Suburban Legend; Home Improvement; Sunny Side Down; Off-Line Pursuits; Long in the Tusks
Ron Graham’s “Born in the Burbs” (October) is worth a year’s subscription to The Walrus. Seldom have I read such a strong, succinct, and accurate description of our prime minister.
Has The Walrus traded journalistic integrity for vindictive storytelling? Graham was a misguided choice as the writer: He edited The Essential Trudeau and Jean Chrétien’s Straight from the Heart. He is a member of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. Surely there are journalists with less bias who can offer the definitive take on Stephen Harper.
White Rock, BC
Magnificent. A tour de force. Every platitude and half-truth that the Liberals want us to believe. And so much verbiage. As Hamlet said, “Words, words, words.”
Graham says Harper grew up in a bleak suburb characterized by long commutes, isolation, and self-absorption. In fact, the prime minister lived near his primary school and close to shops of every description. Leaside was, and remains, a walkable neighbourhood, well served by public transportation—and nothing like the car-dominated abstraction of Graham’s imagination. Arguing that Leaside explains Harper just won’t do.
As an opera-going, cappuccino-drinking urbanite, I would rather have an economist for prime minister than yet another millionaire corporate lawyer from Montreal.
Andrew Coyne’s timely “Repairing the House” (October) reflects a tradition of proposals, dating back to at least the 1970s, that has produced numerous lamentations about the MP’s diminished role. Over the twenty-five years I spent on Parliament Hill as a research analyst, I watched well-intended reforms create new bottles for the old wine of partisan politics and centralized control. More fundamentally, proposals such as the creation of modern standing committees (between 1968 and 1985) did not counteract growing public cynicism about politicians and Parliament.
Unless reforms grapple with the representational challenges posed by modern ridings with upwards of 100,000 diverse and often inattentive electors, the Canadian tradition of re-bottling dominance by party leaders will continue. Most voters rely on leadership and brand-focused marketing from political parties. Ultimately this, more than internal party or House procedures, dictates the relative power of MPs and leaders within the parties.
A Member of Parliament should represent the interests of his or her constituents. Having said that, most MPs are elected—or defeated—based on their party’s popularity. If they don’t like the policies of their party, they should either join another before an election or run as independents. Many voters feel cheated when an MP crosses the floor or resigns on the basis of policy differences with the caucus.
The House should elect the PM. The leader of the majority party should not be given the position automatically—even if that is the expected outcome. MPs should have absolute rights in Parliament, set down in legislation, and party leaders should not be formally recognized.
Sunny side down
The conditions in an industrial egg laying operation are much uglier than in a foie gras gavage operation (“Foodies,” October). But it is much easier to guilt people over a luxury food than an Egg McMuffin. The problem is that in terms of the actual cruelty and suffering, egg sandwiches are responsible for far more harm, and the result of gavage is something sublime rather than something banal.
I was struck by Michael Harris’s assumption throughout “Hot Wired” (October) that male sexuality is normative. Why does he assume that women who choose not to participate in frequent anonymous sexual encounters are “frigid”? Or that we should aim to “catch up with gay culture”? Considering his own ambivalence about the impact of technology on romance, this seems chauvinistic. The differences between men and women are often exaggerated, but this may well be one area where we are just different.
North Bay, ON
Long in the Tusk
The tenth anniversary issue (October) is a corker. I particularly appreciate Andrew Coyne on the sad state of our Parliament; “Born in the Burbs” gave me new insight into Stephen Harper; and Mellissa Fung’s “Afghanistan Undone” was an eye-opener. Congratulations on your tenth birthday. Many happy returns!
Thank you for your summary of legal changes in 2003 that enabled many of us to mark a tenth anniversary along with The Walrus (Editor’s Note). Except ours are wedding anniversaries. I attended a few celebrations this summer—all joyful.
Such a wonderful, wonderful tenth anniversary issue. I’m sending my copy to my daughter so she can see Edward Burtynsky’s photographs (“Water”).
This appeared in the December 2013 issue.