I Am #Boomer, Hear Me Lecture! +PLUS+

Don Cherry: Don’t feel sorry for this outdated relic of a dumber, whiter, less inclusive time


A collage featuring Don Cherry, a poppy and some Muslim servicemen and their families.
“YOU PEOPLE”

To kick off today’s in-depth exploration of the obvious, let me ask you a question: Who gives a flying fuck about a miserable, bigoted, old white guy sportscaster with bad taste in clothing and worse taste in philosophy?

As it happens, I’m the first one hundred people who reply: Not me, Murgatroyd McGraw. Look—pockets empty. Not a single fuck left to give. But it is Christmas season coming. Ask me again on Boxing Day. Or, better yet, Epiphany!

For those of you not privy to, or interested in, the finer points of Canada’s sports world and its personalities, let it be known that Don Cherry worked—the past tense is deliberate— for decades as a sportscaster for Sportsnet, a subsidiary of Rogers Media. He was and is known for his ridiculously garish suits, his supposed dudely brilliance in the area of hockey coaching, playing and announcing, and his tough, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is 80-year-old heterosexual male bluster, which is just as tedious and backward and unapologetically, ear-splittingly raucous as you might expect.

Unfortunately, on Remembrance Day, Mr Cherry removed the puck from his mouth, became confused, and inserted both his feet instead.

Live on Sportsnet, Mr Cherry offered his opinion that “immigrants” were not buying enough red poppies and wearing them to honor the fallen, an opinion completely lacking in any factual basis.

“You people, you like our country, you like our milk and honey, you could at least spend a couple of bucks on a poppy and wear it.”

— Don Cherry

Let’s unpack this:

You people. You people who are immigrants, you people who are physically different, you people who aren’t white, you people with your funny clothes and accents, you people who are taking over, you people who want hand-outs, you people who are lazy, when you’re not you people taking all the jobs, you people who aren’t Christians, you people who aren’t real Canadians.

It’s astonishing how much hurt, hatred and damage can be packed into two little words. It’s shameful that someone can have missed the point so completely and thought it would be acceptable to make such a demeaning, patronizing, divisive and, yes, racist comment live on national television.

Rogers Media issued a statement apologizing for Cherry’s remarks, then fired his saggy white ass.

Predictably, middle-aged white guys are up in arms—well, actually, they’re in their La-Z-Boy recliners swilling Labatt’s 50—because Don Cherry got fired for stating his opinion. Freedom of speech!

But how was his freedom of speech curtailed? He said exactly what he wanted to say. Or is what you want to protect really freedom of speech without repercussions?

In the end, as I say ad nauseum, there is no such thing as complete freedom of speech, or of anything, for that matter; every freedom must be balanced with others’ freedoms, considering the common good. Freedoms come with adult responsibilities not to cause harm to individuals or to society.

But go ahead, Don, say whatever the hell you like, in private. I just don’t understand why you’re so damn proud of it.



And while I’m on this particular rant, let me take this opportunity to bemoan the hegemony of professional sports. (Sportsarchy?)

Hockey may be your national identity, fellow Canadian, but it ain’t mine. Please note that there are at least several of us who are not knuckle-dragging homophobes with no front teeth.

Sports is supposed to be the great leveler, a way for citizens to bond and feel a common cause. The whole gung-ho, well-rounded, wave your team’s flag and get shit-faced pro sports boondoggle reminds me of those Fascist parades with girls spinning Swedish medicine balls and precocious boys with way too much muscular development for their age. As Noam Chomsky has suggested, it’s a way to keep us occupied with something useless but addictive, anything that stops us thinking deeply about our world and fills up the time we’d be better off using for activism.

As excited as everyone is for me to be a “joiner,” I have always sashayed to the beat of my own drummer, or karaoke machine, depending on the night of the week. We don’t need to reduce everything to the highest common factor and dumb everything down until we’re spitting out our broken incisors and talking like Donald Trump, who’s made President of the United States, the most powerful position in the world, into a massive, developmentally-challenged fifteen-year-old’s macaroni picture that you stick on the fridge door.

In Canada, we have other pursuits besides holy hockey. For winter sports, climb onto a circular aluminum toboggan and swirl down the hill behind the primary school, right out into the oncoming traffic. Personally, I’m hot for skating with my ankles bent inward at a forty-five degree angle, and stopping myself by slamming into the cold, wet walls of the ice rink, or a concrete arch, if I’m in Nathan Phillips Square.

And culture, forever underfunded and relegated to “the elites,” is on our radar, too. Curl up with Margaret Atwood’s latest dystopian saga, a bottle of Seconal and some razor blades, or watch something by David Cronenberg involving people with new orifices growing out of their necks, a nasty sex virus and a posse of wise-cracking, animatronic bugs.

Sometimes I play the piano of an evening. And, trust me, no one was telling Beethoven, “You should get out more, Ludwig. You’ll never find your beloved—immortal, hanging on for dear life, or even prone to occasional nasty chest colds—sitting at home scratching out these—watchamacallilt, symphonies. Honestly, you really think Napoleon is gonna listen to this shit for an hour? My crazy Komponisten! Go out, live a little! Be a joiner! Fancy a Jagermeister jello shot? What? Oh, you mean I have to write that all down?

But most of all, I love to spend time at the Canadian Opera Company, where at any given performance you’ll find more combat, gore and hysterical screaming than you could shake a Zamboni at, but nothing aimed at your head that’s more dangerous than a high E-flat.

And there, resplendent in Balcony Three, and Canadian as all-get-out in my bow tie and loafers, I’ll stay.


I never thought I’d be in a position to complain about an entire generation being too concerned with getting things right. And I never envisaged the possiblity that this same generation, raised with LCD crystal displays for eyes and a 404 Not Found error message where their emotional intelligence should be, would feel empowered to talk back so sassy to their elders.

I’m interested in the mindset of perfectionism, seeing that this behavior is supposed to be the Achilles heel of Virgo, my astrological sign, and stop putting your hand over your mouth when you titter, I’m not fooled.

Over the past five to 10 years, Young People (which is everyone at least one year younger than me, just so we’re on the same page) sacrificed an entire country, the United States of America, on the altar of “if I can’t have Bernie, I don’t want nobody, baby” and during the same time Republicans, determined to thwart Obama’s every proposal, refused to engage the primary engines of democracy, namely, compromise and consensus. Frankly, I’ve begun to despise the entire concept of insisting on the most perfect manifestation of your ideals, up to and including the end whose bitterness is a foregone conclusion.

Here’s an example I stumbled on recently, in an online rag with a definite tilt to the far left called “Common Dreams.” It’s a short read, if you care to, is entitled

Obama’s Endorsement of Trudeau
Highlights Class Unity of the 1 Percent

and takes for its premise: “if Barack Obama truly cared about endorsing a progressive economic leader, or even a leader of colour just like him, he could have chosen Jagmeet Singh of the left-wing New Democratic Party. But he didn’t.”

(The link above opens a new tab. Of course it does! Jeezus. Who do you think this is, ol’ Grampa Wilkinson with the rosy-apple cheeks and his Princess telephone from 1971?)

Ah, to be young and dewy-eyed again! If it ain’t one hundred percent perfect, goes the sentiment, then we’ll take our votes (endorsement, goodwill, high fives or whatever benefit would have been forthcoming) and go home.

According to this mindset, for Obama to endorse Trudeau can only mean one thing: they’re part of an international cabal of the one percent (how much is Bernie Sanders worth, again?); and Trudeau’s lifting out of poverty of 300,000 children is just slight of hand to distract us from his….? What? Helping Hillary at the pizza parlour?

I’m as dumbstruck and angry as you about corruption and economic inequality—just ask Canada Revenue Agency—but good reporting, even good opinions, don’t result from taking a holier-than-thou stance then cramming the facts into it like an ugly sister’s foot into a glass slipper.

