Le Québécois Libre, April 15, 2011, No 288.
This year, in an effort to reverse the downward trend in voter turnout, the leaders of the major federal political parties have agreed to try something a little different. In addition to the obligatory set of boring and largely pointless televised debates we sat through earlier this week, they’ve decided to take a page from the highly successful and universally acclaimed art form known as “reality television.” They’ve left their lecterns behind and set off on a series of wacky adventures that will challenge them to show their mettle, exposing their underlying character traits and fundamental beliefs for all to see. Here’s a preview of what you can expect in the final weeks of the 2011 Canadian election campaign.
The camera finds our intrepid contestants along the northeastern coast of Canada’s easternmost province. The conditions are cold and harsh. Three of them are huddled together for warmth, while the fourth stands defiantly apart, his manly moustache blowing in the blustery wind. A fifth contestant, LIZ, has already been voted off the island for being entirely irrelevant.
JACK: What are you all complaining about? It used to be a lot colder at this time of year, you know. Thanks to the hubris of humans, the Earth is warming, with catastrophic consequences… unless I triumph in this contest.
MIKE: A word of advice: if you want to have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, ixnay on the lobalgay armingway. Trust me, nobody wants to talk about that right now… On second thought, go right ahead.
STEVE: Personally, I have my doubts. Don’t we all like it better when it’s warmer? Anyway, what the world needs now is oil, sweet oil. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.
GILLES: Me, what I need right now is to be warm. Did anyone see a baby seal I could hammer to death?
STEVE: I think you mean “a young seal that has moulted its first coat and is living independently from its mother.” Here, you can use my rifle.
MIKE: Is that thing registered?
JACK: Speaking of topics to avoid with a ten-foot pole…
One of the contestants, STEVE, is in the midst of performing his latest number, accompanying himself on the piano as always because he can’t bear the thought of not controlling every last note of his message. This one is a ragtime throwback to the 1920s entitled “The Prohibition Hustle.” As he finishes the tune, the camera sweeps over the judges, who don’t seem terribly impressed.
JUDGE #1: I found that one a little weak, I’m sorry to say, Steve. It’s been done before, you know what I mean? And it wasn’t a rollicking success the first time around. Lots of bootleg copies, but not many legitimate sales, as I recall.
JUDGE #2: Yo, I definitely have to agree. It was way too rigid for my liking, way too stiff. Music needs to follow some basic rules, but other than that, it needs to be free. It’s like you locked up your mojo and threw away the key. You need to loosen up, my man!
JUDGE #3: Yes, and I think you really misjudged your audience, too. They’re ready for something a little more daring. You have to take some chances if you want to win it all.
JUDGE #4: Agreed. Not your strongest performance, Steve.
HOST: All right, there you have it: thumbs down from all four judges. But what do you, the viewers, think? Text us your vote at the end of the show. Coming up after the break, though, Mike will be performing “Let the Bill Die,” a classic made famous by Le p’tit gars de Shawinigan.
Fear Factor: Food
Our four contestants are gathered around one side of a table, facing the camera. In front of each of them is a round serving tray covered with a silver, domed lid concealing what they are about to be asked to consume. The host reaches over and removes the lids one at a time, allowing each contestant time to react. The first plate, in front of STEVE, is empty.
STEVE: What is this, a joke? You see, this is what happens if you don’t support farmers: no more food. Is that what you people want? Bare cupboards and growling stomachs from sea to sea to sea?
A second lid is lifted, revealing a poutine, cheese curds melting under the hot gravy.
MIKE: Well, I can’t eat this. It’s clearly chock full of trans fats and sodium. My arteries will clog and my blood pressure will shoot up. What? No, I’m sorry, you can’t eat it either, Gilles. Trust me, I know what’s best for you. You can tell by all the letters after my name.
A third lid comes up, this one revealing a tossed salad.
