Is it too soon to nominate the 2010 Maclean’s Parliamentarian of the Year? Because I vote for Senator Mike Duffy. Other politicians may achieve the improbable—passing a private member’s bill, for instance, or shutting up for two consecutive seconds (keep trying, John Baird)—but the former TV show host has done the impossible: he has made the people of Canada actually pay attention to a senator.
For decades now, being appointed to the upper chamber has been like joining a club—not a cool club like the Friars Club or even a useful club like the Hair Club for Men, but a club whose proceedings go entirely unnoticed by society at large. Think of it as Fight Club but with naps instead of fist fights.
At first, Duffy seems to fit right in. He has travelled the country making the kinds of speeches that senators are known for making (the kind that, if dullness were venom, could incapacitate a water buffalo).
In Kamloops, B.C., this past summer, Duffy boldly came out in favour of . . . trees. The headline in the local newspaper read, “Use More Wood, Senator Urges”—which was either a direct appeal by Mike Duffy to Canada’s construction industry or Viagra’s least effective slogan-spokesman combination ever.
In Kelowna, Duffy revealed startling news about legislative procedure: “Once you get in there, you realize that every piece of legislation passed by Parliament has to go through the Senate prior to adoption.” Holy nutballs, do the Fathers of Confederation know about this?? Someone alert the ghost of Adams Archibald.
But even then, there were signs that Mike Duffy was not going to go gentle into that good salary.
For some reason, he started talking about how he’d never had any interest in being appointed to the Senate. No interest in the Senate? Mike Duffy?? Come now. Mike Duffy was not interested in the Senate the way Kirstie Alley is not interested in whether you’re going to finish that burrito. The final three years of Duffy’s television show were so blatant an audition for a Senate appointment that he practically held up a sign saying, “Will work for sinecure.”
Then Duffy made the claim that he’d wanted to go into the upper chamber not as a Conservative but as an Independent. And man, he was soooo passionately devoted to the principle of serving as an Independent that he completely and utterly resisted being a Conservative right up until the moment Stephen Harper politely asked him. Which makes Duffy pretty much just like the Braveheart guy, right? They may take our lives but they’ll never take our . . . —wait, you’re going to do what to my head? Whoa, whoa, you can have Scotland.
Over the past several months, the allegedly Independent Duffy has become so hyper-partisan that his 2009 tax return will have to list the Prime Minister’s posterior as the common-law spouse of his lips.
He told one audience: “Your federal government is moving heaven and earth, literally, to protect Canadians from the economic downturn.” He urged another to “become born-again Canadians [and] explain to our kids, our families and our neighbours why the Conservatives are the party they can count on to work for them and for their values.” (Born-again Canadians? Makes sense, I guess. To paraphrase Jesus, only those who are born again shall be able to see the glory of oversized novelty cheques in their ridings.)
Duffy even filmed an infomercial, distributed to loyal Conservatives by email, in which he went on about how great Canada is doing, how great it is to be doing so great and—above all—how all greaty great it is that all this greatness is on account of Stephen Harper. The “strong leadership of Stephen Harper.” The “decisive steps” of Stephen Harper. The “loving hands and rippling torso of Stephen Harper.” (I may be paraphrasing.)
Most recently, Duffy appeared on CBC News Network’s national politics show and engaged in an instantly legendary debate with New Democrat Peter Stoffer. Stoffer was there to make the point that Harper had famously pledged never to appoint senators—but then went and appointed 27 of them, and they’re going to cost Canadians $177 million over the span of their terms. Duffy, meanwhile, was there to make the point that BWAAAAAAHHHH! PETER STOFFER IS A FAKER!!!! HE’S A BIG FAT FAKER WHO FAKES AND IS A JOKE AND IS A FAKER!!!!!! (That isn’t a direct transcript—his comments are toned down to seem less hysterical.)
Duffy’s year of living partisanly is enough to make one suspect that Stephen Harper is committed to Senate reform after all—he’s just going about it all sneaky-like, shrewdly moving Canadians toward a consensus in favour of any constitutional amendment that would get rid of the bald man who keeps squealing “FAKER!!!” on the TV. The Prime Minister has sent Mike Duffy on a double-secret mission to take down the Canadian Senate from within. So far, so good.