Monday, October 30, 2006

Should He Stay or Should He Go?

After the last election Stephen Harper took a lot of grief for putting a guy who had never been elected directly into his Cabinet.

I was as surprised as anyone, really. It seemed odd that Harper, a man who had railed about the evils of the unelected Senate for his entire career, would appoint his buddy to the Senate and then directly to Cabinet within hours of becoming Prime Minister.

As far as optics goes, it doesn’t get much worse.

This is exactly the type of thing that bugs most Canadians about politics. I’m pretty sure they would prefer that Cabinet ministers actually get elected by the people before they buckle down and start running our lives.

To be fair, I do believe that in extraordinary circumstances a Prime Minister should be able to pass over his own MPs and put non-elected people into Cabinet. If Canada was at war and nobody in the House knew anything about the military, it would make sense that the PM be allowed to call up an expert on the Canadian Forces and have them join the Cabinet.

Or imagine being Stephen Harper and you wake up the morning after winning a general election only to realize that the vast majority of your MPs just aren’t smart enough to be in Cabinet.

It makes sense that you should be allowed to call up your buddy in Quebec and give him a Cabinet position. This is, of course, an old boys’ club, and so this is exactly what the Prime Minister did. Instead of giving the job to an elected Member of Parliament like Diane Ablonczy he called up Michael Fortier, private citizen, and gave him the big gig.

I don’t mean to minimize Fortier’s abilities. The man is head and shoulders over most of us. He is a highly accomplished lawyer banker type of creature and back in the day was co-chair of Harper’s national leadership campaign. And it’s not fair to suggest he has never run for anything; in 1998 he ran for the leadership of the Conservative party and came in an impressive last with over four percent of the vote. If that doesn’t scream future senator, I don’t know what does.

The ego perks of the gig are enormous. Fortier has never had to suffer the indignity of standing on a doorstep and asking a person for their vote, and yet everyone in Canada is supposed to refer to him as “the Honourable Michael Fortier” for the rest of his natural life. And when, God forbid, he finally passes away, the flag over the Peace Tower will be lowered to half mast to honour his contribution to democracy.

By the way, I’m not suggesting that giving his pal the gig was an easy move for Harper. It can’t be easy having to look your MPs in the eye and basically tell them they’re imbeciles. Even for Harper that’s got to hurt a little bit.

And pity the poor caucus. Imagine getting elected, your party forms the government, and then your leader basically tells you that you have a better chance of ending up with a disability cheque based on your mental incompetence than you ever do of seeing a minister’s salary. That’s a tough day at the office.

That was the situation we had in Canada.

But all that has changed. The Prime Minister has called a by-election for the Montreal-area riding of Repentigny on Nov. 27. The people are going to the polls, baby! Democracy in action.

One would think that Michael Fortier, being the honorable type, would jump at the chance to stand for election. Nope. Fortier says he has no interest in running for the seat. The man is content to continue being a Cabinet minister without having to go through the rotten business of asking people to vote for him. And for some reason the Prime Minister seems content to have unelected people in his Cabinet.

This might not be Denmark, but something stinks.

Canadians might not think much of politicians, but last I looked we do have a say in which ones run the country. The basic definition of democracy is “one woman one man one vote.” The time has come for Michael Fortier to be man enough to ask Montrealers for theirs.

Luckily the Internet is a wonderful way for Canadians to voice their opinion on such matters — whether it is being asked for or not. So through the miracle of the Web I have set up two petitions directed to the Prime Minister. One, titled “Run Fortier Run,” suggests the time has come for The Honourable Michael Fortier to run for a seat. The second, “Stay Fortier Stay,” supports the Prime Minister in his contention that Fortier should remain an unelected Cabinet minister who sits in the Senate.

Here are the Web sites:



  • Ladies and gentlemen – start your laptops.

    May the most bitter team win!

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    Dear Trapped on a Boat

    When I launched this blog I really had no idea that it would become a forum for giving advice. It’s a pleasant diversion from my normal week and it fits with my giving nature.

