If the meeting will please come to order… thank you.

I realize that this is not likely to be the most positive get-together, but recent events require our caucus to engage in some quick regrouping.

Let’s be honest — the last few weeks have been a little rough. There were one or two bright spots — hello, pandas? Genius! — but now that the doors are closed and the media otherwise occupied I think we can all admit that a Hitler reference and the “you’re either with us or you’re with the child pornographers” comment were mistakes.

Given the response of even some our staunchest media allies to this latest telemarketing glitch, I have no doubt that a number of you feel like curling up with your favourite copy of Atlas Shrugged, wondering how to restore our image as a beacon of accountability to Canadians weary of political shenanigans. Perhaps others, dodging calls from OAS-obsessed constituents who keep repeating something about “ice floes,” are praying for another glowing media frenzy about a Beatles cover by a certain leader to distract from our current woes.

But I say to you all that now is not the time for wallowing or hiding. And retreat is never an option (don’t panic, Vic — I said retreat, not retweet).

This is the time for action.

Now, on the subject of image I have to say I’m quite disappointed. Here I am, speaking to the party of opportunity and entrepreneurialism, and yet none of you has managed to capitalize on what is clearly a growth industry in Canadian politics.

Why has no one trademarked the term “ethical”? Apologies for the CBC reference, but Dragon’s Den lives for initiatives like this!

After all, aside from the obvious financial windfall, it provides virtually limitless opportunities to transform universally viewed political blunders into Canadian success stories.

Where the tar sands were concerned, “Ethical Oil” wiped out all the scientific evidence of Canada’s role in accelerating global warming, environmental degradation, world condemnation and Indigenous outrage.

Now that’s how you turn a PR frown upside down. It’s a masterstroke for which we owe one of our own (hi, Ezra!) a debt of gratitude.

But why stop at oil? Bill C-30 and the UN’s rebuke about our treatment of First Nations were two missed opportunities for an “ethical” rebrand. What if we had come out shooting with “ethical Internet surveillance” (the good Canadian kind — not the oppressive sort practiced by China). Or “ethical abandonment of First Nations” (coddling our Indigenous population with equal access to the basic necessities of life would be colonial and condescending… and that’s not how we roll!). That would have taken the wind out of Charlie Angus’s sails.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to rescue this latest robocall incident from image-marketing purgatory.

Don’t talk about “getting to the bottom of these ‘crank calls'” and demanding the Opposition provide “proof of wrongdoing” to the RCMP. It doesn’t matter how these robocalls happened. What matters is the rebranding opportunity that’s presented: “ethical electoral interference.” Not like what you see in dictatorships, of course — this is Canada, after all! And in Canada we don’t use violence to keep people away from the polls; no, voter suppression in Canada relies on irritating, offending and confusing the electorate out of voting. So much more civilized and — I dare say — more democratic.

Think of how it would play in Question Period: “Is the Opposition referencing Pinochet’s tactics of voter intimidation?” one of you might thunder. “Perhaps they have forgotten that this is Canada, a democracy, and the best country in the world. Pinochet? At most what we’ve seen is akin to Pinnochio — a much-loved children’s character with an appreciation for artistic license. Well, this government will not stand by while the Opposition maligns children’s literature — who’s next on their list? Little Boy Blue — from the Prairies, no less? Why does the Opposition hate the West? God Bless Canada.” Applause… and cut to a Tim Horton’s commercial.

See what I mean? It’s the equivalent of a Parliamentary fist-pump. Easy peasy.

Now, if there are no questions I’ll turn to how to deal with ideological contradictions in government policy, or “How can public surveillance be wrong when it feels so right?” Cue music, please.

Erika Shaker lives, works and satirizes in Ottawa, Ontario.

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