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tabatha southey

Twice during his interview with Peter Mansbridge, Stephen Harper used the word "recalibrate" to describe what the Prime Minister planned to do now that he's prorogued Parliament.

It took Mr. Mansbridge a while to get to the apparently delicate question of the proroguing of Parliament because the more pressing matter of body scanners at airports had to be addressed first.

This issue conveniently deflected any attention that Mr. Harper's decision to suspend government - a move that was revealed during the holiday, after five Canadians were killed in Afghanistan, on the day we learned the lineup for the Olympic hockey team - was receiving. Which wasn't much.

I'm fairly sure that were it now swimsuit season, instead of directly after the holidays, a time when some people are feeling heavy, Canada's response to the body scanners might have been closer to indifference. But then I'm also reasonably sure that indifference isn't what the government was shooting for with its rather dramatic scanner rollout.

Still, Mr. Harper took Mr. Mansbridge's questions about proroguing in his stride. It's almost as if he considered them to be reasonable ones. It wasn't entirely clear that Mr. Mansbridge thought so. His questions about the motivation for proroguing came surrounded in a flock of qualifiers - he might as well have been asking a starlet eagerly promoting her new film about a recent, tabloid-rumoured breakup with George Clooney.

"What do you say to those, outside of the political process, who look at what's happened here - second time in a year, different circumstances in both cases - but the argument being made by many, I mean, you know you can't pick up a story on this issue without somebody referring to the Afghan detainee issue, saying that that's really the reason you and your government wanted to stop the investigative work of the committee?" Mr. Mansbridge said.

His words have a "my producers want me to ask" tone, don't they?

Also, I'd prefer that interviewers not ask, "What do you say to … ?" or "How do you respond to … ?" On principle, ask for the truth and then listen to whatever someone chooses to answer to a particular allegation.

Mr. Harper dismissed the question by saying, "I think polls have been pretty clear, Peter, that that's not on the top of the radar of most Canadians."

Yet polls were not what he was being quizzed about. There was a brief rally from Mr. Mansbridge on this point before he allowed Mr. Harper to return to the economy, which is his comfort zone.

"We're in a very different kind of economic year and that's what we're adjusting to," Mr. Harper explained, ostensibly choosing to answer the proroguing question this way: "I don't think it makes sense for a session of Parliament to go on and on without the government periodically re-examining its overall agenda."

I would have liked Mr. Mansbridge to push Mr. Harper on this assertion - just how big an agenda shift is he contemplating that he needs this much time off? Are the Conservatives going to return heavy on the taxes and light on crime? Will I be allowed to smoke dope?

How much re-evaluating has to occur, Prime Minister? Is this an Eat, Pray, Love situation we have on our hands? Because then I really will lose patience.

Recalibrating is, by the way, the same as calibrating. Except that calibrating is adjusting something to take external factors into account or to allow comparison with other data, and recalibrating is what starship captains do when scriptwriters want them sound busy and starship-captain-y.

Recalibrating - and the word's being thrown about a lot lately - is sort of like "reversing the polarity." It's a sensible thing for a leader to devote himself to, if he's confronting a Borg Cube.

It's not my place to decide what it is that Canadians are concerned about (apparently, it's Mr. Harper's), but polls do suggest that defeating the Borg isn't a priority. Polls also show that Canadians are unhappy about Mr. Harper's recalibration vacation.

Possibly, people feel that governing isn't like having a paper route. It's full-time. Get in there, guys. It's a sitting Parliament. How much work can it be?

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