    Dear Peter,

    Thank you for your letter. Yes you are correct, the media are exaggerating and referring to a woman as a dog is accepted in many cultures. Unfortunately nobody has heard of these cultures.

    While I certainly sympathize with your situation I think it’s important we deal with the underlying issue here – your obsession with the dog as a metaphor. It’s just not working for you. Remember, you are a senior cabinet minister now; when referring to women it’s okay to venture into two syllable territory.

    I know that you are feeling very vulnerable and I don’t blame you. It must be terrible knowing that as soon as you return to work everyone is going to make jokes when they see you. What makes it worse is that even the dimmest bulb in the House of Commons can muster up a dog joke. I’m sure by now you have heard them all. “Hey Peter, you’re barking up the wrong tree” (zing), “yo Peter, let sleeping dogs lie” (good one) or “would the honorable member from Central Nova stop licking himself” (a classic).

    In an effort to stop this from happening again however I have come up with what I believe is a simple solution. I would suggest that you keep a large safety pin in your pocket and if anyone mentions a dog, if you see a dog, if you even think about mentioning a dog, practice a simple act of behavior modification. Reach into you pocket, open the safety pin and slam the pointy end into the fleshy part of your hand between your forefinger and thumb. Yes this will hurt but it won’t cause any more irreparable damage to your career. Believe me, in the long run you will thank me.

    Oh, before I forget – the next time you say something really stupid and you are being chased by a pack of reporters, don’t get on a boat. There is nowhere to hide on a boat except the bathroom. I think it’s important that you write this down somewhere so it doesn’t happen again.

    So cheer up Peter, I’m sure the dog jokes will dissipate over the years, and I am convinced that the situation is not all grim.

    Your ability to manage this crisis has been impressive. In particular I think your decision to deny you made the dog crack when you can be heard saying it on a tape was a masterstroke. This way you take the focus off the fact that you said something silly in the heat of the moment and put the focus on whether or not you are lying.

    Smooth move Kasparov. As you know, saying something dumb and fessing up to it can be fatal for a cabinet minister whereas lying never hurt a career ever.

    Keep up the good work!


    Dear Belinda,

    Yes, by all means, launch a perfume.


    Dear Garth,

    Funny you ask but yes I think launching a perfume is a great idea.


    Dear Iggy,

    I checked and for 105,000 Aeroplan points you can fly from Toronto to Israel. You have to stay over on a Monday, I think, so you might have to devote three days to solving the Middle East crisis versus a standard weekend. I think asking Canadians to donate their unwanted points to you is an excellent idea. Lots of good causes solicit points from the public. I know Ronald McDonald House takes points, and as I mentioned in my earlier email concerning your future, McDonald’s accepts resumes.

    Keep up the good work.


    P.S. – no I don’t think this is a good time to launch a perfume.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    And the award goes to...

    Tonight the Gemini award for best Picture Editing in a Comedy, Variety or Performing Arts Program or Series went to Allan MacLean and Miles Davren for their work on the Mercer Report.

    Miles is the one on the right. He cuts the parodies we produce. On top of being a great editor he is probably the nicest person who works on our show. It is hard to recognize him without a toque.

    The guy on the left is Allan MacLean. I’ve worked with Allan for over a decade; we go way back. Allan edited 22 Minutes when I was there, he edited Made in Canada, he cut every inch of Talking to Americans and he has done every Mercer Report since day one. These days we have a pretty simple relationship. Every week I leave and come back with reams and reams of video tape, Al suffers through it and turns it into something that makes me look far better than I deserve to. Plus we have lots of laughs. He is the best editor in the business and a good friend.

    Miles and Allan are an amazing team and everyone on the Mercer Report knows we would be screwed without them.

    And seeing as they look so darn happy, and seeing as the picture is here in cyberspace, it’s only appropriate that this picture be considered eligible for a Photoshop challenge.

    I know they would insist on it.

    Congratulations men, I salute you!

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    From the Teleprompter of Michael Ignatieff

    Ladies and Gentlemen, honored guests, protester standing silently at the back of the room with a bag on his head, thank you for coming here today.