I dunno, is it possible that Obama holds progressive views, Justin holds progressive views, they’re great friends and Barack truly believed he was the best choice for Canadian Prime Minister (not that we vote directly for the prime minister, we vote for a party, as I keep reminding everyone in my snippy, know-it-all way)?

What’s Obama supposed to do? Endorse everyone so they won’t be hurt, like mom buying all the kids the same Christmas toy?

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party and a political novice, appears to be a man of great integrity, and demonstrated real leadership and finesse throughout his campaign, especially the way he handed Blackface-gate.

However, the idea of Barack Obama endorsing Jagmeet made me choke on my maple-glazed donut. It would be like Barack Obama endorsing Marianne Williamson for President, or doing a commercial for the Segway: utterly bizarre, laughable, a pity endorsement.

The New Democrats have never held power federally. Ever. Not in my entire lifetime and before and beyond. And Jagmeet Singh is a promising progressive voice, but with almost no experience. Normally we endorse a product that we’ve used and that we know works. Kind of thing?

Canadians definitely know how our dysfunctional first-past-the-post electoral system works, i.e. with results weirdly disconnected from the actual numerical vote count and with most of the parties ending up with few or no seats in Parliament. Is it any wonder that many voters feel that their participation was a waste of effort? In Ontario, after a year enduring the awful oppression of Conservative premier Doug Ford’s “balanced budget” (translation: cuts to essential services), we weren’t about to let the Conservatives and their dissembling leader, Andrew Scheer, anywhere near the driver’s seat.

We voted strategically, holding our noses about the blackface pictures, for the Liberal Party. This past federal election was, for Canadians, desperately important. We had endured the Harper years, like Trump years currently, just quieter, and we needed to send a message about keeping our progressive image and values. We barely succeeded.

I’m also sorry to see yet another tiresome iteration of the Conservative baloney about SNC-Lavalin, our lame Canadian attempt at a scandal that would be user-friendly, not involve sex or drugs and get everyone to bed by ten PM after making hot chocolate, watching Peter Mansbridge, then brushing and flossing.

In this particular scandal involving the corrupt dealings with Middle Eastern clients of a Canadian firm, the Ethics Commissioner misinterpreted his own legislation to the extent that, were his interpretation followed to its logical conclusion, every tax break and every other incentive to any corporation would have to be judged a breach of ethics.

Then there was the “pressure.” The choice was: litigation or remediation (hefty fines). The legislation allowing remediation was tabled by the CONSERVATIVES. The execs at SNC had already done their time, and there was nothing to be gained by litigation except the probable loss of 9,000 jobs. That was the issue that caused Trudeau to “pressure” the Attorney General, Little Orphan Jody.

Imagine the blow-back if the company had folded due to the litigation. “Did no one see this coming?” everyone would have shouted. Well… yes. Justin. Can you say, “can’t win this one”?

Then of course, as soon as Trudeau shows any backbone and demotes her in a carefully-calibrated-to-be-obvious cabinet shuffle, it turns out it’s the wrong kind of backbone. He fired a woman! He must not be feminist after all! He fired a member of the Indigenous community! He’s racist!

Please. I’m as feminist and as supportive of Indigenous rights as it’s possible for a white male oppressor to be, and I’ll happily state that Jody Wilson-Raybould was incompetent and not up to the pressures of her appointment. If anything, Trudeau erred on the side of over-confidence in appointing her.

I’m disappointed with Trudeau’s having made empty promises; but to use what fell off the table to utterly discount his other significant achievements is unbalanced, unfair and maybe just the tiniest bit immature.

Remember this: Justin deliberately ran a deficit.

For a few decades, “austerity” (but only for the middle class) has been touted around the world like a regifted Christmas sweater and foisted on one unwilling citizenry after another. I nearly wept for joy when Justin declared that he was going to spend some money to take care of infrastructure and to stimulate the economy, and when he declared that running a deficit was OK.

To be OK with a deficit flouted economic dogma. To be OK with a deficit and even smile about it was just unseemly. To spend like a good old-fashioned Keynesian economist while all the world worships the golden calf of Milton Friedman was a big mud in yer eye to the austerity drones.

Everyone who fails to keep a promise isn’t part of a sinister cabal or just pretending to be progressive.

World leaders, if you haven’t noticed, have fairly full schedules, which includes responsibilities to all citizens.They also have to have, up to a point, rather stinky diplomatic relations with autocrats, which does not constitute condoning their actions, necessarily; and they must engage in other imperfect, messy, reality-based activities that nonetheless have concrete and positive results, such as promoting human rights both at home and abroad.

My heart sincerely goes out to Young People, who’ve been taught from birth to expect instant connections and even faster results, who’ve lost the art of subtle thinking in direct proportion to their disdain for reading and therefore history, which means re-inventing the wheel, with no benefit of context or any notion of degree, countless times in a day.

Young People have been saddled with moral, spiritual and geophysical debts of every kind just as the last of us boomers are preparing to leave spaceship earth, waving farewell with our angel wings and mouthing, “Good luck, suckers!”

We fucked up. Everything. Our fragile, wounded planet. The climate. How we raise children. Sex. The way we grow lima beans. Justice. Relationships. Choosing VHS instead of Betamax. Everything.

I know this. I literally tear up when I see the frustration and anger, above all, the lost innocence of the next generation as they realize, at way too young an age to fully understand its enormity, the grand larceny we’ve committed in the name of greed and profit.

And the white male oligarchs of greed and profit have no remorse. They react in outrage at outspoken Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old climate activist from Sweden, seeing in her nothing but teenage rebellion and lack of respect, when they should be begging for her forgiveness. She is the sad avatar of her generation, children forced prematurely into adulthood as they struggle to salvage something from the wreckage in order to live. They are the new chimney sweeps.

Nothing is perfect. Insults are not political argument. There are shades of grey for the same reason that there are emergency generators and the cloud. You need a Plan B. You need to keep what works and throw out what is not working. You can’t, and you don’t need to, throw out everything.

What works, what lubricates the gears of democracy?

Compromise. Consensus. Slow, gradual, incremental change is how liberalism works (unless your country will be underwater in ten years. That merits a bit more speed). Consider how France descended into the Terror through rigid ideology that renamed the very months of the year and enforced its codes with the guillotine, and compare how England, stodgy and tradition-bound, established liberalism and true freedom through a slowly evolving concept of precedent and the inviolable rule of law.

The neoliberalism we hate is an ideology, not an economic theory. There is no such thing as a democratic ideology, because ideologies are rigid boxes. Neoliberalism is profoundly undemocratic.

So is revolution.

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Justin Scandals, Count How Many

skipping rhymes from Gen Z …


…with a nod to the 2019 Canadian Federal Election


I’VE BEEN UNDERCOVER IN MY SAILOR SUIT AND adorable Hudson’s Bay dress shorts (available only in polyester in Québec, due to the current shortage of “pure laine”), chatting about Dr Seuss and reminiscing about The Friendly Giant with unsuspecting school-age Gen Zed-ers as they go about their daily activities.

You remember the drill: Get to school, line up your Venus pencils in careful gradients and start coloring the edges of your maps if you’re a girl, or roll up some paper spitballs and practice farting noises if you’re a boy.

Or, if you’re a gay boy, line up your Venus pencils in careful gradients and watch all the other boys roll spitballs and practice their farting noises before they beat you up after gym class, thus laying the foundation for a truly world-class sexual fetish about a decade later.

Some traditions never change.

My mandate —which I had to give to myself after MacLean’s Magazine was so snarky about the pitch, thanks a bunch, Ms Barbara Lucrezia Borgia Gutenberg Amiel—was to find out how much political savvy these kids had absorbed in this age of 24/7 connectivity, deep fakes, and Hallowe’en nights when your mom and dad insist on driving you door to door so they can keep tabs, mooch your candy and spoil, to the very last iota, the fun of wearing your DIY handsewn Beyoncé costume.

