Opinion

Please Advise! Is Wayne Gretzky Running for President of Canada?

In an election as Canadian as Ted Cruz, Dr. Steve helps our southern neighbours translate.

By Steve Burgess 29 Sep 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,

I'm an American who is curious about your election. Our campaigns are two-ring circuses with lots of juggling and plenty of clowns. Do you think our election will influence yours?

Signed,

Yankee Doodle

Dear Yank,

You're an American who is curious about our election? Dr. Steve must process that for a moment. I guess it's like the internet says: there are fetishes for everyone in this crazy world. I will always remember the woman I met years ago while hitchhiking through Oregon who first asked where I was from, and then asked if Canada was the name of some nearby town. Ask Americans who will win the Canadian election and 43 per cent will answer that President Obama is a Muslim. Anyway, thanks for asking. We appreciate it.

But perhaps it's not fair to say that Americans don't care about Canadian politics. There are Americans playing a role. Wayne Gretzky for instance. He endorsed Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which is admirable for a disinterested observer. Although it has since been suggested that Gretzky might be a candidate to become a Conservative Senator. Reached at his secondary residence in California, Gretzky had no comment. Meanwhile Thomas Mulcair has reportedly been placing desperate calls to Finland -- Jari Kurri has yet to make an endorsement.

Our nations are closely connected and Canadians must always pay attention to U.S. policy -- it has been suggested that the president has more influence over the Canadian economy than the prime minister. Already the American presidential race has provided reasons for Canadian concern. For example, Republican candidate Scott Walker proposed a massive wall along the Canada-U.S. border. Hillary Clinton came out in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. Then Walker dropped out of the race. No pipeline? No border wall? Canada could be facing a major jobs crisis.

Xenophobia en français

The Republican race has been marked by a degree of xenophobia that is remarkable even for them. Led by Donald Trump, GOP hopefuls have been slandering immigrants and demonizing Muslims. Under a Republican administration the Statue of Liberty will trade that torch for a flamethrower, the inscription changed to "Make my day, punk." Ben Carson has said a Muslim should not be President; British Prime Minister David Cameron also thinks it's wrong to say no to pork, but that's a different story. As per the GOP the only essential part of the U.S. Constitution is the Second Amendment, which will allow Americans to bear arms against a terrorist president.

That aspect of the campaign has indeed spread north of the border, particularly into Quebec. The recent French language leaders debate dealt with the hot-button issue of whether a Muslim woman has the right to wear a niqab at a citizenship swearing-in ceremony.

The debate highlighted the peculiar Bizarro-world nature of Quebec politics. Whereas American xenophobes come from the ranks of the right, somehow in Quebec it's the nominally leftist parties such as the Bloc and Parti Quebecois waving the big red flag of anti-Muslim agitation. (Of course our right-wingers are happy to join in the fear-mongering. Even the good folks at Sleep Country would be hard pressed to imagine the cozy bed that Gilles Duceppe and Stephen Harper are now sharing on the niqab issue.)

Despite Andrew Coyne's disgust, the issue may actually be gaining traction. Apparently we will now fight oppression against Muslim women by telling Muslim women what they can and can't wear. The fact that any such women will be required to remove the niqab for identification purposes before the ceremony apparently matters little -- to some the niqab itself is the equivalent of a swastika arm band.

Dr. Steve doesn't particularly like niqabs. But then, Dr. Steve also doesn't like tattoos -- doesn't understand why anyone would want one. What's more, Dr. Steve has it on good authority that 100 per cent of criminal biker gang members have tattoos. 100 per cent of maximum-security inmates have tattoos. There's even a name for them. "Jailhouse tatts," they're called. (Oh yes, Dr. Steve is very street.) And yet tattooed people are allowed to take the oath of citizenship. Dr. Steve is not impressed. Yet, prizing the personal freedom that helps define our Canadian ideals, he deals with it. And suggests that niqab-haters do the same.

Another closet Canuck

There are other Canada-U.S. connections, Yank. Calgary-born Senator Ted Cruz, for instance. Last week Cruz's Tea Party Republican faction won a victory by driving House Speaker John Boehner to resign. The non-partisan organization On the Issues once characterized Boehner as a "hard-core conservative." He's one of those people who deals with climate change evidence by saying he's not a scientist. Yet Boehner was anathema to the Cruz gang because he was too moderate -- he was known to collaborate with Democrats to pass legislation.

Cruz may be Canada's gift to America, but his example is a gift to us all. Canadians may bemoan the state of our politics but we need only look south to see how much worse it can get. The U.S. political climate resembles the surface of Venus, and the candidacy of Donald Trump brings to mind nothing short of dystopian science fiction. In fact with Matt Damon's new movie The Martian coming out this week I can guess the final scene (spoiler alert): Stranded on the Martian plain, Astronaut Damon receives a transmission from Earth: "Matt! Matt Damon! This is President Trump! I'm sending an expedition to save you! It'll be an incredible expedition! Amazing! Hang in there pal!"

Alone on the barren Martian landscape, Matt Damon slowly removes his helmet.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Election 2015,

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