Dog in this Fight

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The Article

It seems just when I think I’ve said all I would ever want to say about Belinda Stronach, she pops up in the news again and prompts more column fodder. I’m sure you’ve all heard about “dog-gate” by now, but two weeks ago Peter MacKay allegedly referred to Belinda Stronach as a dog. It was in the context of a debate over the new environmental bill, and Liberal David McGuinty asked MacKay if he was worried about the act’s consequences on his canine. The Foreign Affairs Minister replied, “No, you’ve already got her,” as he gestured at Stronach’s empty chair across the aisle.

Then the screams began. He’s sexist. He must apologize. The opposition parties, along with the mainstream media, went into a feeding frenzy.

And in a way, they were right. MacKay’s comment definitely deserved a response. And to most Canadians, the correct response would have been for everyone in the House to chuckle, say, “okay, that was kind of funny,” and then move on to other business. That, you see, is what the rest of Canada did, regardless of what Liberal MPs or the CTV or the Toronto Star may say.

I think this is why most Canadians turn away from politics. It’s not real. It’s all about winning points by feigning outrage. Was MacKay right to call Stronach a dog? Absolutely not. But was it funny? You betcha. And that’s the difference between real Canadians and politicians. Real Canadians still know how to laugh.

Remember when Winston Churchill said to a woman questioning his conduct, “Madam, I may be drunk, but you’re ugly, and in the morning I’ll be sober?”. That was funny, too. In poor taste, perhaps, but funny nonetheless. Most of humour, I think, is in poor taste. That’s what makes it funny! But in our rush to make sure that no one, anywhere, could possibly be offended, we have taken much of what is real out of human interaction.

Take the reaction of opposition MPs, for example. Judy Wasylycia-Leis, an NDP MP, called the alleged remark “sexist and demeaning.” Ralph Goodale, the Liberal House Leader, said that it “reveals a demeaning attitude toward…women in particular.”

Do they truly believe he’s sexist? MacKay once led the only party that has had a female Prime Minister. And he dated someone who was running for the leadership of his party. That hardly sounds like someone who would prefer women in the background. But they’ll call him sexist anyway if they think it can win them brownie points.

What I don’t think politicians realize is that the more they do this, the more they alienate most Canadians. In fact, in a survey on CTV’s website, 70% thought that the comment wasn’t sexist. And if we’re told over and over again that it was, then the only conclusion most of us can make is that politicians think we’re sexist, too. And we don’t like to be lectured to. So we tune them all out.

Now I did learn something about Peter MacKay during this whole episode that I didn’t know before, but it had nothing to do with his views on women. I’ve concluded that he’d probably be a really fun guy to have at a party. I once heard that a politician you can picture having over for a barbecue is more likely to get elected than the one you picture inviting over so they can lecture at you. MacKay seems to fit that barbecue bill quite well. He’s not afraid to tell it like it is. I wish there were more of that in Canadian life, rather than everyone always trying to prove they’re the ones on the moral high horse.

But let me put a big caveat in here. I don’t appreciate women being called dogs. I think far too many still hold rather negative views of women, and that does personally irk me. But it irks me even more for people like Stronach to yell “sexist!” whenever she’s being criticized for something, so as to shut everybody else up. It denigrates real cases of sexism, of which there are plenty.

Belinda, though, has yet to realize this. Last week, while pulling the sexist card out yet again, she said she was still waiting for MacKay to say he’s sorry.

Funny. I bet Peter MacKay would say the same thing about her.

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