Wednesday 07 Dec 2016

Celebrity Democracy
David Simmonds

You can bet that neither the Conservatives nor the NDP are taking this Justin Trudeau business lying down. Plan A, of course, is to expose him as a well-coiffed puffball. Plan B is to turn on the charm of the existing players. Yet, it is plan C, which means going celebrity to celebrity, that has my attention.

Plan A is no secret. So let’s move on and get plan B out of the way quickly as well. I just can’t see how Stephen eyes-of-a-mackerel-teeth-of-a-shark Harper is going to be transformed by the image makeover people. It didn’t work for Vladimir Putin, despite the hang gliders and bare chest; Stephen Harper is no Vladimir Putin. Nor can I see it working for Thomas Mulcair, of the NDP, unless your idea of a charismatic leader is the guy who always likes to win the argument at a Department of Sociology sherry party. As for charismatic successors coming down the pipe, I don’t see any. Prime Minister Van Loan? Prime Minister Turmel? The names just don’t ring true.

We’re on to plan C, which is, to say, “Well, if they’re leading trumps, we’ll trump their trumps.” In other words, both the Conservatives and the New Democrats should go the celebrity succession route.

The choice for the Conservatives is obvious, it’s Ben Mulroney. Check the checklist: handsome, quick witted, prime ministerial lineage, plus access to all the stars. He matches up with Trudeau line for line, he even attended Trudeau’s wedding. Needless to say, he has already learned, and is therefore unlikely to repeat, a painful family political lesson: never be caught in an airport hotel room accepting brown envelopes of cash from German businessmen with an agenda.

The choice for the NDP is also pretty obvious. Remember who was voted the most important Canadian of all time? It just so happens that the late Tommy Douglas is the grandfather of the well-known Hollywood actor, Kiefer Sutherland. He comes from Hollywood royalty as well; you can still hear the voice of his father, the actor Donald Sutherland, in about every commercial message that isn’t already narrated by Gordon Pinsent or Christopher Plummer. There’s an action hero for you, with a resume that’s triple the size of those of the two younger pretty boys.

The Conservatives and the NDP are in position to put forward celebrity candidates of equal stature to Justin Trudeau. How then do we have it out among them to determine the best candidate? We can’t expect celebrities to be deep thinkers about what they call ‘policy’, so on what basis do we choose?

This is where new techniques and social media could really play a big role. For example, we could have a television show, streamed on to the internet and to smart phones with a special 'app,' entitled “Battle of the Network Prime Ministers,” which sets the three leaders up against one another in a contest, the winner of which is determined by the public. Categories could include general and historical knowledge; best hairdressing secret; flattest abdomen; biggest celebrity known personally; most endearing trait; most egregious exploitation of celebrity status coupled with appropriate humility, and so on.

The winner would go on to be declared prime minister, and each would be entitled to choose a caucus based on the percentage of the popular vote he obtained. Each prime minister would then serve for two ratings seasons, to avoid short term pandering, at which time a fresh contest would be held.

By selecting a prime minister in this way, we would be spared the expense, inconvenience and shame of a general election. Remember, the robo-calls investigation is not over and we still await the Supreme Court of Canada ruling, which may or may not overturn a lower court decision to set aside the election result in a Toronto riding over voter registration anomalies.

By the same token, what better way to engage the public than to have a companion program, a ‘celebrity recall’ event? If the prime minister took a totally unpopular and therefore obviously wrong decision, such as trying to reduce the deficit on the backs of ordinary Canadians, or a challenger wanted to take on an incumbent party leader, he or she could be replaced in a “Battle of the Network Party Leaders.” To avoid frivolity, of course, you would have to establish a certain threshold level to signal consideration of a change was warranted. That threshold might be crossed, for example, if 50 per cent of the numbers a candidate won with had ‘unfriended’ him or her on Facebook. In that way, we could be assured of always having a celebrity as prime minister, because anyone who got enough votes to challenge the incumbent celebrity would be, well, a celebrity too.

That’s just scratching the surface of the democratic reforms that could be undertaken with a Trudeau candidacy. Let’s bring him on; and may the most endearing performer win.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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