The Governor General's coke tale
BY JOSEPH PLANTA
Monday, 19 December 2005
VANCOUVER - In this space a while ago, I recounted the recent Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner. The speeches by the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and the singing from Jack Layton were oft humorous and colourful. The Governor General gave an enjoyable performance and was delightful, frankly. She was refreshing and bold, and I think warmed a usually frosty Ottawa crowd with self-effacing humour and biting lines about what's making the news.
I didn't mention a funny line that came from Her Excellency that night. She made mention of Andre Boisclair, the Parti Quebecois leadership hopeful, who's since won the leadership of the separatist party. During the campaign, he made news not only for his aspirations for the leadership of the sovereigntist cause, but also his past cocaine use.
Madame Jean was kidding around about opening up the Rideau Hall grounds for parties with the pols and the press, something that's been largely out of fashion in the last few years. She said, "We can have sandwiches and Coke. Well, should Andre Boisclair be there, it will be coke for sure."
Now, that's a funny line, timely and actually pretty good.
Boisclair got mad. He was upset that the Vice Regal made fun of his past (hopefully) cocaine use, and that she should have not joked so humorously considering it was a public event, "televised, taped." It's embarrassing to have to let Boisclair know this, but the broadcast didn't necessarily keep the Nielsen people busy tallying up how many Canadians saw the thing. It's on CPAC for crissakes.
Then, the Governor General's sister waded into the fray with her own two cents. It's revealed that she's a Parti Quebecois member, and she's sent off letters to the newspapers criticising her sister. Nadeje Jean wrote: "We feel somewhat ashamed . . . you were wrong to plant your feet on political ground."
Give me a break.
The absurdity of political correctness reared its ugly head yet again during this exercise. Boisclair was upset not because he got made fun of, but because his past improprieties were being made a campaign issue. But to have to play the dignity card, and say it was poor form for the Governor General was slightly precious. The Boisclair people spun the story to bring the Viceroy into the story, because they didn't want anyone to dwell on this less than stellar part of Boisclair's past. By invoking MichaŽlle Jean, they were hoping, pardon the pun, for the story to blow away, and divert attention to her for being less than polite.
Then there's the Governor General's sister's own outburst, which is certainly curious. She thinks that her sister shouldn't get political. Well, frankly, she should have advised her sister not to take the position in the first place, considering it was despite whatever anyone tells you, a political appointment.
The most interesting aspect of all of this is just how virulent Quebec's own culture war is getting. Madame Jean pledged to break down the two solitudes, but she's not been since successful. Sovereigntists don't like Jean and they don't care who knows it. Recently, poet Raymond Levesque turned down a Governor General's prize for the arts and the $15,000 cheque that goes with it. A collection was taken up and the separatists gave Levesque their own cheque, for over double the amount initially refused.
It seems that there is some credence to the idea that MichaŽlle Jean was sympathetic to the separatist cause. The sovereigntists attack Jean because they claim she was once one of them, something that's further from the truth according to Jean. Whatever the case, the crack about cocaine, meant a bit more than some are letting on. It's not just being exceedingly politically correct, as much as it is paying the piper that plays the tune.
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
An archive of Joseph Planta's previous columns can be found by clicking HERE.
©1999-2005. The Commentary, Joseph Planta