Maybe I've just spent too much time hanging around the dojo, but I don't think most Canadians would have been particularly troubled if Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair had planted a well-placed social democratic boot on Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan's ample behind yesterday afternoon.
Alert readers will by now be aware that Van Loan waddled across the two-and-a-quarter-sword-lengths aisle of the House of Commons burbling imprecations and dropping F-Bombs at the NDP's unfailingly gentlemanly House Leader, Nathan Cullen, apparently because Cullen had failed to jump high enough, fast enough to comply with the Harperites' authoritarian urges.
Van Loan's ludicrously threatening behaviour only became a national outrage, however, when Mulcair stepped up to protect his House Leader and told the potty-mouthed Tory twerp to bug off, pronto. The Harperites and their media auxiliary were soon reflexively whinging about Mulcair's temper. Oh please!
The assumption among Prime Minister Stephen Harper's neoconservatives, I assume, is that anything you can do to lower the tone in Parliament is a good thing if it'll turn folks who are not Tory diehards off voting. And anyway, they've been trying for months to paint Mulcair as an angry guy, so there's a kind of twisted compliment in it if they're trying to needle him as if he were the late Maurice "Rocket" Richard, the hot-tempered hockey great who was not unfamiliar with the penalty box.
So if Van Loan wants to channel Darrel Stinson, the last Reform Party thug to regularly do this sort of thing in the House of Commons, I guess that's fine with the PM. Mind you, Stinson was a bigger man than Van Loan in every respect, including his hat, when he called Jean Charest a "fat little chubby little sucker" and challenged sundry Liberals to fisticuffs.
As for the chattering classes -- who are mostly good at chattering, after all -- their assumption is that argy-bargy is so déclassé it's certain to put the voters off.
Well, I'm here to tell you, people, this ain't necessarily so.
Look, I'm not advocating regular punch ups or chair throwing in the House of Commons, but I am saying that under these kinds of circumstances, Canadians wouldn't have disapproved if Mulcair had given Van Loan a sound thump on keester.
I'm serious, people. Does anybody remember Jean Chrétien, back when he was our PM, grabbing that protester and giving him a good shake to get him the heck out of his face, or chasing the burglar through the halls of 24 Sussex with a potentially lethal Inuit soapstone carving while the Mounties snoozed blissfully next door?
If you were paying attention at the time, you'll note that neither of these things did any harm to Chrétien's reputation. Au contraire, most Canadians liked him all the more for them both.
Now that we mention it, nobody really minded the Trudeaus, pere et fils, famously telling those very sensitive souls on the Conservative benches to fuddle-duddle in 1971 or advising Environmental Degradation Minister Peter Kent in 2012 that he was a piece of … what was it again?
This is because real Canadians -- not fat little Conservative doughboys who suck up to the gun lobby and pretend to like Tim Horton's coffee but drink Pouilly-Fuissé at home in Rockcliffe with the curtains drawn -- appreciate a man of action, especially if he stands up for his friends, as Mulcair was doing.
Well, Van Loan has now mumbled an insincere apology that tried to pin the blame on the other guy, or, seeing as Cullen is so well mannered, the other guy's colleague. So presumably the whole thing’s blown over till the Tories send out their next enforcer to needle Mulcair.
Well, you can't score goals from the penalty box, I guess. But maybe a bench-clearing brawl in the next-best arena would be just the thing to boost our flagging national spirits in this hockey-deprived season!
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.
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