    It has been almost one year now since I made the difficult decision to immigrate to Canada and run for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. Since that time I have taken clear positions on difficult issues and I have taken difficult positions on clear issues. Unfortunately, many people do not seem to understand what I am talking about. If anyone is at fault here it is me; please bear with me Canada, I am used to teaching the advanced class.

    I asked you to come here today so that I may clarify my statements concerning an earlier clarification about a statement I may or may not have meant to make.

    As you may know earlier this year my summer vacation overseas was interrupted by a small war between Israel and Lebanon. The fact that my vacation was interrupted by this war is not in doubt. I have made myself unequivocally clear about this point.

    After returning to Canada, during a frank discussion about the war, I stated that I was not losing sleep over civilian deaths in Lebanon. Some people wrongly interpreted this to mean that I was not losing sleep over civilian deaths in Lebanon. What I should have said at the time was this: I am not losing sleep over civilian deaths in Lebanon because I suffer from hysterical narcolepsy, a rare neurological disorder. Because of this condition it is not just civilian deaths that I sleep through, but sometimes entire movies and even midair turbulence. I hope now by admitting this condition I will not only clear up this unfortunate Middle East situation but also help the other half dozen of my fellow Americans who suffer from this disorder. For too long we have suffered in silence. Please visit and learn more about this condition. Hysterical narcolepsy – the confusion is real.

    Let us now deal with the elephant in the room. While campaigning in Quebec I stated that Israel was guilty of war crimes. Please know I made these comments in French and never intended them to be heard by English voters. Clearly everything I have read about the two solitudes is a fallacy. I now believe that the bridge between French and English Canada is the fluently bilingual Toronto Jew. I encourage them to now join me. In fact I would like to take a moment and speak directly to the good men and women of the Holy Blossom temple in Toronto. I say to you my Jewish friends – it’s Iggy time! (Pause for applause)

    Please, please sit. There is more! (Wave finger)

    In an effort to keep this story in the media during the coming weeks I have now decided to visit Israel for myself. I think you will agree that the crucial last days of a leadership race is the perfect time for a candidate to leave Canada.

    The purpose of this trip will be twofold. Not only will I be able to analyze and solve the Israel Lebanon issue, but I have also requested that the Canada-Israel Committee who is sponsoring this trip arrange a stopover in Paris on the way back so I can get a good meal. I have been in Canada for months now and my friends I am getting antsy. (Chuckle kindly)

    When I return from my pilgrimage to the holy land I think you will see a refreshed and tanned Michael Ignatieff, one who is ready to tackle the job of running Canada for all of you. And when I say you, I mean the fishers, the farmers and the Mennonites that make this country strong.

    Speaking of Canada, recently a little boy in Canada’s countryside asked me a very intriguing question. “Sir,” he said, “why do you want to run all of Canada?”

    I will tell you now what I told him then.

    Canada is in my osseous tissue! (pause for applause)

    Like you I care about Canadian values and Canadian pastimes. I know what it’s like to clear one’s mind and enjoy the thrust and parry that is found in an exciting ice hockey game. In fact I don’t mind admitting that I have always been, since the 1968 Trudeau leadership campaign in which I was a delegate, a supporter of the Toronto Maple Leafs. My support for the Leafs is something that is pure and true and can never be taken away from me. If there is political price to pay for such an admission I readily accept it. Mesdames et Messieurs, j’aime Les Canadiens. Les Leafs de Toronto sont gay! Vive les Sens! Vive les Sens libre!

    I want to thank your for your time today ladies and gentlemen. And on a personal note I would like to thank the numerous people who have sent me letters and cards encouraging me during these recent dark, gaffe riddled days of the campaign. But let me tell you this. When I embarked on this adventure I knew it would not be easy. And when the going gets tough, when I think I cannot bear another conversation with another Canadian or another question about Bob Rae, I simply close my eyes and think of that great Canadian Terry Fox. And it is that image of Terry Fox courageously circling the globe in his wheel chair that gives me the courage to move forward.

