People and Places

ELECTION CHATTER (DAY 5): An election post that incorporates Viagra, cats, and John Baird

Day 5: In which Ottawa Magazine contributing editor Mark Bourrie somehow manages to include references to Viagra, cats, and John Baird in one stream-of-consciousness posting

I went to my favourite news site, nationalnewswatch.com, today, and learned to my horror that prostate cancer treatments have left Andrew Lloyd Weber unable to have sex. My first instinct is that there is more than one way to skin Cats. But I am partial to the impotent, being a journalist in mid-life.

Viagra has made many an old coot friskier than he should be, and may well have engendered the scandal involving 66-year-old disbarred lawyer and former Stephen Harper advisor Bruce Carson, and his 22-year-old ex-hooker girlfriend. But all the Viagra in the world won’t save journalism.

I just came back from a press conference on Parliament Hill where John Baird offered himself up to the assembled media throng. There were cameras, sound people with booms, but very, very few reporters.

With lots of cameras and a tiny clutch of scribblers, Baird was able to engage the reptilian lobe of his brain to make some dramatic logical leaps. The NDP candidate in London-Middlesex had quit the race. He had thrown his support to the Liberals. This was proof that the Liberals and NDP were in cahoots to foist a coalition on the good but overly-trusting people of Canada.

This was a string of logic that defied all mathematical paradigms.

All mammals have fur. Cats have fur. Therefore, cats and dogs are in collusion to form a coalition government and ignore the will of the Canadian electorate.

I don’t know John Baird. I know some of his staffers and a few of his friends, and they all swear up and down that he’s a helluva guy. But he comes off as a chump who will say anything to push his party.

And that kind of partisanship has a place in politics, the way Spiro Agnew had a place in politics 40 years ago. You don’t remember Spiro Agnew? Well, he invented “low road” politics.

But very few reporters call Baird on this stuff. They laugh when he uses a combination of disinformation and cruelty to go after political opponents and journalists who ask tough questions. They let him get away with the most monstrous of accusations and the greatest leaps of logic.

To me, it makes sense that an NDP would toss his support to a Liberal (though Baird does have a point when he wonders aloud if the NDP will choose another candidate in the riding). I can’t see any NDP candidates hoping the Tories win seats simply because the Conservatives need just 12 more to form a majority, one that will strip the opposition of any influence they have now.

Unless this turns out to be a trend, it really doesn’t mean anything and certainly doesn’t prove a conspiracy by Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton. But there was John Baird saying it does, then saying it might, then saying he didn’t say it did, then saying a coalition was a done deal.

Maybe the voters of Ottawa West-Nepean like to see their MP roaring spittle-flecked accusations. Certainly, they see it enough, since the bellowing and finger-pointing makes good TV.

But reporting this dreck as though it is important stuff is not a public service. Tough questions might rehabilitate John Baird. They might make him a clearer thinker and a better debater. They might make him a real contender for the top job.

Otherwise, he’ll stay a media clown, just like Spiro Agnew, who, after years as Richard Nixon’s sin-eater, was run out of politics and died disgraced and forgotten. And the media will continue to look like clowns for letting Baird toy with them.

All in all, it’s a bad thing for democracy, let alone for simple logic.