I'm not sure what would happen in Ottawa if you referred to next week's federal budget as "the budget" and not "Economic Action Plan 2013," which the government insists is its proper baptismal name.
Perhaps the rebranding police would come along and, next thing you know, you'd be sitting in the hoosegow with some old codger in chains who'd forgotten to put "Harper" in front of "government" or deprived "Canadian navy" of the word "royal."
There's a mania for rebranding around these parts, as The Globe's Jill Mahoney has reported. The latest edict from Ottawa insists that everyone refer to the army as the Canadian Armed Forces, presumably a reminder that our soldiers carry guns into war and not, let's say, cheese knives and stuffed otters. It's all very serious, this business of remodelling the country's image, or why else would the government spend so much time worrying about it?
Other countries, too, make painstaking efforts to shape their brands for the global stage, some more successfully than others. You can only feel sorry for the Balkan country that came up with the tourism slogan "I feel Slovenia," though it's marginally better than "I feel Slovenians." The government of Thailand has hired Canada's own maestro of marketing, Tyler Brȗlé, to update its image, but it's hard to see how you could improve on a country that already boasts beautiful ladyboys and magic-mushroom omelettes. Maybe next year it'll be called Tyland.
"Whoever is in charge of promoting Canada abroad completely has their heads up their asses," celebrity chief Anthony Bourdain said on his show The Layover. "It's all bears and swatting salmon." With that in mind, the website Brandchannel recently looked at what qualities Canada possessed as a brand. Look away now, faint of heart: "The Canadian character," it concluded, "does not lend itself to bold communications." This, of course, need not be the case. We can leverage our strengths – our surly pop stars, our surlier government – to leap onto the world stage. Consider how we might recast ourselves.
Biebland: Canadians of a certain age will remember Quintland, the popular theme park where the Dionne quintuplets were put on display in the 1930s. As the first human zoo, Quintland presaged reality TV – and made a ton of cash.
Just imagine how much more lucrative it would be to keep troubled young star Justin Bieber in captivity. Specially trained keepers would be on hand to arrange his pants at precisely the right bum-baring angle, while whispering the names of his hits to keep him calm. Justin's spelling lessons might coincide with school group visits, for educational value. Celine Dion would surely sing the occasional lullaby, and Carly Rae Jepsen could throw Timbits over the fence. Imagine the endless queues of Beliebers! Imagine how quiet Twitter would be! The entrance fee alone could eliminate the deficit.
Canada – Because Math is Hard: We could use this slogan to sell ourselves to anyone who ever failed high-school algebra. Just as we once provided sanctuary to draft dodgers and runaway slaves, we might now welcome the innumerate and those who suffer from arithmophobia. This isn't a country that worships data, at the moment.
After a stormy tenure, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page is about to leave his job, which involves helping MPs keep an eye on government spending. His work seemed to resemble horse dentistry more than finance in that he spent most of his time trying to wrench information out of skittish government officials. The job posting seeks someone "impartial, tactful and discreet." And, possibly, good at math.
While we're on the subject, how many other countries can boast that two of their top statisticians have quit in the past three years? If I may paraphrase Oscar Wilde: To lose one number-cruncher may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
We're No. 11: Canada's recent tumble down the UN's Human Development Index need not be a bad thing. We now have an opportunity to sell our most prized assets – modesty, ambivalence and a deep sense of comfort in the middle of the road. Let Norway crow about being No. 1. At least we can count to 11. Sort of.
Beyond Thunder (Bay) Dome: If modesty doesn't win us friends, then violence will. Stop listening to bleeding hearts who think NHL players should be allowed to retire with their brains still inside their heads. Hockey fighting is what made this country great. Well, hockey fighting and agricultural subsidies. Just imagine how much more exciting the sport would be if, before every game, the announcer's voice boomed through the arena: "Two men enter, one man leaves … on a stretcher."
If hockey's too retro, consider this: Two Canadian women have advanced to the top ranks of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a sport so bristling in kicks and punches that it could be the Senate on expense-reimbursement day.
Canada has rebuilt itself before. We have the technology. We have the budget – I mean the Economic Action Plan 2013. Let's use it.