Make no mistake: I was in constant danger of having my cover blown, and there was more than one occasion when I was eyed with suspicion by some chocolate-milk-mustached freckle-faced rascal of a boy, or prim, annoying little girl who’d just had her best party dress splashed with mud by some Grade Eight dude on a Canadian Tire mountain bike.

I tell you, looking authentic while trading prosciutto di Parma and Dijon mustard sliders on artisanal focaccia at lunch break, or fake-crying when it was time for yet another “milk and cookies power-nap,” stretched my humorous-blogger incognito reporting skills, and my already gossamer-thin patience, to the limit and beyond.

But I did net the following cultural gold: Non-traditional skipping rhymes, who knew, and I have to say these kids are the future.

And it’s off I go for another “Ankle-Biter” portion of chicken nuggets and French fries at Pickle Barrel or I’ll start to get cranky around four o’clock, which is typically when my ADHD kicks in.

Now, sit comfortably, close your eyes and travel back to when you and the Internet were young and hopeful together, chalk up the pavement, grab your rope and jump feet first into —

Well, no.

What I mean is—open your eyes so you can read, obviouslythen do all the other, imaginative stuff to do with traveling back in time.

Jeezus. Are you always this high-maintenance?


“OUT IN VICTORIA”

Out in Victoria
Real estate’s a bitch
“Hordes of Asians
Stinking rich

Racist Canadians
Cry, “What cheek!
How many condos
Bought
this week?

One condo
Two condos
Three condos
Four

Mandarin on
A red front door

Five condos
Six condos
Seven condos
Eight

White people want to
Speculate

Cut down trees
And pave the lawn

Now watch Chinese
Tai Chi at dawn!

—Traditional, West Coast.


justin scandals

Justin scandals
Count how many

one for blackface
How embarrassing

TWO for a
Journalist’s
Sexual harassing

three for India
Shoe toes curly
Wearin’ a sari
Lookin’ all girly

{It’s not made up
It’s not made up }

Justin scandals
Count how many

four for Jody
Attorney G
He broke her balls
Over SNC

FIVE for comrade
Castro, Fidel
He eulogized
So we gave him hell

Six is the pipeline
We don’t like
Tell Alberta
To take a hike

Paper Rocks
Scissors Socks

Feminist Faggot
Drama Teacher

Caught in the act
With the son of a preacher

{That’s made up
That’s made up
}

Justin scandals
Count how many

—Ottawa valley, possibly First Nations origins


when will scheer

When will Scheer
Let the news drop

One day, three?
Three weeks, Four?
Six months, a year?

How many abortions
Will he stop?

Rusty coat hanger
Dish soap mild
Jump off the table

And lose that child!

How will Scheer
Let the news drop

Friends of Dorothy
AIDS you’re dead
Three-legged dogs

In a marriage bed!

Will he be swift
Or will he lag

To make it cool
To kill a fag?


We’re now fairly skidding along the reinforced cotton gusset of life, aiming straight for Monday the 21st October, when the citizens of the People’s Republic of Libtardia head to the polls.

Ugh. I get sooooo tense about the “wrong” person getting into power, only made more tense by remembering that Canada has NO TERM LIMITS—that’s right. Andrew Scheer could be crowned PM, serve four years, be reinstated again, and again, and again, until we all died of Scheer tedium, while all the womenfolk were barefoot and pregnant, head to toe in cheerful yet modest calico, baking up huckleberry pies and taking axes to abortion clinics and the menfolk, in full garden gnome facial hair, fracked for oil and studied the prehistoric social code of their choice.

And it’s not just the Conservative Party that gives me what my fantasy step-mom, Dorothy Parker, would have called “the yips.” Yesterday I found out that Jagmeet Singh, NDP leader, has pledged to abolish the Senate if elected, calling it “undemocratic.”

Why do people miss the point about the Senate, every time? Our Senators are appointed, not elected, and now I’m going to do my annoying Socratic bit. Why is it important they are not elected? Correct, because then they have no electorate they are beholden to.

And why is that NOT undemocratic? Because the Senate is the “house of sober second thought.” The Senators—none of them career politicians, but all recommended and appointed as outstanding Canadians who have contributed in significant ways to the community in their respective fields of expertise—give second, non-partisan, readings to legislation, and they have the power to send that legislation back to the House of Commons if they see fit.

Which they did during the reign of terror of Stephen Harper, whose secretiveness and impatience had him trying to bypass even the Commons with his sinister, autocratic agenda. Trust me that the Senate saved us from the worst excesses of that awful, dispiriting regime.

Also, they are allocated proportionally:

The Senate of Canada (FrenchSénat du Canada) is the upper house of the Parliament of Canada, along with the House of Commons and the monarch (represented by the governor general). The Senate is modelled after the British House of Lords and consists of 105 members appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister.[1] Seats are assigned on a regional basis: four regions—defined as OntarioQuebec, the Maritime provinces, and the Western provinces—each receives 24 seats, with the last nine seats allocated to the remaining portions of the country: six to Newfoundland and Labrador and one each to the three northern territories. Senators may serve until they reach the age of 75.

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, October 18). Senate of Canada. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:04, October 19, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Senate_of_Canada&oldid=921902174

That’s two very good reasons, life-or-death reasons, not to abolish the Senate. Democracy is not just a numbers game; it is about human rights and ensuring that minorities are afforded the same protections as the majority.

Jagmeet, your Sikh headgear is to me as beautiful as the gold lamé turban Joan Crawford wore while scrubbing the bathroom tiles, it is the official beanie of multiculturalism, but your policy of abolishing the Senate has filled me with doubt about your judgment and made me tense.

And I’m fed up with all the tension, you know? So I’m going to relax about a lot of things this election. I mean, ever since that morning way back in 2016 when I awoke to people on the street screaming, “Holy fuck, Trump!” I’ve discovered that the worst can happen and we don’t implode. Things are, in fact, working as they should, down in the ol’ United States of Meltdownia.

Common sense is waking up from its gee-d out trance, weeping a little bit with the memory of what it got up to when it was high—how it got hate-banged by Mendacity even though it kept murmuring, “Stop!” and “Why would they make up a story like that?” and Mendacity just kept banging away, banging away, until common sense was lying unconscious in a pool of its own body fluids.

Please. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

The Trump thing has become so bad, even Republicans, die-hard Republicans, like Lindsey Graham, have censured him for withdrawing American troops from North Syria without warning, leaving their Kurdish allies at the mercy of Turkish forces. So even Republicans have come to their senses. They’ve had to.

Well, when I say “come to their senses,” I don’t mean actually come to their senses in the sense of caring about economic inequality, or racism, or women having access to effective birth control or safe abortion, or anyone having any sort of affordable healthcare, or anything that would indicate they had, you know, come to their senses.

They just got interrupted as they were preparing to make themselves look all butch in northern Syria, then remembered that Trump has the current events knowledge of a grade-school student who’s been in a vegetative state for the past eight years and yelled at him for making them look bad in front of the Ukraine.

That kind of coming to your senses.

Anyway, if Scheer is elected, it will be bad, but probably not nearly as bad as down south. And if it’s really bad, we’ll get rid of him. Chillax, Canadians!

I’ve grown tired of acting like everyone who votes for the PC’s is a piece of ignorant trash and their vote doesn’t count, almost that they’re not “real Canadians.”

Andrew Scheer is the legitimate idiot leader of a legitimate asshole irrelevant political party run by old white guys, and if you want to vote for him, you have every right to.

Really! You do!

This is a free country and a democracy and you get to vote for anyone you want. Go ahead! Throw away everything we’ve gained in the past four years, including the envy of most of the world because we are the only remaining unashamedly progressive nation, anywhere!

