Today’s topic is busts—Wildrose Party Leader, Danielle Smith’s bus(t) and PC Minister of Education Tom Lukaszuk’s bust (as in “gotcha”).
Let’s start with Danielle Smith’s bus. I’m sure you’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it. What strikes me as bizarre is why the bus (or rather the bus tires) were newsworthy in the first place, eliciting comments (on The National no less) like “If they can’t paint a bus right, how can they run the government?”
Pause for a minute to consider how inane that comment is. The commentator decided the bus was painted wrong. Why was it wrong? Because Danielle’s photo is positioned over the rear bus tires. Why was this positioning wrong? Because the bus tires look like breasts. Really? To me they looked like bus tires. However I suppose if you’re a pimply faced prepubescent boy you’d see the juxtaposition of bus tires and Danielle’s face as something titillating (oops, sorry, don’t want to get those prepubescent boys all riled up again).
Equally inane was the reaction of Clare Beckton, executive director of Carleton University’s centre for women in politics and public leadership in Ottawa, who said this type of thing makes women think twice about running for political office and (it gets even better) stories like this “continue to reinforce stereotypes about women… they tend to focus on women’s bodies instead of focusing on what women bring to the table in terms of their competencies.” Naomi Lakritz’s reaction was priceless. “What stereotypes? That underneath those tailored jackets women wear in the boardroom, there are breasts the size of bus tires?”*
So on behalf of all the women wearing tailored jackets let me say this…guys, grow up.
Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest (oops, sorry) consider the antics of the PC’s newest resident bad boy—Education Minister, Tom Lukaszuk.
During a province-wide telephone town hall meeting Mr Lukaszuk was asked by a constituent represented by Wildrose Party MLA Rob Anderson why Airdrie had not received two desperately needed portables to ease the overcrowding in its schools. Mr Lukaszuk (who was hand-picked by Ms Redford for this cabinet post) replied, “You know what? I’m really itching to say it, so I will, even though I know I shouldn’t, but the first thing you can do is, actually, in Airdrie call your MLA and ask him not to oppose me in the Legislature” on infrastructure funding.**
And here we thought that the decision on where schools are built and when they’d be refurbished was based on objective criteria like the student population demographics, the age and condition of the building and available capital. Apparently the overriding consideration is whether the minister controlling the purse strings feels put upon by an opposition member who asks legitimate questions in the Legislature.
Mr Anderson “busted” Mr Lukaszuk in the Legislature. He described Mr Lukaszuk’s comments as arrogant and stupid and asked the Premier to fire this bad boy. Ms Redford’s response? “I think what the Minister of Education said was entirely appropriate.”*** Ms Redford’s rationale? Mr Lukaszuk’s comment was a legitimate discussion about alternative funding models and the importance of infrastructure spending—in other words a policy discussion (!!) Based on that rationale she concluded that “It’s certainly within his purview to make those comments.”***
I’d be the first to agree a policy discussion is well within Mr Lukaszuk’s (or any MLA’s) purview. But even Mr Lukaszuk knew he wasn’t making a policy statement but rather taking a jab at his nemesis across the aisle. Why else would he preface his comment with the phrase ”I’m really itching to say it, so I will, even though I know I shouldn’t”.
By cloaking Mr Lukaszuk’s inappropriate comment in the blanket of policy discussions, Ms Redford gave Mr Lukaszuk and others like him free rein to threaten voters in non-PC constituencies with reduced services in the hopes that they’ll see the light and vote PC in the next election.
The trouble with “bad boys” is that they really believe they have the right to be bad. “Little” bad boys say stupid things and sucker other little boys (like those in the media) into their childish games and voila we end up with a “news” story about Danielle’s bus. The mature response to “little” bad boys is to tell them to grow up and repaint the bus.
“Big” bad boys flash their power and make trouble for the sheer joy of it. In the political world, big bad boys are tolerated as long as they continue to deliver (case in point—Ron Liepert who coincidently also started out as Education Minister). But there should be no place for big bad boys in government because when they puff out their chests and throw their weight around they don’t hurt each other, they hurt us.
The mature response to “big” bad boys is to send them packing.
*Winnipeg Free Press Online, Mar 24, 2012
**Hansard Mar 20, 2012, p 664
*** Hansard Mar 20, 2012, p 667