It was a colourful week in politics. Brown is the new Blue: Barrie’s (former) Member of Parliament Patrick Brown won leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. Although many felt he didn’t have the experience, depth, or public profile to seize victory, I always knew it was possible. Brown has repeatedly demonstrated his special talent for signing up members, getting out the vote, pushing past the old guard, and defeating incumbents with more experience and endorsements. He did this repeatedly at the council, nomination, and riding levels, so there was no reason to believe he couldn’t flex those same talents in the provincial leadership race. The real question is whether he can extend those skills beyond self-promotion, using them instead to get other PC candidates elected across Ontario. That’s a different skill set, one we don’t yet know he has. Meanwhile, with both new Barrie ridings incumbent-free, and a local history of swing votes, media will flock to this region during the fall federal election.
Shifting hues, blue is the new Green, as Green Party leader Elizabeth May created a tempest in a teapot by “dropping the f-bomb” at Ottawa’s annual Press Gallery dinner. I can’t believe the ruckus this caused; it must be a slow media week in Canada, with lack of real news leaving room to debate such a minor gaffe. Many claimed this blue language was inappropriate, disrespectful, and unbecoming; these people don’t seem aware of the tone of press gallery dinners: a roast of the political and media class that regularly feature salty talk. A couple of years ago at the Ontario press dinner, PC leader Tim Hudak used the f-word at least 40 times in his remarks, to total media silence. A decade ago, in his pre-recorded remarks to the same Ottawa dinner, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney told his tattletale friend Peter Newman to “go f… yourself!” Swearing is thus nothing new in this venue, but it is new for May, which was actually the joke she was trying to make.
|May goes incognito with a Layton 'stache.|
You see, Elizabeth May is known to her colleagues and the press as the “goody-two-shoes” of Parliament. She doesn’t swear, she doesn’t heckle, is always civil and polite. When heckled in the House, she waits quietly until they return the floor, rather than shouting over them. So her idea was that by throwing in a bit of uncharacteristic salty language, she would be mocking her own image.
Sadly, her attempt at humour failed. Having gotten only a few hours of sleep in several days, fighting a flu, after two long flights in coach, with a dose of Nyquil and a glass of wine at dinner, and coming on stage near 11 pm, she lacked her normal poise and timing. Despite that, the rest of her speech,
delivered alternately in English and French, did make some good funny points. But her final gag based on the remedial class sit-com pun “Welcome Back Khadr” fell flat, and although she has apologized repeatedly and explained it was only meant as a joke, there are still many who think she was being serious. But if you knew her as I do; if you had seen her put in 20-hour days all week without pause, work through illness, and maintain a scrupulous civility, you’d know that not to be the case.
Everyone goofs now and then; if this wee gaffe is May’s worst sin, then we can certainly do worse for political role models.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Brown and May add a touch of colour to politics this week"