Go ahead! Make their envious heads shake, just because you can’t stand that Justin is from our most famous political dynasty, that his father was Pierre and he’s already in the history books, whereas Scheer and Jason Kenney and Faith Goldy are just sad losers, blinded by bigotry and incapable of coherent thinking, who will just be footnotes, if that.

You’re pissed off that Justin is getting accolades from the United States, whose butt cheeks now have Scheer-shaped indentations, and you’re extra jealous that Justin is prettier than all of you put together, even in blackface, though we do wish he would cool it with the costume parties.

So there, fellow progressives! What are you scared of? That you’ll have to do a little participating? Protest a bit? Make your voice heard?

Thing is, just between you and me, it goes in cycles, if you haven’t noticed. We’re probably due for a change for the worse, now that the Atlantic Monthly has called us “the most successful progressive government in the world,” now that child poverty is lower than it has ever been, economic growth is up and, well, Trudeau has Canadian values, and kept ninety-five percent of his promises.

So naturally we’ll throw him out and vote in the doltish, aww-shucks, thin-lipped Christian who wants a tax rebate in every pot and a finger in every womb.

He’ll slash the services we want, we’ll go, “Oh my GOODNESS, but I didn’t think you meant THAT!” and we’ll protest and complain and rail against the stupid PC’s that we voted for when we could have continued to be the envy of the world and continued the progress. There’s a concept!

But no. We’ll buy the stupid rhetoric of the old disgruntled white guys, a.k.a. str8-tards, and for some reason we’ll forget that being Prime Minister is not like being the CEO of a company: In fact, it is a public office where you’re supposed to make decisions in the public interest, not for profit. You’re supposed to listen to the people who elected you, but also listen to the people who didn’t elect you, because you’re PM of everyone.

Balance the budget! Of course, but at the expense of…? It’s a fake goal, a chimera. It SOUNDS good, like something you should do. But it’s not the only thing you should do, and it’s ultimately not the purpose of government. Sure, be responsible, be prudent, be transparent…but if that’s the limit of your vision, go be an accountant. What kind of society do you want to grow? What future do you want for the next generation? Will pinching pennies now achieve that future?

Don’t take a rebate cheque for a couple hundred bucks that will evaporate from your hands over the course of a weekend, and lose child care, or reduced waiting times at the hospital, or pharmacare or decent roads, or decent schools. Real long-lasting change for the public good—that is the real purpose of government.

Don’t be short-sighted, Think what you’re doing. And in the end, if you vote for Scheer? All power to you. I’m not the guy who gets to say you’re wrong.

Now, Maxime Bernier, that’s another story. If you vote for Maxime Bernier, you’re a bona fide piece of shit on a stick in a coulis of snot and I despise having even to stand on the same continent as you, lest I accidentally inhale a single molecule of oxygen that could have brushed up against your alveoli, you pathetic white supremacist moron.

Seriously. You have to draw the line somewhere.


Someone in the NDP said something stupid or shitty or wrong in 2012, and I say: “Fiddlesticks and fuddle-duddle! Who gives a flying Tesla!”

The rest of the world gets its fifteen minutes of fame; Canadian party leaders, in the run up to the election, have to have their fifteen minutes of shame. Racist shame, or misogynist shame or sex shame or whatever.

I’m not down with racism or misogyny or abuse, but honestly, Murgatroyd! I don’t think I would exactly come off as St Teresa of Avila were my every word and every act to be examined from my teen years to now.

I think I might have had a few moments, or even months, of shame and I would be apologizing so much my eyes would be bulging out of my head on stalks, like a praying mantis in her startle pose, so grievously involved would my apologizing be.

I would have to scare off reporters from The Sun by opening my moth wings whose markings look like the head of a John Kenneth Galbraith. I can only do that once, right after I emerge from my chrysalis, so I honestly would prefer to save it up for real emergencies.

Scheer, Trudeau, Singh—they’ve all had their moment in the shadow. Can we just agree that everyone says shit sometimes, especially politicians, accept their apologies and move on? Because it’s not about your mistake, it’s how you acknowledge and handle your mistake.

Now, if you’re Trump, you write a letter to the Turkish President that is so bizarre, the White House staff think it’s a spoof.

That is how Trump handles mistakes: by committing an even bigger and more juicy mistake to attempt to draw focus away from the original mistake.

Which, of course, is nonsense. Trump is blithely unaware of having made any mistakes, ever. Even his telephone call to the President of Ukraine was “perfect;” he really has no concept of good and bad, right or wrong. He is entirely without moral direction. If he did it, it’s OK.

Good and evil, right and wrong, just and unjust: These are concepts that have no meaning for a sociopath or even a narcissistic personality, because they require an awareness of how our actions might affect others.

Meaningful work, priorities, duties, happiness, success, even our life’s purpose: Once you start thinking about other people, everything unravels.

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Canada, whatever you do:

VOTE

in the Federal Election

MONDAY

October 21st

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We Sincerely Hope Our Election Won’t Disturb Your Sleep …

plus: Facebook is the idiot-maker.


Carolyn Strom, R.N.: Self-made victim of the Facebook justice system.

IT BEING MY BIRTHDAY COMING UP and all, I treated myself, as one does, to a little bit of narcissistic self-analysis, in the form of the Myers-Briggs personality test.

The Myers-Briggs personality test is perfect for when you’ve gotten tired of astrology or palm-reading, want a little more cachet, but don’t want to burden yourself with anything too accurate or scientific. Lighten up, Mr J. Robert Oppenheimer!

Myers-Briggs is the real deal, having been concocted by the mother-daughter team of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers in the spare time they could find between un-moulding the jellied ambrosia salads for the church social and retying each other’s corsets, and based on tinkering with the poetic but utterly unscientific, even dotty, theories of Carl Jung.

 Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers

Myers-Briggs is routinely referred to as pseudoscience, has poor predictability, poor repeatability (you can easily get a different result if you try again), it doesn’t account for neuroses or any personality disorders, and basically it’s just a load of old codswallop that’s maybe fun to administer to your friends when you have your Monopoly nights.

In the end I self-diagnosed as an extraverted introvert, meaning I’m constantly on a knife edge of confident self-doubt. I don’t quite know why I fall into this two-headed, comic-tragic, hi-lo self-esteem upward-downward spiral. I realize that everyone is unique, everyone has value and everyone’s story is different, which is why I should never compare myself to anyone and goddamnit how come he has over one hundred thousand followers of his blog while I have just over two hundred after five years?!

But that’s typical of an extraverted introvert with a knickerbocker twist. I’m the kind of guy who writes a kick-ass book, then fails to publicize it, which means I’ve sold three copies in the year since I bore down in a bathtub full of warm gin and tonic and Lamaze’d it into being.

Meanwhile I keep re-reading it, which means I keep nit-picking, and of course there’s no longer any hope of responding to my own humor in a spontaneous way. The whole project feels limp, deflated, like the balloons the day after your birthday party.

My birthday party, for which I intend to knock back a gin cooler or three from the liquor store and practise the Beethoven Opus 126 Bagatelles, will be this Saturday, September 21st. I’m going to be sixty-four years old. You may, in your imagination, kiss my gnarly hand and tell me how much I don’t look it, then slowly withdraw, because, and I know you can take the truth, you’re not on the list. Actually, no one is—just this once I’d like to experience an important milestone that isn’t all mucked up with guests.

The only invitee is my five-year-old self, who’s always here anyway, gazing out through these astonished eyes the way a fish trapped in its goldfish bowl gazes at the shimmering, wavy world beyond.

I feel the inside of my crusty iguana-skin, I stomp my webbed feet and I wonder what happened to the pale, milky-cool velvet integument of my childhood. I still reach out with the arms of a five-year-old, still love like one, still break down like one.

