Stephen Harper was late for Canada Day this year.
He missed the kick-off by a full second; or he would have but for the leap second.
None of us noticed because the scientists responsible for time (coolest job description ever) slowed down Coordinated Universal Time by adding a leap second at 23:59:60.
Before we get into why the leap second is relevant in Harperland a brief, non-Stephen Hawkings history of time is in order.
Scientists have been playing around with time since 1884 when they defined the universal day using the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England. All went well until the invention of the atomic clock which was more accurate than time based on astronomical observations. Scientists compensated for the glitch in time on the atomic clock caused by the slowing of the Earth’s rotation by adding a leap second here and there.
Since June 1972 we’ve gained 25 leap seconds. By the end of the 21st century scientists will be adding leap seconds every 250 days and by the end of a few tens of thousands of centuries they’ll be plugging in leap seconds each and every day.
This makes the time scientists very uncomfortable.* Some think it’s time for a change. Others do not.
The anti-change scientists think we should stick with the status quo and continue to use leap seconds to adjust our clocks to Earth’s slowing rotation. They say humanity has defined time by Earth’s rotation for over 5000 years. They note that savvy IT techs can work around any computer problems created by an additional second or two and point out that abandoning leap seconds would make sundials obsolete (what, they’re not obsolete already?)
The pro-change scientists say it’s time to get rid of leap seconds and move to atomic clocks once and for all. They base their argument on the fact that defining time by Earth’s rotation is not significant in most people’s daily lives (unless they’re air traffic controllers or Goldman Sachs stock market manipulators).
Essentially the debate boils down to this: does the redefinition of time turn our lives upside down.
If the “upside down” test is good enough for time scientists fretting about events that will occur in the far distant future, surely it’s good enough for Canadians trying to decide whether to re-elect Stephen Harper a few short months from now.
The consequences of Harper’s policies
Many Canadians think their day to day lives are untouched by the Harper government (scandals are par for the course, right?). But if Harper is re-elected they’ll soon discover that their lives have indeed been turned “upside down”.
They’ll feel the sting of sacrificing personal freedom, privacy and the right to be a citizen in return for “protection” from terrorism. (Bills C-51 and C-24).
They’ll wonder why their sense of a Canadian identity has become foggy as Harper continues to erase Canada’s legacy as peace keepers and replace it with vignettes of Canada transforming itself into a warrior nation.
They’ll be troubled by their government’s refusal to protect their environment and their livelihoods, unaware that Harper sacrificed Canada’s national sovereignty to the whims of corporations benefiting from secret trade deals which bolster global economic integration.
And finally, they’ll be helpless as Harper’s ham-fisted economic policies crush their quality of life. They’ll struggle to feed their families, to educate their children, to heal their sick and care for their elderly as the economy contracts, social programs are cut, manufacturing jobs disappear, the income inequity gap widens, consumer debt skyrockets, the deficit rises and Canada’s debt grows.
They’ll wonder what happened to the Harper who trumpeted his economic stewardship and belittled his rivals and realize that if this is the best he can do when he’s on his game, God help us when he trips.
The results of the “upside down” test
The time scientists are supposed to vote on whether to redefine time in 2015. Whether they take the vote remains to be seen—they postponed it three times since 2003.
If they defer the vote again the consequences are insignificant. They’ll simply add another leap second to a June 30th sometime in the future.
Unfortunately Canadians aren’t so lucky. The federal election will go ahead on Oct 19, 2015 whether they vote or not.
So let’s stop wasting time speculating about what Harper will do if he’s re-elected. Let’s focus on what he’s done to date. We don’t need to go back very far. Focus on Harper’s performance in 2015 (this is an election year, he’s supposed to be on his best behavior). Harper’s lack of respect for democracy is shameful. His anti-terrorism and economic policies are poisonous. Harper will negatively impact every man, woman and child in this country.
On Oct 19, 2015 Canadians need to tell Harper he’s run out of time.