    (Pause for really really big round of applause)

    Thank you for your support

    I embrace you!

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Say it ain't so, Joe.

    The Original

    Real Hulk by Matthew Sharpe

    Skunk by Gord Carter

    Volpe Mort by Kiran Sachdev

    Maracas by Deanna

    Free Baby by Rob Conolly

    by Mike Morin

    by Michelle Lorenzen

    by Zachary Hess

    by Andrej Sakic

    Volpe Springer by Maurice Motut

    Volpe Dance by MJC

    Volpe and Frankie by Jack Walton

    by Luc Courtois

    Best of... by Sarah Jayne Connick

    Rocker by Matthew Sharpe

    Membership by Norse of 60

    Squirrel Guy

    Hulk Hogan by Matthew Sharpe

    De-Fibber by sPat

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    The Right Guy for the Job

    For those of us who enjoy Question Period for its pure theatrical value it’s nice to see that the Liberals finally hit their stride in the House of Commons. Until very recently, with big Bill Graham at the helm the Opposition was about as fierce and focused as a bag of kittens. Thankfully, over the break someone must have pulled Bill aside and told him what the job of the opposition is – to attack.

    It’s not rocket science, it’s what the Tories did when they were in opposition and it got them the big prize. You waltz into question period, you hurl as many allegations as you can across the floor and sit back and see what sticks.

    Of course, the danger with this strategy is that inevitably someone goes too far. Now, I confess I like it when someone goes too far, it makes life interesting. And personally I make a habit of going too far. Of course I don’t have to stay within the bounds of good taste like Bill does. Thank god for small mercies.

    This past week the “too far moment” came when the Liberals decided to attack Environment Minister Rona Ambrose for hiring Darrel Reid as her new Chief of Staff. This is very tricky stuff here. The problem the Liberals have with Darrel Reid isn’t that he’s not qualified, it’s that he is too conservative. By too conservative they mean too much of a fundamentalist Christian. By too much of a fundamentalist Christian what they really mean is he’s the former president of Focus on the Family Canada. As far as codes go it’s pretty simple.

    This is where the Liberals lose me. You can’t not hire someone because of their views. This is Canada, we have laws against that. And really Bill Graham has to realize that the Liberals lost the election. We elected a Conservative Government, so when the big jobs become available they are going to go to big conservatives. That’s just the way it works.

    And while I don’t think it’s appropriate for Bill to say Darrel Reid shouldn’t get the job because of his Focus on the Family links; I think its fine when I say it.

    Why the double standard? Well for starters my problem with Focus on the Family isn’t that they are a Christian organization, far from it. My problem is they seem obsessed with sex and that disturbs me. I’m a prude when it comes to these things. Focus on the Family are the people that think SpongeBob SquarePants is gay. That’s just plain crazy talk. What kind of people sit around and think about the sexual orientation of cartoon characters? And really, to suggest that SpongeBob is gay is just silly. Bi curious perhaps but a hundred percent homo? I don’t believe it.

    Now don’t take my word for these things. Go to their website. Check out the Focus on the Family Canada and Focus on the Family USA sites and click on books for sale. These people think about gay sex more than gay people.

    This obsession with gay sex worries me. I just hope that when Darrel Reid is Chief of Staff for the Minister of the Environment he can take his mind off the perils of anal long enough to think about the plight of the poor little Chubsucker, which is by the way the name of an endangered fish not just another lifestyle choice.

    While you’re on the website, I’d also encourage you to read about the founder of the Focus on the Family organization, Dr. James Dobson. He is certainly a brave and committed individual and I can see why people like Darrel Reid would be attracted to his message. I was pleased to see that Dobson was the first person to come out and publicly support movie star Mel Gibson after Mel revealed his views on our Hebrew friends to the world. Having the courage to support a drunken anti-Semite in his time of need is the sign of a true friend.

