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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses for selfies with workers before he greets refugees from Syria at Pearson International airport, in Toronto, on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses for selfies with workers before he greets refugees from Syria at Pearson International airport, in Toronto, on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

TABATHA SOUTHEY

It's time to banish 'selfie' jokes from the halls of Parliament Add to ...

It’s not yet a national emergency, but it threatens to become one. For the love of all that is holy, everyone, especially the Official Opposition, needs to stop making “selfie” jokes.

The word “selfie” is everywhere these days in reference to our Prime Minister.

It’s all over the newspapers, and not just the comment sections. It litters my inbox and is appearing in Hansard with alarming frequency. It was used seven times in Parliament’s first three days back, mostly by the Conservatives; but in one truly alarming instance, New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair employed the word “selfie” as an almost weapons-grade non sequitur.

Et tu, Thomas? Et tu? You were supposed to be the Question Period chosen one!

Everyone’s saying it like they’re dropping a hilarious, risqué, rhetorical S-bomb.

“Wait for it … wait for it … selfieeeeeeeee!”

In the House of Commons, they use the word “selfie” the way children at recess use the word “doo-doo,” to much the same effect. We can only hope the blessedly non-transcripted uproarious laughter that follows the word “selfie” in the House will be lost in the mists of time.

“Mr. Speaker, maybe the Prime Minister should stop using his cellphone for selfies with Leo DiCaprio, and pick it up and call Denis Coderre and fight for natural resources,” interim opposition leader Rona Ambrose said on Monday.

For the record, no such picture was ever taken. Ms. Ambrose must have dreamt it. In which case, I hope it was not The Revenant DiCaprio and nineties Trudeau, because that would be too much hair for one dream that was not about sasquatch. I get itchy just thinking about it. In any case, to our (hopefully not eternal) national shame, she was killing it with this material.

Look, Canada, we have a reputation to protect – stand on guard for glee. We’re known as funny people. We live off this humour at home, especially during the lean times, and we trade on it internationally.

Right now, the dollar’s hovering around 70 cents, but for the moment, Norm Macdonald, Mike Myers, Samantha Bee, The Kids in the Hall, John Candy, SCTV and the rest are still accepted at par. Wayne and Shuster were Ed Sullivan’s most frequent guests. This is our heritage. Let’s not devalue the brand; it was just starting to recover from Jim Carrey. Every time the opposition makes another “selfie” joke, I worry for them. They seem weeks away from just giving up and adopting the slogan “Conservative Party of Canada, Yes, That Is All We Got.”

I know this is all new to you, but you can do better than this, Opposition. Who’s writing your material? The very first question period, Ms. Ambrose came out less-than-swinging with a thoroughly disingenuous-sounding bit about how, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the World Economic Forum’s conference in Davos that he hoped Canada would be known better for its “resourcefulness” than its “resources,” he was insulting our nation.

Does Ms. Ambrose think the Prime Minister has made oil sad? Does she worry that potash is pissed that the bitumen will be bolshie? Is she concerned that gold will just stay in the ground sulking now, where it used to pirouette out of the mines and straight into the carts? Does she fear the trees … Oh no, you’ve done it now, Prime Minister, the Ents are going to war!

Possibly the Prime Minister understands that the people working in our energy and resource sectors, many of whom are now without jobs, weren’t just paid a good wage, they earned it, and so they remain an asset to Canada. Their skill and ingenuity are worth touting at an international economic conference, even to the “one per cent,” as Ms Ambrose called the attendees.

She was apparently, for the moment, unable to remember if she was heading up the Conservative Party of Canada or leading a drum circle at Occupy Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. It’s amazing how quickly “job creators” and “innovators” become “elites” and the “one per cent” when you’re not invited to their parties any more. The Davos your own party attended is very different when you’re left imagining all the “selfies” that are going on without you.

This is where I need you, Canada. We’re in this together. I’m using quotation marks around “selfie” for more than one reason. Yes, I want to contain the word; I hope that those feeble scare quotes will limit the spread of that lexical giant hogweed that now clogs our national discourse, and I do this because there’s nothing innately funny about the word “selfie.”

Hearing the word “selfie” in the House of Commons is like some horrible CPAC-broadcast version of your grandmother saying “YOLO!” at the Thanksgiving dinner table as she pours herself more Fresca. They have only the vaguest notion of what it means, and are trying to sound cool, which brings me to my final point: Those pictures that people take with Justin Trudeau are not “selfies” anyway! Now, if our Prime Minister routinely posed in bathroom mirrors, made duck face, snapped a shot of himself, and posted it to Instagram, #Davos #NoMakeUp #Trudynamite, that would be a “selfie.” That would certainly be worth mocking. I’d be all over that.

Every paper could have a special edition, were that the case.

However, when people ask if they can take a picture of themselves standing with a (like it or not) well-known and well-liked public figure – this is the contemporary “I once shook his hand” – and that figure obliges them, he’s not taking a “selfie.”

I’m not sure having a PM who entered a room saying “No pictures, please! I said no pictures!” would look good on us, fellow citizens.

I’m okay with having a guy who smiles, sometimes takes the camera if he’s taller than the photo-seeker, gets the picture done, and is gracious and assured about the whole exchange – as these handshakes go, Mr Trudeau’s is firm.

What exactly do the countless, the legions, in fact, of Canadian “selfie” quippers want Mr. Trudeau to do when this request is made? Do they want him to bat the phone out of people’s hands like an angry cat? Maybe hiss a little when they approach him? Or just not be approachable? When did we agree to accept “pissy” for “statesmanlike.” Oh, yeah, right, well let’s move on now.

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Follow on Twitter: @TabathaSouthey

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