This morning’s revelation in the Globe & Mail that Prime Minister-wannabee Paul Martin Jr. lives on Kraft Dinner but is too stupid to read the instructions on the box seems transparently aimed at depicting him as a Man of the People. Wiser heads, however, are wondering about at least two sidebar questions. 1.) Can the Filipino seamen who operate Martin’s Canadian Steamships for him read the English print and thus emulate their master’s dietary preference? 2.) Is Martin’s problem making Kraft Dinner more to do with not being sure how and when to add the artichokes and/or black truffles than with not being able to read the print?
That said, there are other issues poking through this muddle Canadians ought to be keeping an eye on. The first of these is the timing of the Globe story—a carefully overcooked piece of fluff generated by Martin’s well-funded PR apparatus and duly sucked up by the newspaper and reprocessed as legitimate journalism. If the best this process can do to humanize the terminally-wooden Martin is smear Kraft Dinner on him and reveal that his wife is as colourless as he is, Chretien’s people can rest a little more easily.
More disturbing is the unanimous glee of the mass media at Martin’s break with Chretien. Partly, I suspect, it derives from the opportunity it affords them to lick the shoes of a Canadian politician on the far Right who isn’t secretly planning to make everyone go to church three times a week once he gets into power, or pass laws prohibiting sex not performed in the missionary position. Intellectual laziness is a factor, too: here’s a media crisis that can be covered without reporters needing to stir from their Press Gallery chairs. Ottawa’s horde of parliamentary analysts can speculate the story to death from the studio, and all the gofers might have to do to cover oncoming events is watch the parliamentary video feeds and walk over to the FAX machine every hour or so to pick up the press releases from the Martin Public Relations bureau. This is the easiest story since Bill Clinton’s impeachment crisis, where all the media had to do was park a truck outside the U.S. Capitol and wait for the next posturing politician to walk down and shoot off his or her mouth. There’s glee in the accounting department, too, with looming promise of cheap profits. Better still, it’s the bean-counters man making his move, and they don’t have to pay for a single piece of equipment being moved.
But despite the frolic, for Canadians, there really is something at stake. It isn’t much, but it’s there. At issue is whether we’re going to exchange a sitting Prime Minister with a distinct personality, an endearing impulse to strangle annoying professional activists and an (admittedly intermittent) sense of Canada and its historical values for a purse-lipped bore whose only distinct personality trait is the perpetually strained-and-pained facial expression that anyone with half a deck understands comes from the fact that every multinational corporation operating within our borders has its hand in Martin’s pocket—and is squeezing his balls.
507 w. June 4, 2002