Please Advise! PM Ponders Next Summer Vacation Pledge

Have you tried #NoPingPongTax, Steve? Could be a viral hit.

By Steve Burgess 10 Aug 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 PhD 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,

The gruelling months of smile practice are over. Look out -- here I come with the wit and the warmth and the other research-tested human qualities. Yes, your prime minister is ready to court carbon-based voting units. That's Mr. Personality to you, pal.

How am I doing so far?

On the trail,

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Checking the early trends, here's what I'm seeing: Tanning continues to be controversial. Heated debate focuses on Mom's belief that you shouldn't swim within an hour after eating. The numbers look bad for socks with sandals. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is now the leading candidate for next Governor General. As for the rest, the polls say so far, so what? It's August, for God's sake.

It's not just too soon for people to care about federal politics -- it's too soon for people to start saying they don't care about federal politics. Come September people will begin expressing their disgust or indifference. Right now they're busy.

To your credit Prime Minister you seem to have a grasp of summer priorities with your disavowal of a Netflix tax. A good August issue. Follow it up with a vow that climate change activists will not be allowed to infringe on the camping public's right to make s'mores. Come down hard on the mosquito threat. Warn that Thomas Mulcair has no policy regarding potato salad that's been sitting in the sun. Remind people that fire ants are orange, too. Boast of your strong defence at the borders of Canada's picnic blankets.

Enforced staycation?

Your latest defence-of-the-homeland announcement, made this weekend, also boasts a holiday theme -- a plan to ban Canadian travel to terrorist hotspots.

This pledge does have the advantage of casting the current economic situation in a positive light. Yes, the 76-cent loonie is making it hard for anybody to go anywhere this summer, but it's all part of the fight against terror. Not only will the worthless loonie prevent travel to Iraq and Syria, it'll stop Canadians from having their pictures taken with Aladdin at Disney World.

This also discourages radicalized youth from threatening to make parents' lives miserable until Mom and Dad agree to take them to the Magic Kingdom. So good idea, Prime Minister. It's only too bad you didn't come up with this policy earlier -- say, a complete ban on travel to Iraq, Syria and Prince Edward Island.

As for your other big early promise -- the home renovation tax credit -- I dunno, Steve. (Can I call you Steve? I get the impression first names are the new thing this campaign.) Some might feel homelessness is a bigger priority than granite-countertop-less-ness. But on the other hand, is a home truly a home if it still has hideous old harvest gold kitchen appliances? So fine, offer a home reno tax credit. Bring hope to your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to add a soaker tub and a cozy breakfast nook.

Except that you didn't, really. You said a home reno tax credit is something you might do in the future if you happen to have a budget surplus. As summertime promises go that ranks up there with, "I promise we'll go to Splashland, kids. Just as soon as Daddy grows a third eye."

It suggests you may not be on your game, Prime Minister. Summer doldrums? Or evidence of a larger malaise?

Pants optional politics

The Maclean's debate, ill-timed though it was, offered more signs about your team's level of sharpness. Everyone knows that pre-debate strategy involves lowering expectations for your team and raising them for others. It's typical to compare your opponents to Pericles or Cicero (or maybe Goebbels) -- skilled orators whom you will battle with nothing but the simple, homespun truths you learned at Mother's knee.

And yet before the debate Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke told reporters that Justin Trudeau would exceed expectations "if he comes on stage with his pants on." Nice work, Kory. Why not add that Prime Minister Harper's performance will make Winston Churchill look like Texas Governor Rick "Oops" Perry?

On the other hand, Teneycke's remarks could be evidence that you know precisely what you are doing. The days of tearing down Kid Justin have now given way to setting him up for a post-debate boost at the expense of, I don't know, someone more bearded? Mulcair's solid if uninspired debate has received less acclaim than Trudeau's competent "Yes there are pants behind this podium" performance. I suspect that fall will bring more evidence that Conservative shivs are as sharp as ever.

But for now, Prime Minister, it all matters little. People aren't paying attention to politics. It's summer and they seek the kind of brainless, slam-bang entertainment that doesn't require serious thought. Like Donald Trump.

Have a great summer, loser.  [Tyee]

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