JACK: Well, this looks healthy and natural. No need for labels when the vegetables are so clearly… Wait a minute—Are those carrot shavings? Orange carrot shavings? You know that orange carrots were most likely created in the 17th century by selective breeding, don’t you? That’s right: the precursor to genetic modification! Well, if precision GMOs aren’t safe, how could clumsy hybridization techniques be any safer? No, I’m sorry, I can’t eat this.
The host lifts the final lid, exposing a gourmet filet mignon plate, and informs GILLES that it is made from the finest Kobe beef.
GILLES: Well, you know that we, in Montréal, we like the good food, for certain. And it look good, yes. But I must be true to my principle and eat only local, Québec food. Because if I eat this food, what will happen to the planet? Also, there will be no jobs for the people of Québec.
Big Brothers in Arms
Our four contestants, forced to share the same dwelling for days on end, are understandably at each other’s throats, and it’s all been captured by our many hidden cameras. As we join them in the living room, they are sprawled out on the sofa and chairs arguing about the propriety of spending taxpayers’ money to send young Canadians to die on foreign shores.
JACK: We need to bring our men and women in uniform home from Afghanistan like we said we would, and instead of buying new jets, we need to take that money and give it back.
STEVE: To Canadian taxpayers?
JACK: To the poor nations of the world who are only poor because we exploited them.
MIKE: You’re right that we’re overpaying for those jets, but the people of Afghanistan need us to finish the job we started.
GILLES: Maybe we should have think of that before we started that job.
STEVE: Well, what about Libya? Are you all sorry that we’re involved there?
They all speak at once, tripping over themselves to agree that of course Canada needs to be involved in enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya. They then fall silent and squirm uncomfortably in their seats. Crickets can be heard chirping off in the distance.
Balancing with the Stars
The scene is chaotic. All four contestants are stumbling around the stage, juggling taxes and spending initiatives, job creation schemes and power development projects. The surface of the stage is sloping and uneven, with hillocks and potholes scattered randomly about. Balls are being dropped left and right, with the contestants frequently bumping into one another. It all mercifully comes to an end, and the two commentators discuss what they’ve witnessed.
COMMENTATOR #1: Well, that was not very impressive, was it? I got the feeling they were all trying to do too much, didn’t you?
COMMENTATOR #2: Yes, definitely. They’ve got so many balls in the air, they can’t possibly keep them all up there and maintain their balance, too. Why don’t any of them think to reduce the burdens of both taxes and spending? There’s no rule against that, is there?
COMMENTATOR #1: And credit card fee caps? Boy, when was the last time we saw someone pull that one out? Didn’t Jack realize that would lead to more reckless borrowing?
COMMENTATOR #2: You’re absolutely right about that. And what about the bailouts? I know they’ve been popular lately, but I thought young Steve was dead set against that kind of chicanery. What made him decide to go there?
COMMENTATOR #1: Your guess is as good as mine. And it’s strange how rare it is to see a contestant stay on the flat part of the stage, isn’t it? So much easier to remain in balance over there, but they avoid setting foot anywhere near that area.
COMMENTATOR #2: Next!
The Not-So-Amazing Race
Unfortunately, after viewing all of these special election reality shows, you may still find it hard to find a real winner in the bunch. There doesn’t seem to be a single one of them who really believes that the money you earn belongs to you. They’re all pretty much convinced that we’re too dumb to be left to our own devices, too. They think they can spend large chunks of our money better than we can—and they want to tell us what we can and can’t do with the remainder, as well.
We should sit them down at the boardroom table and fire the lot of them. Go and rethink your views, we should say. Pick up a book once in a while, one that challenges your pre-conceived notions and isn’t based on defunct economists like Keynes and Marx. And get some exercise. You’re bloated and lazy, and it’s pretty clear who the biggest loser is as a result: the Canadian citizen. So step aside, all of you, and give your place to someone who will respect our right—and give us back the means—to make our own decisions.
* Bradley Doucet is a writer living in Montreal. He has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also is QL's English Editor.