Opinion

Please Advise! Which Ministry Should Fantino Embarrass Next?

With Harper's eye on national defence, Tyee's spin doctor prescribes an alternative.

By Steve Burgess 7 Jan 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Oh, how I hate to be bullied. Yet there are times when leadership means recognizing that some of your underlings may be as useless as Vancouver drivers in a light snowfall. And so reluctantly I have sacrificed Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino to the media jackals. Will the slavering hounds of the press now grant me some peace?

Resentfully,

Your Prime Minister

Dear PM,

It's unfortunate but true: Sometimes a leader has to throw a colleague under the bus. Sometimes a leader has to break a colleague's legs, put him in cement shoes, and drop him into the deepest regions of the Rideau Canal. Sometimes a leader has to cover a colleague in honey, stake him over an anthill located inside a cage full of starving polar bears, and then issue a bland press release about a portfolio change at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sadly, Prime Minister, you only did one of those things. Yes, you bumped Fantino out of his seat. Yet you didn't even properly throw him under the bus. He's still on board, just sitting a little further back.

Defence is no joke... yet

The man whose record at Veterans Affairs rivals that of the North Korean Tourist Bureau has not been fired -- he's been made associate minister at the Department of Defence. It's as though the CBC had made Jian Ghomeshi co-host of The Fifth Estate. Julian Fantino, the man who thoroughly and systematically alienated our nation's veterans, is now the associate minister tasked with keeping Canadians safe. Across this country, coffee will now drop to second place as a leading cause of insomnia.

And yet Prime Minister, I think you knew what you were doing. The duties of the Associate Minister for Canadian Defence probably involve holding a flare gun while facing the Pentagon. Our armed forces do a fine job but if President Putin ever really goes off his meds Ottawa will simply send up a signal. (Hey, if the neighbours happen to have a trillion-dollar military lying around it would be foolish not to take advantage.) Perhaps Assistant Minister Fantino will be in charge of the escape plan, helping us all beat a hasty retreat, just as he did from the wife of a veteran who wanted to ask him about her husband's benefits.

Or perhaps he will simply repel invaders with his personality.

The remarkable thing is that you gave Fantino a new job instead of simply composting him. It makes me wonder if perhaps he has something on you, Prime Minister. Nothing sexual -- I'm not implying that. Not even picturing it. No. I couldn't. But perhaps something equally damning? A hidden-camera clip of you giving two bucks to a vagrant? Or drinking a craft beer while arguing about the best track from Kanye's Yeezus album?

What could go wrong?

Anyway, you have installed a new guy at Veterans Affairs -- Durham MP Erin O'Toole. Mr. O'Toole thus becomes the luckiest man in Canadian politics, because he gets to follow Julian Fantino. Just like new Star Wars director JJ Abrams, the next coach of the Edmonton Oilers, and whoever ran the Roman fire department after Nero died, it's going to be very hard to make things worse.

As for Fantino, well, prime minister, you have given him new worlds to conquer. According to the PMO statement Fantino's new responsibilities at Defence will involve "the areas of arctic sovereignty, information technology security, and foreign intelligence."

So it's even money that three months from now Yellowknife will be known as St. Putinberg, the official Government of Canada password will be "FantinoRocks" and CSIS will be investigating the Pope's religion.

There is an election coming soon, right Mr. Prime Minister? Maybe you need to back up that bus and take another run.  [Tyee]

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