDATE: In comments our readers provided some absolutely brilliant material which deserves front page recognition. From reader North of 49:

Since we have a New-Nu-Gnu Government of Canada, it's only fitting we have us some New-Nu-GnuSpeak...

Cue cheerleaders:

New, New, NEW Speak
Better than the OLD Speak!
New, New, Govern-ment
Surely must be Heaven-Sent!
Bringin' back the Good Old Days!
Strong Church! Tough State!
Lefties will Dis-Int-Eh-Grate!
NEW Speak, NEW Speak,
Better than the OLD Speak!

(cue Preston Manning voice)

Newwwwwwwwwwwwwwww Speak

(cue breathless debutante)


AND... from Alison, editor of the very witty Creekside:

In Orwell's appendices to "Nineteen Eighty Four", the year 2050 is the date by which "newspeak" replaces all older language.

2050AD...say, that rings a bell.

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