I’ve been trying to imagine what the meeting of the planning committee for the Conservative government’s “Day of Honour” sounded like. We are told the purpose of this event is to commemorate the sacrifices made by Canadians during the Afghanistan deployment. A letter that we are now informed was sent in error to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, as well as the Conservatives’ overall handling of veterans issues, suggest the conversation went something like this:
“Should we invite the families of the soldiers who died in Afghanistan? Theme-wise, we’re going to need some families,” an aide said.
“Yes, let’s send them a letter telling them we’d love them to join us in reflecting on the Afghan deployment and its impact on Canadians,” the aide’s superior replied.
“Will you be putting a travel voucher in that letter?” inquired a coffee-bearing assistant. “I think some of them live far away and I imagine that kind of loss can have a huge financial impact on a family.”
“I don’t think we’re expected to pay their travel expenses. I have it on good authority these families are big on sacrifices,” Superior replied.
“Oh, yeah,” said Aide. “And this is a huge opportunity for them. At an event like this, they’re easily going to get themselves photographed with five or six Conservative MPs.”
“I’d say at least 15 – more if they’re crying.”
“Yes, a line of MPs has already formed,” sighed Aide.
A head popped in from around the corner. “Jeremy! Jeremy! Can I get in? It’s a million-dollar shot!”
“Go home, Mr. Adler. And my name’s not Jeremy,” said Superior, superiorly. “Is your name Jeremy, Aide?”
“No,” said Aide, “and my feeling (such as I have them) is that, if the bereaved are worried about the cost of attending this event, they could drive.”
“Good thinking,” said Superior. “That way we could ask them to pick up a Conservative MP or two along the way. I must say, I love this idea of a day on which we remember the sacrifices made by veterans. Why has no one thought of this before?”
“Hey, we should have a poem!” cried out Aide in excitement. “And, just spitballing here, but what about adding a botanical element to this day of memorial?”
“I’ve got it,” said Superior. “Some kind of flower!”
“Well, it is prom season,” said Superior.
“Didn’t you guys spend $850,000 a few years ago to commemorate the end of the NATO-led mission in Libya?” asked a passing janitor from the hallway. “Put that camera down, Mr. Adler. I already took three pics of you with the floor polisher.”
“Janitor has a point about costs,” said Aide, sagely. “I wonder if there’s some way to offset a portion of this. What if we asked the families to bring casseroles? Do this thing as a potluck. Cash bar. Have some cadets work the valet parking for tips. Steal the tips. Also raffle off keeping a Veterans Affairs office within a reasonable distance of your hometown, say less than 12 hours away...”
“I have it! We get a tank – Dunk-a-Veteran!”
A window-washer popped his head in the window. “Given the pressing need, so increasingly clear to most Canadians, to improve support services for veterans, aren’t you concerned about the optics of spending any money at all on an event like this – let alone asking these families to contribute their own resources and vacation time? One imagines they’re the ones who’ve reflected the most on the impact of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.”
“Seriously,” hooted a passing owl because this is my column. “Send that letter and the way this will play, the only people that will benefit will be the NDP. Why don’t you just cut Thomas Mulcair a big cheque?”
“Okay, children under 5 eat free, we don’t charge them for the carnations,” said Superior, “and a free car wash with the valet parking.”
The Prime Minister stuck his head around the corner. “No car wash. Do not even mention a car wash. Spare me any car-wash drama. You know I feel the need to personally manage anything to do with automotive hygiene and this sometimes makes me oblivious to everything else going on around me.”
“Okay, Sir,” said Aide.
“Thanks, I appreciate it,” said Prime Minister. “Check your floor mats, Adler.”
“All right, scrap that letter,” said Superior.
“I can’t,” said Aide. “I heard that owl say, ‘Send that letter,’ and that was kind of cool so it’s gone.”