    But getting back to Darrel, why the Liberals would be surprised that he is getting a big job in Ottawa baffles me. Clearly Darrel is a good foot soldier for the Conservative party and the Prime Minister wants him in the nation’s capital. The Conservative Party even ran Reid as a candidate in the last election. Unfortunately that ended badly when Reid lost and his campaign manager blamed the Jews that control the media for the defeat.

    Of course that could happen to anyone, and it wasn’t Reid who blamed the Jews it was just the guy who he hired to run his campaign for him. I only bring this up because as Rona Ambrose’s chief of staff it will be Reid’s job to hire people in her office. I hear there is an opening right now in Rona’s office for a communications director and I hope he’s learned from his past hiring triumphs. Perhaps when conducting a job interview he should ask applicants if they are aware of any vast conspiracies designed to keep him from succeeding in life. Unfortunately he cannot ask the question “are you now or have you ever been near a homosexual?” That of course would be a violation of some charter right.

    Anyway, I wish Darrel well with his new position in Ottawa. While the voters didn’t seem that interested in seeing the guy make it to Ottawa, where there is a will there is a way. Thanks to Rona he’s going to make it after all.

    And really, no surprises there folks. This is a democracy after all, and in Canada you get the government you vote for.

    Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    Che Black

    When I saw the headline in the newspaper I swear to God I heard angels sing. “Conrad Black wants Canadian Citizenship back”. Cue the trumpets – it just doesn’t get much better than this.

    Seeing that headline made me so excited I couldn’t even read the bloody thing. I picked up the paper and brought it home like it was a box of chocolates. I didn’t even glance at the first sentence until everything was perfect. The coffee was brewed, my feet were up the pillow behind my neck was just so. This was a moment to be savoured.

    And it was a great moment. As I read that story I don’t think I ever felt more Canadian, because I knew that for the first time in perhaps our nation’s entire history, everyone in Canada was on the same page. Every man woman and child in this nation was united and together. We were gloating as one.

    And what a story – Conrad Black, a man who once had more than any of us could ever imagine, gladly gives up the one thing we all share and hold dear, a Canadian citizenship. And why? So he could go to England and become Lord Black of Cross dresser. And now after telling the entire country to shove it he wants back in.

    I have to admit, the idea of Conrad Black down at some god awful immigration office stuck in the back of a line behind some poor Somali dude with a bullet in his leg fills my heart with joy.

    The Schadenfreude is on bust here. Conrad is basically at the front door of Canada saying to every one of us “I’m sorry baby, I didn’t mean it; let me back in the house.”

    And personally, like most Canadians, part of me wants to barricade the door, run up the stairs and start pouring hot bubbly oil out of the top window all over his little Lord costume – the red one with the big white fur neck.

    But unfortunately that’s not the Canadian way. I hate to admit it but I think we have to take the high road. We shouldn’t humiliate the guy any more no matter how much we want to. Bottom line is it’s fun to “kick up,” but it is unseemly to kick a guy when he’s down. Granted Conrad Black’s version of being down is slightly different than for the rest of us. His assets are frozen and he must somehow get by on a measly $45,000 dollars a month. There are rumours he might sell the Bentley.

    And besides, seeing Conrad fighting for his life in the American courts makes me root for the guy. As it stands now he insists he will fight to the death in court and that there will be no plea bargain. He has even described himself, without a hint of irony, as a “freedom fighter.” Now it’s too soon to be said whether future generations of university students and skateboarders will take down the pictures of Che Guevara and replace them with woodcut prints of Lord Black but stranger things have happened.

    Now just to be clear I’m not suggesting Conrad get special treatment – I’m suggesting he get treated like a Canadian.

    Because regardless of what was said, or what papers were signed in the heat of the moment, that’s exactly what he is. Conrad Black was born in Canada, he grew up here and he built his business here. In fact Conrad became the giant poncy tool that he is today in Canada. Yes he denied us, yes we all heard the cock crow, but that had more to do with his getting into a peeing match with Jean Chrétien than anything else. That was then this is now. I suggest we have to do the right thing, the Canadian thing and give him the citizenship back – and then, being Canadian, we never ever let him forget it. We lord it over the lord forever. Amen