Perhaps the person most disappointed with Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews this week was Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
I like to imagine him calling a meeting about the matter: He gets up from his desk wearily, takes off his glasses, rubs his eyes a little, sighs and then says to the gathered Conservative MPs, “Look, when I told you people last week that you could not go calling the Canadian people Nazis, I did not mean – put the yo-yo away, Tony – I did not mean – look at me when I'm talking, Vic – and I shouldn't have to tell you this – that you could call them child pornographers.”
“I only said they were ‘with child pornographers,’ ” Mr. Toews might mumble under his breath, kicking the carpet.
“So, what, they're undercover cops, Vic? Or the child pornographers owe them money and they're just over there asking them to give it back? Is that how we're going to spin this, Vic? No, I don't think that will work, Mr. Minister of Public Safety. You as good as called anyone opposed to Bill C-30 – a piece of legislation that will compel Internet service providers to spend lots of money so that police agencies can force them to spy on their customers, without anyone ever obtaining a warrant – a pedophile, and if there's one thing people hate, it's being called a … ”
Hands fly up, a voice calls out, “Oh, I know! I know! A Nazi, sir! They hate being called a Nazi?”
“Yes, yes, they hate being called Nazis.” Mr. Harper takes a sweetie out of a box on his desk and tosses it over to MP Larry Miller. “But they also hate it when you call them pedophiles. Didn't your mothers teach you that? Don't call people pedophiles? It's not even a slang thing, as in, ‘How's it hangin', you old pedophile, you?' or ‘What up, you disgusting child predator?' Even pedophiles don't call each other pedophiles.
“Do we need to go on a field trip? Do I have to take you out to a local bar, perhaps, where one of you can call out, ‘A round for all the pedophiles in the house!' and then watch what happens? Come away from the door, Mr. Fantino. The question was rhetorical.”
“Don't you mean ‘developmentally disabled,' sir?” an eager, anxious young backbencher suggests.
“No, I said ‘rhetorical,' not. … Oh, never mind,” the Prime Minister says. “Good – good that you are paying attention.”
“Right now,” he goes on, “you, Minister Toews, have achieved something very rare on the Internet: There's consensus in the comment sections. Left, right, in every paper, in both official languages, everyone hates you. You're the un-Lin. They're all in the comments right now practically holding hands, swaying, singing Imagine, and thumbs-upping each other in a giddy, almost-sexual frenzy of agreement. … Oh dear, someone get Mr. Trost a chair, and his smelling salts. Sorry, Brad.
“There's a legend that when everyone on the Internet agrees with each other, it'll explode. Then how are we going to spy on people? And – give me the yo-yo, Tony; put down that phone, Mr. McKay, you're walking home – of course, anyone, and there were few to begin with, who was prepared to believe that we could be trusted with the unprecedented access to their personal information that Bill C-30 will give us – because they figured, you know, Conservatives aren't crazy, or paranoid about what Canadians are up to – is now reconsidering that position.
“So, let's try this again, what are we going to call our opponents that's not excessive?”
“Nazis!” someone calls out.
“Pedophiles!” seven or eight more people call out.
“No, no, ‘Nazi' and ‘pedophile' are the bad words, remember?” our Prime Minister says, patiently.
Another backbencher sticks up his hand: “Maybe if we defended our ideas on their merits and didn't call the other side any kind of name … ?”
Sudden collective gasp.
“You know what to do,” Mr. Harper says.
Sheepishly, the backbencher goes to stand in the Loser Corner. Mr. Harper looks sad.
“When are the pandas coming, sir?” the Right Honourable Member for Nipissing-Timiskaming asks.
“Pandas! Pandas! Pandas!” Everyone cries out. “Sir, if the pandas make a baby, can we keep it?” someone asks excitedly.
Our Prime Minister allows himself a small smile. “Will you walk it?” he asks.
“Yes! Yes! Every day! Right after Question Period.”
“And what will you call it?” he asks.
“Ah, ah,” Mr. Harper says, wagging his finger, still smiling.
“Panda Bear!” Minister John Baird cries out above the fray.
“Oh, all right then,” our Prime Minister says. “You can keep it.”