I once loved someone so much that when they left me, I literally thought I would die. I cried for a day and a night, for a week, for six months, for a year; I cried until I flipped inside out and stood like a long-forgotten martyr flayed for a lost cause, my heart and guts and liver and every internal organ that could feel pain dangling, glistening red and purple, from my bloodied trunk. I was stunned, slaughtered and butchered in the abattoir of love, and yet I didn’t die.

I didn’t die.

But I never slept in my bedroom again.

I’m persistent despite the odds; I’m lichen on a tree stump, moss on stone; insistently unlovely. I have grim determination, which means I’m handy to have around when you need someone to open that pickle jar.

What’s up with me at sixty-four? I’m shocked as the ghosts of my lost friends start to crowd around me at night, whispering that it’s OK and they’ll see me soon. I listen to Beethoven’s last five string quartets, his final confession and urgent advice to the future; mankind’s only necessary music.

My parents are dead, I’m estranged from my siblings, I’m currently sharing my one-bedroom apartment with three charming renegades, the tax people have garnished my monthly government pension and, all in all, life is way more interesting than I had any right to expect.


We’re approaching the day when the Canadian Federal Election limps across the unavoidably advancing finish line—oh, sweet Jeezus, no, I don’t know the date though it may have something to do with Canadian Thanksgiving or it may not.

How the election campaign begins is: we simply flip the switch to “on” and sit back. No primaries, no ticker-tape, no accusations of rape, or mass shootings or failed space launches. Just FLIP, ping! and we’re good. You’d have to have the compound eyes of a deer tick to notice any change.

“Hey, what was that tiny pinging noise?”
“That’s the Canadian Federal Election starting!”
“Are you trying to be funny?”
“I wish.”

This non-startiness is because we’ve spurned the American M.O., which is: de-educate your citizens, yell at the black people, make up stupid shit and Tweet about it, enlist foreign powers to destabilize the country by exacerbating social tensions, make up some more stupid shit, declare your press enemies of the people, declare your closest allies enemies of the Prez, discipline the weather agency for contradicting you, show contempt for the judiciary, yell at the Mexicans, stack the Supreme Court, then give everyone permission to donate as many billions of dollars as they want to buy the election for the candidate of their choice, which all makes for lousy democracy but superlative theatre.

Democracy… Theatre… Democracy… Theatre

You can see how easy it might be to get conflicted about this.

Of course, this means that Canada, with its geeky rules about political donations (they’re limited to $1,500 per person, and labour unions and corporations can’t contribute) must be socialist, at which epithet I chortle heartily even as I struggle to hoist my liver-spotted, chain-laden arms to the keyboard.

Ayn Rand, who conservatives worldwide keep mistaking for Milton Friedman, would have said we’ve “sold our rights for free healthcare!”

Ms. Rand was scarred by her experience with the Bolsheviks, so we can forgive her confusing authoritarian state capitalism, i.e. “communism,” with citizens voting for a benefit to which they willingly contribute their tax dollars, which they all love, and which results in happier, healthier participants in the consumer economy.

Take that, crazy-novel lady, and here’s a shout-out to your awkwardly named characters: Dagny Taggart, Ragnar Danneskjöld, Wesley Mouch, Howard Roark and Gail Wynand (a man). Rand may have had a certain vision and a dollop of sheer audacity, but her ear was pure tin.


I’ve been in total avoidance mode about, well, any of the alternatives to Justin Trudeau, frankly. But it’s time to man up and think about— UGH— Maxime Bernier, our very own Québec-grown authoritarian-nationalist white supremacist-misogynist candidate, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada. (We don’t, by the way, elect the Prime Minister; we vote for the party of our choice, whose leader then becomes PM.)

We are in the tradition of liberalism up here, which, like the development of common law, is a slow, dare I say, conservative process. We don’t throw everything out and start fresh. We don’t talk revolt or tyranny. We don’t nail everything down. We like nuance, interpretation, shades of grey. It takes us a century to ask for our own flag, even longer to repatriate the constitution.

We’re a pack of earnest Boy Scouts and Girl Guides who’ve finally achieved every merit badge, chanting our so-boring-it’s-woke mantra “peace, order and good government” with the self-conscious superiority of kids cleaning their plates of Brussels sprouts.

We are not republicans, up here in the cold-as-a witch’s-penumbra north. We are loyalists, which means we rebel by not rebelling; we are not a country in our own right, with a distinctive identity. We are whatever the revolutionaries were before they revolted. We are “not the United States.”

Because we did not rebel but remained a colony of the British Empire, we are more in tune with those who want another country’s protection. We understand what it means to take the high road and be the adult in the room, to know that we have every right to be isolationist and look to our own first, but to decide not to exercise that right.

The last guy who cared very much about any of this was Pierre, Justin’s dad. When Canada was about to unravel he gripped that idea with both hands and he held us together by the force of his will and by his arrogant belief that we should get what we needed, not what we wanted. He would not let us disintegrate because he could not let the idea of Canada die.

That kind of certainty is rare. Mainly we are full of self-doubt, unlike our British forebears with their five-hundred years of lawns hand-rolled by Capability Brown and tarnished, inherited silver services for twenty. The least little remark from a snarky American who hasn’t read the playbill about how we’re coolest on the block can send us, by which I mean me, into a tizzy of defensiveness.

Why, just this week on Twitter a creature called “Diana Death” (@TheeDianaDeath), a self-styled “rock musician and politically incorrect humorist”, invited herself to an exchange and told me that Americans “don’t give a scintilla of shit about your cheesey Charter;” and how could I respond except to point out:

“Diana, take it from a gay guy: You have the wrong kind of tits for that outfit.”

But getting back, reluctantly, to Maxime Bernier and the election: Maxime is the sweet, or angry, or reasonable, or vicious, face of the People’s Party of Canada.

Now I ask you—does that not sound promising? There couldn’t be anything ironic about having “people” (or “democratic” or “republic”) in the name of a political party, right? And anyway, everyone has to have a “People’s Party” these days, darling! Don’t be left behind! Don’t be caught flaunting some tatty, worn out, twentieth-century human rights thing; brown shirts are the new navy blue of conservatism worldwide!

It’s People’s Parties, and For the People, common people and right-thinking people and particularly white people. Good honest, hard-working people! Not rapists or gang members or illegals or invasions or infestations!

People—! People who need people! ♫ are the most right-wing people—in the world—!

Maxime’s for people, except when people are teenagers, female and refuse to shut up about climate change. He thinks it’s good politicking to bring out big ammunition to crush Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old girl from Sweden who’s so fired up about this disaster, she’s traveled the world on a yacht (zero carbon profile!) to raise awareness. Bernier thereby demonstrates what teams of researchers in Sweden, studying climate-change denial (yes, it’s an actual subject for academic study now) have found: That there’s a direct correlation between climate denial and being a white-supremacist misogynist male, that there are guys who believe the planet was given by a white, WASP god to white, WASP men to abuse and dominate the same way they abused and dominated their womenfolk.

These are the guys who are threatened that their place in the sun has been taken over by a new generation terrified and angry about this chaos that’s been dumped in their laps.

(Click to view larger version.)

This is Bernier’s EIGHT-PART Tweet diatribe against a 16-year-old climate activist.

It’s a shameful outburst, uncontrolled and gratuitously nasty. He revels, like all abusers, in his power over those he perceives as weaker than him. It arouses revulsion in me, the same revulsion that I felt in Grade Six when our Principal whipped, with a barber’s huge black razor strop, the hands of a fellow classmate, a girl, who endured this torture and returned to her desk shaking uncontrollably, convulsed with sobs, her spastic fingers telegraphing an indecipherable message of confusion, betrayal and grief.

Many Canadians, noticing that he’s polling at only three percent, don’t take Bernier seriously, but I do. I remember how little we took Trump seriously. Do you?

