Tuesday, March 16, 2004


There's a 'D' word I'm looking for to describe the stage we appear to be at in the deflection of criticism of the high flying representative to Her Majesty in Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, and said GG's faithful steed (or stud) John Ralston Saul. And no it's not disgraceful, disgusting or despicable (can you hear Daffy Duck? "Disshhpickable!") its more like 'disengenuous'. But now that i think about it, it's disgraceful, disgusting and disshhpickable! too.
Over the past year, the spending habits of her and him-self have received justifiable crtical attention. When a 'circumpolar' PR tour/junket designed to bring Canadian culture along with 22 staffers, the GG, her consort and 59 'prominent Canadians' (a one of which your average Canadian on the street would be hard-pressed to identify) to Russia, Iceland and Greenland exceeded the already over-inflated price of a million or so by another 4 million dollars, taxpayers were naturally curious. Now that recent reports detail the use of government planes to whisk the dollar-grubbing duo to their holiday home in Georgian Bay, those who bottom-line foot the bill, have ramped up from curiousity to: 'What the ****?' Though bless us, we've long since forgotten/forgiven the costs charged back for extensive renos for the private quarters within the GG's home base when she ascended to the throne in '99, not to mention a variety of other odds and sods that add up to approximately $41 million dollars.
Money well spent, says the former TV talk show host. And why is everybody picking on me?
My newspaper of record quotes Her Madge as defending her right to spend millions upon millions of dollars of your money and mine as she sees fit, by blaming media messengers for egregious errors in reportage. Her selfless missions of mercy to outlying communities (apparently not those in cottage country) are deeply important. And whether someone criticizes her for them or not, she intends to continue to minister to said plebes.
The problem as I understand it, is that nobody save La Clarkson has even mentioned the visits to cut-off communities, or ceremonies like the blessing of fishing boats in Cartwright Labrador as a symptom of the outrageous cost overruns emanating from her official residence. I can't imagine they would. But Adrienne clearly thinks differently - her generosity in visiting the remote and the remaindered, in her estimation, has been attacked.
"A lot of little ceremonies [in remote places] that people say, 'What's the importance of that? Who cares about those little things?'" she harumphs, building up a head of indignant steam. "The people who live there care about them, and because I'm Governor-General, I care about it with them."
Such touching sentiment on behalf of the ill and un-considered huddled masses in faraway locales would be moving indeed - had anybody made any such accusations either directly or by insinuation. Trouble is, nobody has. Moot point - or 'bullshit', as the less vocabularily-gifted among us might describe it.
The justifications she and hubby John Ralston Saul (or John Ralston Purina, as the wags would have it) would be funny if they weren't so clearly self-serving. Bait and Switch, obfuscation, distraction - whatever you want to call it, taxpayers seem to be supporting less a representative of Canada, then a sideshow hustler.
Like guessing which pea resides under which cup, or which Joker is arrayed in which position in a three card con, this cynical bit of misdirection is but one in a seemingly bottomless pit of imaginative invention.
And don't think He of dogfood fame hasn't chipped in his two cents (the only affordable costs counted so far) as just the other day, Ralston Saul
appeared on television to defend his mate by answering questions about the couple's questionable use of government funds for personal enterprises, by attacking yet another messenger.
This time CITY TV's Ann Rohmer was the target.
When asked specifically if Clarkson took the government plane on multiple occasions to reach her private destination, Saul responded with a question.
“When is the last time you've been to the north?” he demanded. “Have you been to 41 Arctic communities?”
Rohmer was forced to remind Ralston Saul that in all honesty, she wasn't the Governor General.
One can only hope it didn't come as a complete surprise to the writer and crabby offical companion.
It doesn't look as though we're likely to receive straight answers - or at least those unpunctuated with whines, counter-accusations or excuses - any time soon. We can only hope the current parlimentary review will come up with some explanation... some future guidelines... even some small reason to forestall Canadians hauling the GG through the streets of Ottawa like an aristocrat dragged through the streets of Paris during the French revolution. (A comparison, if not an activity A. Clarkson is bound to enjoy.)
But hey - were used to it; scandal, patronage, out-right stealing from the public pocket - we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that government integrity is an oxymoron, the emporer has no clothes and the crown is hollow.
Empty G.G. indeed.

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