Well who says that August is boring! My day started with digesting yesterday’s Canadian news about the Duffy trial and its star witness, Nigel Wright. The wheels of justice move slowly so we are only now getting around to events that happened in 2013. Memories of being glued to TV during Watergate poured back, but this time it’s different. Instead of memos – we now have email correspondence threads – complete with all those endless repeats. The CBC’s host of Power& Politics is in the courtroom tweeting a stream of almost verbatim Q&A. Reading the more thoughtful press reports aftewwards gives a definite sense of déjã vu.
An inside view of the PMO brings politics down to earth with a bang. Even though CBC news head honcho Peter Mansbridge thinks it gives a fascinating glimpse of what is really going on, it could be duplicated in the internal memos of any office including his own – in its full banality – messes other people have created, protecting the boss, saving their own skins – though the scale of the game here is a little bigger. In most offices you don’t have a staff member claiming to cover lots of $90k items on his own. And quoting Matthew 6:3 as a rationale for left-hand right-hand actions did inject a new level of interest, as journalists suddenly had to bone up on theology. Even Facebook Anglicans chimed in. One claimed to be a classmate of Wright while another admitted preparing him for confirmation.
Some of my own dots connected this week here too. I learned from an except of John Ibbotson’s new book that Stephen Harper enrolled in my alma mater, Trinity College Toronto; he left after three weeks feeling he didn’t fit in. I sympathized. Harper came from suburban Etobicoke; I entered Trinity College many years earlier from a small Ontario city, not from one of Toronto’s elite private schools. But being in residence gave me a tribe that allowed me to survive and even thrive – unlike Harper after his first lonely three weeks. On the other hand, Wright – a member of an Anglo Catholic parish in Toronto with strong links to Trinity through their joint benefactor, Gerald Larkin – would fit right in.
But it’s election season – and the Duffy trial TV stories are interspersed with election ads and campaign road news clips. How did campaigns get so goofy – in both the US and Canada? To start with they both go on forever. Politics becomes a round of attacks and counter-attacks. Even the New York Times is solemnly chiming in. After listing all Harper’s shortcomings it asks, “Whether or not he loses, he will leave Canada more ignorant than he found it. “The real question for the coming election is a simple but grand one: Do Canadians like their country like that?”
The response from this voter – aka as citizen or taxpayer or middle classee depending on who is talking to me – needs to be – uh uh – followed by some laughter before I settle down to some serious thinking about it. We can start with the PMO philosophy:
or move on and enjoy reading The Lapine
But Elizabeth Renzetti takes my prize for her article in the Globe and Mail about staged press coverage – the people behind the political leaders – in particular the hard hats behind the prime minister. How did they get there? Why were they there? What are they thinking about when he noted that he was the only person in the PM office not to know about some pretty absorbing preoccupations? And why, she asks, “did they clap when it came to the part about Canada being richer and safer”? She cites the artificiality of the whole process.
Justin Trudeau apparently has to take a cue from the “He’s not Ready” attack ad to reply to it rather than ignore it. Personally rather than “I’m Ready” I think he could have come up with “Justin Time”.
Renzetti says we get the campaigns we deserve. She is right. If the most popular shows are The Amazing Race – which I get to watch when my grandsons get to choose – or if I submit to canned addresses from teleprompters and read “bright lines/ message lines put out by the PMO – perhaps I am equally complicit in a dumbed-down world where only the obsessive achievers are worth watching while I -sprawled on the couch – mutely reach for another potato chip. The only secret weapon left might be a Newfie comedian or two; we export a lot of them. Maybe it’s time to ask them to come home.