And if that doesn’t make your ovaries descend, think of this: It doesn’t matter if Bernier’s party, the party of white supremacy and “pure laine,” falls into the ditch. He will have done his work, which is to make racism a topic, to normalize the discussion and make us ponder whether there might not be “good people on both sides,” that is to say, good racists.

And now it sounds like a legitimate comment when we say it’s the Chinese buying up all the condos; though no one is ever able to explain to me what the problem is with Chinese people buying condos, even all of the condos, as opposed to white people buying condos. The problem, apparently, is self-evident to everyone but me.

I’m being precious, of course, because we all know very well that the problem with “Chinese people buying all the condos” is that the Chinese people are all Chinese.

We do things our own way up here: In ‘Murica ya got yer slavery, up here we have the Canadian tradition, dating back to the eighteenth century, of head taxing Asians, throwing them in internment camps and working them to death, literally, laying track for our glorious Canadian Pacific Railway so our superiority can gleam from sea to shining sea.

But there I go, standing on the wall and screaming at wooden horses again. The body politic are like boulder-headed teenagers: You long to save them from the fatal mistakes of your youth, but they’re too busy buzzing their hair into Mohawks and hiking up their tartan schoolgirl skirts to listen to your desperately uncool warnings.

Every generation thinks they’ve nailed it, and we dinosaurs have to sit back and endure their predictable screams of outrage as we watch them climb those stairs to the attic room and open the very door, the only door, they were forbidden to open. It’s almost not worth the pleasure of saying “I told you so.”


We now head west, for the next plate of canapés in my tasting menu of annoyance will be served in the cloakroom: that ever-so-flat, barely-remembered Cinderella of Canada’s provinces, Saskatchewan. But first I have to stop for a little joke, OK? Bear with me.


An American couple have just collected their luggage at the airport and are figuring out where to go next, when they spot another couple, both dressed in heavy winter overcoats, tuques, gloves, snow boots, scarves, the full get-up.

The American wife says to her husband, “Oh, Harry, look at those inneresting people! Do you think they’re Canadians? I’m gonna go find out!”

She walks over to the couple who are all decked out in their winter clothes, and she says, “Excuse me, but would ya’ll mind tellin’ me where you’re from?”

The startled winterized guy looks at his winterized companion, then back at the American woman. The two of them say to her, in perfect unison, “Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!”

The American woman, taken aback, returns to her husband’s side.

“So,” he says to her. “Did y’all find out anything? Where are they from?”

“I dunno,” says the wife. “They didn’t speak any English!”


So it seems that in Saskatchewan a Registered Nurse made a complaint on Facebook about the allegedly poor treatment her grandfather received while in palliative care. Here’s a little of what she wrote:

“It is evident that not everyone is ‘up to speed’ on how to approach end of life care … or how to help maintain an aging senior’s dignity (among other things!)… To those who made Grandpa’s last year’s [sic] less than desirable, please do better next time!” 

Now, this seems fairly innocuous, right? Not to the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association, several of whose members launched a complaint.The nurse, Carolyn Strom, was brought before the SRNA’s Tribunal accused of violating their code of conduct for social media and bringing the nursing profession into disrepute by her remarks.

Strom was fined $1,000 and asked to pay the $25,000 cost of bringing her to the Tribunal. A Court of Appeal reaffirmed this decision (courts are reluctant to contradict the decisions of self-monitoring professional bodies). Strom, who has been dealing with this fallout since 2015, is due this week for a final appeal.

You can read more about the case » starting here.

I feel that I need to justify my fascination with this rather obscure case. I can only tell you that freedom of speech, and other rights, become very interesting when they come into conflict with others’ rights. How are we to decide whose rights get precedence?

Let’s think about this. Ms Strom took her complaint and aired it in public. On Facebook. What is it about this crass social media platform that is so seductive? It’s ugly in design, puerile in attitude, its algorithms can’t tell the difference between art, news and spam, it’s run by an entitled brat who sells our data to private companies and feigns surprise when it’s revealed that mysterious PR firms are rewriting reality in order to subvert democratic elections, and yet where do we run to?

We literally don’t seem to care how sinful it all is; I say “sinful” as only an atheist can say it, as a crime against the natural and good. Facebook makes idiots of us all, every time we use it.

Carolyn Strom made an idiot of herself when she broadcast her complaint on Facebook. She was seduced by the irresistible urge to give shade, to take her grief about her grandfather and neutralize it, turn it into a brisk efficient trip to customer service.

Because here’s the deal: by all accounts, Ms Strom did not once, ever, voice her complaints to the nurses at the facility during her apparently infrequent visits. We’re in the realm of guilty until proven innocent, trial by public opinion.

The nurses, unnamed by Strom but for all practical purposes easily identifiable by anyone who cared to make the effort, have been accused—but which of them and of what? They have no way to defend themselves against what is just insinuation. Every one of them is now under the shadow of this vague complaint, competent and “incompetent” alike.

Bad enough for a member of the public to complain this way, in a transparent, at least to us, attempt to obtain sympathy for her relative’s death. For a member of the nursing profession to do so, knowing full well that her actions were in defiance of professional standards and procedures she was bound to uphold, is unfair, unjust, and just plain tacky.

Welcome to social media, where everyone’s the star of their own monodrama, where we’re stuck in a twilight world of my side and your side, but rarely the point in the middle where the truth lives, messy and shaded with grey and letting no one off the hook.

Communication is a hard slog. Voicing your complaint to a real person, in the flesh, in real time, you can hear your self-justifications and convenient white lies fall flat in the dead space between you and them. Seeing someone’s skeptical face, experiencing their lack of investment in your innocence, is bracing as well as humbling. Unless you’ve truly been horribly abused with no provocation, you’ll feel like a kid who’s lying about who broke the window with the baseball. You’ll feel that most public of emotions, shame.

Far easier to sing your aria in an echo-chamber to a hand-picked audience of sympathizers, who’ll co-opt your story and take up your “cause.” Then you can all tut-tut together. Why solve the problem when it gives back so generously?

I have noticed over the years that some people crave negative experiences, even gladly paying for a fancy version that will impress the neighbours. Strom’s bill, at $26,000, with the luxury extras of a self-critical essay and a mandatory course in ethics, makes this the Rolls Royce of disappointment.


So, Merry Birthday to me, god bless us every one, vote anything but Conservative and don’t take any wooden nickels.

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SCANDAL!? Nothing we can’t handle!

The SNC-Lavalin ruckus isn’t really about SNC-Lavalin—it’s about Justin.

Gather around, boys and girls, as once again I pull my granddad pants up into my armpits and hook my Walter Brennan thumbs behind my suspenders. I’ve just awakened from a forty-eight-hour afternoon nap, which is why I’m so annoyingly perky, and though the time is long past when it was even remotely relevant for me to explain what the Tommy Douglas was going on with this Canadian SNC-Lavalin doodad, I need you to listen up and at least pretend to care.

As blessèd Saint Judy was wont to growl:“ATTENTION WILL BE PAID!” Now, could someone help me up off my knees?

I never promised you relevance, Murgatroyd McGraw. I promised you Marlboro breath so toxic it could singe your eyebrows, yellow teeth caked with butter tart filling, mysterious, noisome stains on my gusset and slyly humorous, flippant commentary in place of measured, in-depth analysis.

Measured in-depth analysis? How perfectly common!

