Wednesday 07 Dec 2016

Doing a Benedict
David Simmonds

The Pope Benedict retirement has people talking. I say, good for him to admit his limitations and not feel forced by tradition to stay on until the end.

The list of people who should follow suit or should have long ago is lengthy. Near the top of my list are Dalton McGuinty, the late Dick Clark, Don Cherry, The Rolling Stones and anyone who appears in those intensely annoying PBS fundraiser specials, like “Greatest Hits of the Doo-Wop years, featuring an once-in-a-lifetime reunion of The Casseroles.” Once in a lifetime is once too many, boys.

There are other more intriguing names to consider. Our current PM is one name we should add to the list. Less than completely loved, the PM must start thinking, having already served as PM for eight years and at age 53, with still enough capacity to take on another career, that it’s time to move on.

My sense is that he must be saying to himself, “How much longer can I stand being around this herd of cats? If it’s not Brazeau or Duffy, it’s Toews or MacKay. If it’s not fighter jets, it’s robocalls.” At some point, one of his less than merry crew is going to go loco on him.

That’s how politics works. His career batting average has much more chance of going down than it does up. Does Harper want to risk sullying his reputation, or get out while he’s ahead?

Besides, Harper must be getting awfully tired trying to remember he has to smile and look kindly, even when asked the most ridiculous question in the world. How long can he keep the pretence up?

My theory is he’s already looking for a soft landing and, if not, he wouldn’t take much persuading. What jobs would suit him? He obviously isn’t a greeter at Wal-Mart or for that matter its pin-striped-suited equivalent, a ‘Senior Vice Chairman for Public Affairs for a Major Canadian Chartered Bank.’

There is one brass ring position that has just opened up, the papacy. There is of course the problem that Harper is neither a Catholic nor a Cardinal, although he does possess the essential credential of infallibility. Nevertheless, the chances of his being the name beneath the white smoke are small.

What’s a more realistic prestige job for the Prime Minister of Canada? You know, the fellow who’s about to publish a book on the history of hockey this fall. Hockey, now, there’s a thought.

I referred to Don Cherry a moment ago. If Cherry would move aside, Harper could take over “Coach’s Corner,” on Hockey Night in Canada (HNC). Harper could easily learn the Cherry shtick; his ranting skills are good, given his experience in caucus. With a little training, I’m sure that he could learn to drop his gees and replace them with ‘kays.

It would be a smooth transition from Cherry’s, “It’s a dumb game fought by good Canadian boys, not sissy Europeans,” to “Those western Canadian guys really know how to build a firewall round the net, not like those eastern Canadian floaters.”

The only difficulty would be sartorial. I, for one, would counsel Harper not to follow suit, so to speak, with Cherry. Forget about the over-the-top jackets and ties and go for, say, a different fleece-top look every week. It would be cheaper, too.

The problem is that if the CBC were going to get rid of Cherry, it would have done so years ago. Cherry gives no outward sign of weariness, as did Pope Benedict. In fact, Cherry seems to look younger each year.

I don’t think there’s room for both Cherry and Harper. Harper is no Ron MacLean straight man. He isn’t used to being interruptions and dismissals, with a wave of the hand.

Let’s stick with hockey. Is there anyone out there more disliked than Gary Bettman, the NHL Commissioner who makes $8 million a year and has put hockey fans through one obliterated and two strike-shortened seasons. Yet, he has been in the job for 20 years and re-upped, not long ago.

Bettman should consider doing a Benedict and heading for the exit door. Stephen Harper might just slide into the vacated slot quite smoothly. Knowledgeable, always right, unbending, unafraid to be unpopular; Harper checks all the right boxes.

Dealing with NHL owners would be a piece of cake compared to dealing with his caucus. He might even take the job for about half what Bettman is paid. It may be less prestigious than Coach’s Corner, but if HNC were not available, the post of Commissioner would be a smooth landing. Canadian voters would think good thoughts about NHL owners. It would free up the Prime Ministership for, well, you know whom.

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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