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No Sniffing at Liberal DiversityNo Sniffing at Liberal Diversity

No Sniffing at Liberal Diversity

Father Raymond de Souza’s diverse Small Talk roundup of news, views and vice-presidential smell tests.

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No Sniffing at Liberal Diversity April 4, 2019  |  By Raymond J. de Souza
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Last week, I noted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prattles on endlessly about how the Liberal Party embraces the splendid diversity of different views and exults in accommodating a breadth of opinions. This week, he threw Jody Wilson-Raybould out of caucus for recording a private conversation with the Clerk of the Privy Council. He also threw out Jane Philpott, who did not record a private conversation with the Clerk of the Privy Council. Diversity in action: Both doing and not doing get the same treatment.

The next day, a group of young women – “Daughters of the Vote” – assembled in the House of Commons chamber for a day of inspirational nattering from eminent worthies. When Trudeau spoke, about 50 or so turned their backs on him to protest his feminist preening after throwing two senior cabinet ministers to the curb. But the prime minister is never daunted. He emerged from that humiliation extolling the sheer magnificence of divergent opinions on display, which he expanded to include “choosing to hear” and “choosing not to hear.” He was being super-duper respectful of those Daughters who opted for a public display of disrespect to the prime minister. But it makes sense. If “choosing not to hear” is as fabulous a manifestation of diversity as “choosing to hear,” then it explains why the Liberal Party is diverse even when it chooses not to be.

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During the Mike Duffy affair, it was noted by many that Canadians have exemplary scandals. At the heart of the Duffy matter was that the chief of staff to the prime minister, Nigel Wright, thought that Duffy had claimed expenses that he was legally, but not morally, entitled to. Wright told Duffy to pay the expenses back, Duffy balked because he had not broken the rules – a position later vindicated in court – and so Wright gave Duffy the funds personally to pay the government back. It was an improper arrangement, but at bottom it was an effort to return money to the exchequer. 

Now Jody Wilson-Raybould had been booted from caucus for the “unconscionable” secret recording of her conversation with the clerk. There is plenty of fair criticism of that recording, but at bottom it was done to bolster the case of prosecutorial immunity from political pressure. In most scandals, secret recordings reveal that someone is lying. Wilson-Raybould’s sin was to provide evidence that she was telling the truth.

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Jane Philpott is better off without those lousy Liberals. So says Don Martin, CTV newsman and author. Like Doris Kearns Goodwin writing on Abraham Lincoln, Martin wrote a biography of Belinda Stronach. A few weeks before Philpott was bounced, Martin wrote this: “As for Jane Philpott, her fate is still to be determined. She has spoken her truth to the highest power – the general public.

For that, she’ll become a pariah whose principled position will stand in unfavorable contrast to fellow MPs obediently carrying the increasingly tattered Liberal flag into an election they might not win because of her. Perhaps Jane Philpott should simply quit the Liberal caucus. They’re not worthy of her.” 

My goodness, that’s higher praise than Martin even gave Stronach.

*** 

Jane Philpott has other admirers. Indeed, columnist Heather Mallick at the Toronto Star puts Philpott on her “list of most admired humans.” More than that really. She is a bit like Jesus. Mallick confesses that “it was a bit of a shock when Jane Philpott suddenly quit her cabinet job, partly because the collection of notecards taped to the bookcase beside my bed includes this one: ‘What would Jane Philpott do?’ Every morning I say to myself, ‘I bet Jane Philpott would get out of bed’ and to my mind, the two of us were up and off to the races.”

WWJ(ane)D?

*** 

On matters prime ministerial, I wrote a few weeks back – as did our publisher – about Brian Mulroney. In the research for that column, I found in my files the May 2018 issue of The Walrus, which included the story, “The Return of Brian Mulroney.” The cover story of that issue was “Child-Free by Choice.” It may have been a follow-up to the March 2018 cover story: “How to Have Sex Now: Love in the Age of Consent.”  The current age seems to have left children out of having “sex now.” Perhaps the current age is not doing it right.

*** 

Speaking of sex now, have you been following the Jeff Bezos matter? The National Enquirer broke the news that the Amazon zillionaire was cheating on his wife, which was a tad embarrassing, so Bezos hired a former national security expert to find out who had ratted on him. No expense to be spared. 

Long story short, he was hacked by the Saudi Arabian government, which was mightily vexed at the reporting of The Washington Post about the murder and dismemberment of their columnist, Jamal Khashoggi. The Washington Post was once-upon-a-time a prestigious newspaper, but is now the latest bauble acquired by Bezos, useful for demonstrating how the new tech is displacing the old. Except that even the deities of new tech are not immune from hacking by, in this case, the Saudis. And if the Bezos phone is not safe, is anyone’s?

*** 

The allure of new tech is irresistible. Everyone has Instagram. Even the Pope. And the Queen. And now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – Harry and Meghan – who got to one million followers faster than anyone else. Jeff Bezos might soon buy their account. 

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The Duchess is due to be delivered of her first child soon, and she saw to it that a lavish baby shower was thrown for her in Manhattan by her celebrity friends. 

As a monarchist, that fills me dread. The glamourous life of the celebrity is fatal for royalty. Princess Margaret taught us that way back in the 1950s, and Princess Diana brought the entire House of Windsor to the brink of ruin when she went all Manhattan after her divorce from Charles. Royals belong in slightly drafty grand homes on country estates, not in penthouses overlooking Central Park. 

Someone should tell the newly-married Duchess that marital stability and Manhattan glamour do not easily coexist for royals. Perhaps that should be the Duke of Sussex, or his father, the Prince of Wales, who learned it the hard way.

They all could learn from the Queen. A handy way to summarize the impeccable longevity of her reign is to note that she has been more often to Moose Jaw as Queen than Manhattan. Duty before glamour.

*** 

There has been a minor flap about Joe Biden, the former vice president who is gearing up to run against Donald Trump in 2020. Four women have complained that his habit of hugs lingering, neck kissing, shoulder clasping, nose rubbing, ear nuzzling and hair smelling was altogether off-putting. Creepy, say Biden’s critics. 

But many other women have come forward to say Biden is completely upstanding, even when his head is bowed amidst the luxurious locks of a young lady. They felt comforted by the nuzzling and sniffing, especially when all the television cameras made them feel a bit self-conscious. 

In any case, Biden now says that social mores are changing and he “gets” that in the MeToo era, he ought not be sniffing the hair of women he has just met. He will change, and respect the personal space of the women he comes across. 

If Biden were Canadian, that might be the end of his political career. NDP MP Erin Weir was expelled from caucus after a report found that he apparently was awkward, sat too close or did not quickly pick up on social cues. He was out for being a close-talker. Imagine if he had been a close-sniffer.


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