So, while I clear my smoker’s throat, the better to hoark another oyster onto my signed, framed portrait of Stephen Harper—some pleasures never pall— it’s time for a Canadian Fireside Chat about politics, optics, and which one of the following options you find most attractive:

Progressive Conservatives: More guzzling of fossil fuels, privatized health care, blatant white supremacy, rolled-back reproductive rights for women, no seat at the U.N. Security Council and compulsory church attendance in calico habits modeled after “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Who?;

Liberals: Badly-needed carbon tax that will actually put money IN the pockets of taxpayers, a stab at equality, properly-funded universal healthcare, business as usual and a pretty—and pretty ineffectual—prime minister, but who, when you look at him, at least doesn’t make you feel like stabbing yourself in the eyes with remorse because you voted your country into a no-turning-back state of oligarchic theocracy run by climate-change-denying cretins; OR

New Democratic Party: You’re kidding, right? Though Jagmeet Singh, the national party leader, is right up there, for me, anyway, in the woody-popping hierarchy, what with that dashing, dark, handsome sub-continental vibe and the liquid music of his accent, which is to me as a moist, patchouli-scented tongue probing my hairy, crusted inner ear.

Though, pace Jagmeet, Sikhs can be a little homophobic, as proof of which I will share that the last time a Sikh guy popped round for a blow-job, he said something kind of, well, insensitive to me as he was doing up his trousers. He cast an incredulous look down his nose at me, and said,

“Why do you like men?”

Betsy DeVos Theranos! This is a tough one! Don’t forget your ‘Smores, eh?


There was once a time in Canada, a long-ago, simpler era when squawking blue jays landed on your outstretched index finger and friendly, efficient beavers in Harris Tweed vests valet-parked your car at the Royal York, when we were content with, even proud of, our de facto one-party system.

Every other year or so you could vote Progressive Conservative (PC) instead of Liberal, just so you wouldn’t die of boredom, and without afterwards having to blush and laugh nervously while explaining that you’d recently been thrown from your thoroughbred at Woodbine Racetrack and weren’t expected to recover full brain function for at least a few months.

There was no shame in voting for the party of John Diefenbaker, or even of Brian Mulroney. Diefenbaker, for example, in 1957, appointed the first female member of Cabinet, Secretary of State Ellen Fairclough, who is remembered for eliminating racial discrimination in Canada’s immigration policy.

Yes, the PC’s were for equality and advancing the role of women in public service. Kim Campbell, Justice Minister and Attorney General under Mulroney, passed important gun control legislation.

And here’s a quote from Brian M:

“I think the government has to reposition environment on top of their national and international priorities.”

Provincially, we had exemplary conservative leaders in John Robarts and Bill Davis (who appointed Margaret Birch as the first female Cabinet member in the Ontario Legislature in 1972).

Empowered women! Gun control! Prioritizing the environment! Are we through the looking-glass yet, did we nibble the wrong side of the giant mushroom, are we mad as hatters? These were “conservative” men and women with some bold ideas (and some dubious ones such as NAFTA), but they were, on the whole, advocates of fiscal conservatism. Whatever their private beliefs might be, they understood that as public servants they were in office to work for the benefit of all Canadians.

That government had a role to play in the lives of voters, that government could and should be a good custodian of the environment, that government should protect and recognize the worth of all its citizens—these were not “radicalized extreme-left socialist agendas.” They were givens.

Only when the execrable slime-bag Mike Harris took power—on the rebound from Bob Rae and the NDP— in 1995 did the conservative shredding of the social contract begin in Ontario. This of course was nothing but the same old conservative playbill, turbocharged and disguised as a “Common Sense Revolution.”

When populists and demagogues start making like Uri Geller with English, co-opting concepts like “common sense,” “revolution,” “freedom,” “democratic” and “people,” and bending them into new, sinister shapes, you know it’s time to pack your weekender from Frank & Oak with rolls of bandages and a big bottle of aspirin, in case your future includes an extended stay in the basement of the Presidential Palace, where they don’t even bother to soundproof the interrogation rooms; and whatever you do, don’t forget your Roget’s so you can look up the exact opposite of whatever they’re promising to deliver.

Mike’s “Common Sense Revolution” involved a typical, explicitly anti-labour, anti-social safety net stance (get those queens off welfare!), gerrymandering by way of the amalgamation of the City of Toronto and its suburbs into a “megacity,” the downloading of once-provincial costs to municipalities, and pedaling the snake oil of “deficit reduction” and privatization: all of this based on the premise that government itself is the problem, and therefore the correct and only model for government is that of a department store holding a fire sale.

Example: Ontario had built and was managing a toll highway, the 407, the world’s first with no toll booths and automatic, electronic billing. This public project was based on the startlingly novel concept that greedy, entitled car drivers should actually pay for the infrastructure that they require and should also compensate for guzzling black gold, with the tolls collected contributing much-needed revenue (deficit!) that would support health care and other social services. This one was a no-brainer, and would surely be Ontario’s golden goose for many decades.

But Harris, following his personal mantra of “if it ain’t broke, break it, then declare it needs privatizing,” sold the highway’s operations to a business consortium in the late 1990’s for $3 billion to “reduce the deficit.” Now, twenty years later, none other than SNC-Lavalin is selling ten percent of its share in the toll highway for $3.25 billion.

Nice business acumen, Mike.


Whatever their private beliefs might be, conservatives used to understand that as public servants they were in office to work for the benefit of all Canadians.


Other highlights of his term in office include the Walkerton tragedy, in which a couple of buffoons in charge of the well water supply to a small town failed to chlorinate the water (which had been contaminated by manure run-off from a farmer’s field), make accurate reports, undergo yearly mandatory training, or indeed to do anything except help themselves to a cold brew from the fridge at the Public Utilities Commission and try to cover their criminally incompetent tracks.

Although the Ministry of the Environment had repeatedly ordered the managers and staff to follow the correct, current testing protocols, no one had ever followed up to see if this had actually happened (it hadn’t). Water testing had been privatized, and it can’t be denied that government was smaller as a result.

So was the population of Walkerton, down by a body count of six unfortunate victims of E. coli-contaminated water and thousands of others laid low by life-threatening gastrointestinal infection as a result of ignorance and bad management.

But let’s look at the bright side: At least we balanced the budget.


Getting back to our “scandal:” SNC-Lavalin is a Canadian company whose executives have, in the past, been rather overly fond of bribing Middle Eastern despots in order to obtain lucrative contracts. (Business as usual in that part of the world, you might understandably murmur, and many did.)

This is old, old news; all of the executives guilty of buying their business are long gone and justice done. Any scandal had been dealt with long ago, yet the stars decreed that SNC-Lavalin would be thrust into the spotlight once more, apparently to provide our new Justice Minister and Attorney General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, with her inaugural trial by fire.

The stakes: Prosecute SNC-Lavalin, after which they would be forever banned from taking government contracts; or treat it as a civil matter and administer a sharp financial slap on the wrist.

Wilson-Raybould was determined to take the prosecution route. Justin Trudeau, understandably anxious about the potential loss of nine thousand jobs just before a federal election, picked up the phone. In fact, he may have picked up the phone a few times before having his morning de-caf, and he may have insisted more than once, as it’s his duty to do so, that there was an alternative to going hard-line and prosecuting.

This was remediation, involving hefty fines but saving the nine thousand jobs, a rather sensible-sounding approach made possible by recent legislation that had been fully endorsed by the PC’s. In this scenario, there was scope for judicial discretion and prosecution was not inevitable. Remediation would provide transparency, promote confidence in the just outcome via that hefty fine and avoid dragging innocent employees into a quite unnecessary, because redundant, criminal investigation.

Wilson-Raybould, whose staff had examined the legislation and concluded that SNC-Lavalin was not eligible for remediation, was having none of it.

Why was Wilson-Raybould so rattled when the PM, along with other members of the boys’ club, advocated vigorously for remediation, and why did she dig in her heels? The more Justin and other cool heads tried to persuade, the more stubbornly she pushed back. Was she handicapped by the thinnest skin ever sported by a member of Cabinet or, for that matter, a lawyer? Was she revealing that she simply couldn’t cope with the demands of the post?

Trudeau’s lobbying has been spun as “undue pressure,” obstruction of justice, a sneaky attempt to let criminals off the hook, or to pay off business cronies, but all these descriptions are quite false. His lobbying was neither inappropriate nor shady.

