The Maclean’s ‘Big Bonhomme’ cover controversy raised the sovereignty – sensitive hackles of Premier Jean Charest and every other right thinking Québécois just two weeks ago. Quebec politics is as pure as the driven slush (my apologies to dead diva Tallulah Bankhead) and Premier Charest is just the man to endorse its merits. And right on cue, just as the “gee, maybe that was a little sensational” sentiment driven by the possible alienation of its French language media customers prompted Maclean’s publisher Rogers Ltd. to fall on its journalistic ethics sword and plant a fat one on the Big Bonhomme’s butt….hello, LM Sauve Ltd. and Gilles Varin!
Timing is everything. This latest accident of geography ought to ramp up the Québécois conspiracy theorists. Hot on the heels of the wholesale defamation of Quebec national honour that was the Maclean’s Quebec corruption cover, the RCMP are called in to investigate an alleged impropriety involving a lucrative Parliament Buildings renovation contract awarded Quebec-based construction heavies Sauve, where the doubtless redoubtable Varin, a veteran Conservative organizer in the very eastern part of Ontario called Montreal, is alleged to have helped fiddle the Sauve bid. Prime Minister Harper issued the now stock executive answer that suited his Liberal predecessors Martin and Chretien equally well during those far off days of the Quebec Liberal sponsorship scandal in the historical epoch known as 1999 to 2004 – the old ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ Sgt. Schultz, “I know nothing” wheeze, it’s a police matter, full extent of the law, nothing to do with me, the Opposition are a bunch of losers, so go jam yourselves.
The PM is a person of unassailable personal probity; the telephone calls from his minions that open with “Sir, we have a problem in Quebec…” must suck out his spleen. What did Quebec ever do for Stephen Harper except cause grief? He might need divine intervention in the always pending, it’s only one confidence vote away, federal election to maintain his little 8 member rump in Quebec, unless les Nordiques get their NHL arena funding – and it gets worse with some old Tory hack named Varin? Yikes! But who needs fiction to keep the mind engaged as the long, dark Canadian winter fast approaches? We have politics.
NB…my references to the ‘Big Bonhomme’? Men without Hats, a truly incorruptible Quebec musical export – and ‘Pop Goes the World’, great, great dance stuff, 1980s style!