Did Trudeau attempt to influence the attorney general’s decision? Of course he did, because this is exactly what is expected in our adversarial legal system. Every day, in every court, lawyers attempt to influence: They advocate vigorously, even aggressively, for the solutions that they feel best serve the public interest. This is not sleaze or scandal or interference; this is how our legal system works.

Now Wilson-Raybould proceeded to have an extremely public melt-down that cast Trudeau in an extremely unfavorable light, and she stirred the contents of this teacup so relentlessly that we can justifiably question if her concern was actually about justice.

Wilson-Raybould’s trump card, and her most gasp-inducing error of judgment—or deliberate act of sabotage, take your pick—was to produce, like a cheesey Las Vegas illusionist producing a white rabbit from her top hat, a recording of a phone conversation she’d had with the PM—a recording she had made secretly, without Trudeau’s knowledge or consent— and every nuance of whose content was now parsed and analyzed in the press ad nauseum.

Seriously, friends.

Such cloak-and-daggerism is not the meat and potatoes of the highest levels of Canadian government. This is high-school drama, the sort of subterfuge the nerdy, overly-sensitive President of the Debating Society deploys on the mean boys in the motorcycle jackets who tease her about her acne.

I draw the following conclusions:

There is no scandal or wrongdoing to be found, and no one is seriously claiming there is. This whole affair was a cynical, calculated exercise in throwing mud and seeing how much would stick. Progressive Conservatives and their official mouthpiece, the Globe & Mail, were more than willing to leverage public ignorance of our government and our legal system and to misrepresent both the substance and context of events.

Let’s see what we have: A Native MP, a woman, being hounded by the “feminist” PM; “punitive” demotions and Cabinet shuffles; sudden resignations, corporate criminals going scott free; secret recordings! Perfect ingredients for the perfect spin, a narrative that could create enough doubt to cast the prime minister as a sneak and a bully, and make Canadians question his judgment and even his legitimacy.

The ultimate goal? Bring down Justin Trudeau at any cost.


Did Trudeau attempt to influence the attorney general’s decision?

Of course he did, because this is exactly what is expected in our adversarial legal system.


Is SNC-Lavalin a great, big, heavy-duty Glad bag full of sleaze? Sure, but no more so than any other corporation doing what capitalism does best, i.e., feed itself. Is Justin Trudeau an entitled, opaque, overgrown brat who expected business as usual with the boys in the backroom and who doesn’t understand how his apparent belief that he is not obliged to justify any action, or tell the whole truth, ever, reveals him as shifty and arrogant? It would seem that way.

Were any laws broken? No. Did anything happen that was even out of line? Apart from maybe Nancy Drew and the Case of the Secret Phone Call, not even close.

This was a scandal-free scandal, a big helping of Nothing-Poutine, yet the Progressive Conservatives made a meal of it, bulking up the thinnest material with insinuation and indignation. More insidiously, they caught the attention of the white male demographic that despises Trudeau; despises him for being his father’s son; despises his patrician upbringing and gentility; despises what they see as his “girliness,” his drama teaching days, his avowed feminism, never acknowledging that he grew up breathing politics as the son of Pierre, our most flamboyant and also most intellectually rigorous statesman, the man who held this country together with his bare hands when it threatened to disintegrate and would not let go until it was out of danger.

The trolls and the disgruntled slingers of mud forget Justin’s long years of political dues-paying and his resounding success in 2015; and they are apoplectic at Trudeau’s inclusiveness, his generosity, his uncanny ability to unite Canadians, to embody our pride, to build and articulate our identity and our collective vision for this brave, fragile confederation, this country that is barely more than a wish, a dream, an idea of a country.

Trudeau inspires; white male conservatives, fuming with hard-hatted rage at their diminishing hold on power, carp and threaten and bury their heads in the tar sands and call, shamefully, for a return to “European values.”

They are full of that odious, passionate intensity; the very worst, as always, dragging down the very best.

In which I get all squishy about Melania.

Good morning, I’ve had a most

instructively contrary twenty-four hours and damn it, I mean to share.

I’ve bashed my erstwhile Monday Man-Crush, The-Person-Called-Trudeau (I didn’t mean it, baby, it must have been the string beans, honest!) in broad daylight on The Guardian’s website (on the other hand you never picked up your cell, and you dance like a str8-tard, nyah!); and now, in response to » a deliciously spiteful article on Medium, I’ve stood up for The Great Mannequin, Her Royal Trophy-ness, The Missus Melania—and may every Progressive worthy of the name heave great gobbing globules of spittle on me should I dare show my face in public again.

And how much, I ask myself, do I really care?  And do I agree with myself?  Politics is so confusing.

Here’s the link to the Medium article:

» Melania Trump Isn’t a Black and White Issue

And here’s my response:


When I, progressive as I am

Melania-trump-wife-of-donald-trump-modeling-pictures
Melania deserves – less Photoshop?

down to my toes and up to my increasingly wrinkled brow, see a — critique? Article? such as this one — searching for the right word here. What do they call it when someone is denounced from a pulpit? Anathema.

Anyway, when I see an, err, anathema, I have a strategy. First, I read it through, even though I may have to prop open my eyelids like they do to Malcolm McDowell as the protagonist in “A Clockwork Orange”. I find cocktail toothpicks work well for this.

It’s not that I’m bored. Far from it. In fact, in the case of this particular anathema, from the first sighting of the words “gets what she deserves” I’m filled with revulsion. Now, as a writer and an artist, I know that revulsion is often a good sign, a sign that the work has had a profound effect on me. I mean, I didn’t set out to read anything with the word “Trump” in it expecting a day in the country and a hamper from Holt Renfrew, you hear what I’m saying?

Second, and I know you’re all following along here, I put on my conservatard-proof full-body nuclear jumpsuit, ready for the onslaught of “you liberals” and “nothing better to do” and “nyah nyah you lost we won” off-the-rack progressive-bashing, which involves little imagination but a lot of spraying saliva. Check.

And third, I attempt to fashion a reasoned response, because though I don’t agree with a lot of what you say — and maybe even you don’t agree with a lot of what you say — I am darned determined to back you up as much as I can, as though we were a divorcing couple who hold hands in public but fight at home with the curtains closed.

So honey, now that the curtains are closed — I understand your righteous indignation, and I’m all for it, but let’s talk. Let’s leave “she’s costing the taxpayer money”, because that’s just silly. Anyone in the role of FLOTUS is costing the taxpayer money, vapid or not. And it’s interesting to speculate on the hand-brushing-away thing, but neither you nor I nor anyone has the slightest clue what that is about, not really. You are reading into that gesture a confirmation of a story you have built up about Melania.

Melania Trump made choices that many women might have made had they had the opportunity, and I don’t particularly see anything vile or even surprising about them. She had, as far as I’ve read, a successful career, she married a wealthy man and took every advantage of that—and what would the rest of us do, eat Pot Noodles and shop at the Sally Ann?— and now, (here’s my story) to her astonishment, and possibly horror, she’s married to the President, with every eye upon her. She may be unfit, she may take a deep breath and rise to the occasion. I suspect the latter.

No, let’s be honest, I hope for the latter. I want women to be strong and successful and rise to the occasion; I’m just a sucker for hope, that way.

But in no way, no way, is she responsible for her husband’s performance or his policies. No way is she responsible for his crass behavior or his beliefs, assuming he actually has some. No way does her position as first spouse necessarily mean that she supports him.

What am I saying, ultimately? Resist the urge to blanket condemn anything that Trump touches, including his wife. It’s not a black and white issue, your words, not mine; but your insistence on having Melania play the role of “evil consort” leaves no room for nuance, and nuance, god help us, is what we crave more than ever.

Have some empathy for someone caught up in a role they never anticipated, have some faith. And never, never put your sister down.

Great piece, by the way.