The Commons: Vic Toews' real world - Macleans.ca

The Commons: Vic Toews’ real world

Imagining what other reality TV shows the government might approve of

by

The NDP’s Randall Garrison stood and declared the country to be taken aback.

“Canadians across the country are shocked that he personally approved filming immigration raids for reality TV,” Mr. Garrison reported, referring to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. “This is not some episode of Cops. These are real people and real officers doing a dangerous job. Filming is exploitative and can put individuals in danger.”

The producers of Border Security might rather Mr. Garrison describe their show as “a dynamic documentary series that offers viewers a front row seat to high stakes, bizarre reveals, and comical conflicts that are part of everyday life for border security officers,” but “real people and real officers doing a dangerous job” might easily be clipped for the next promotional poster.

“How could the minister be so reckless?” Mr. Garrison wondered. “Will he take responsibility and put an immediate end to this dangerous and offensive PR stunt?”

The New Democrats stood to applaud this query.

The concern here involves the presence of television cameras during the recent arrest of eight migrant workers in British Columbia—part of a reality TV show on the National Geographic channel (home as well of Wicked Tuna and Doomsday Preppers), as formally endorsed by Mr. Toews.

“Mr. Speaker, the show is about the situation faced daily by our front-line border officers. The privacy of individuals is protected at all times,” he read from a blue piece of paper. “However, it is important to remember that illegal immigrants cost law-abiding Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars each year and thousands of jobs. We expect the CBSA to enforce Canada’s immigration laws by removing individuals who take advantage of Canada’s generous immigration system by jumping the queue.”

And so if illegal immigrants are to steal our jobs and waste our money, they should at least be willing to provide us with some form of escapist and informative entertainment in the process.

Indeed, perhaps rather than condemn this program, we should recognize the possibilities it raises for further reality shows about the inner workings of the federal government and how exciting all sorts of things might seem when set to rock music. Imagine Defence Procurement: The quest to figure out how many billions more this new thing is going to end up costing or G8 Legacy: One’s man attempt to visit every gazebo, bike rack and public washroom that was paid for by the Border Infrastructure Fund or Omnibus: An intimate look at the life of the bureaucrat whose job it was to proofread all 753 clauses of C-38 or Price-on-Carbon Preppers: Joe Oliver and Peter Kent prepare you for the apocalypse. A whole network might be maintained, with game shows like Find the Budget Cut and Who Wants To Be Intergovernmental Affairs Minister?(something like The Bachelor), documentaries like Kevin Page: History’s Greatest Monster and a nightly backbencher-hosted newscast entitled Talking Points. The prestige centrepiece of the network would be a big-budget fantasy drama entitled Senate Reform.

“The minister has no consideration for those people who, for reasons that are unknown, decided to put their lives in danger to flee their country,” lamented Rosane Doré Lefebvre. “He should think a bit before turning this into a reality show.”

That is surely one way of looking at it. Another is to embrace Border Security as perhaps currently the most transparent thing about the federal government.

“Mr. Speaker, the show is about the situation faced daily by our front-line border officers. The privacy of individuals is protected at all times,” Mr. Toews repeated. “It is important to remember that illegal immigrants cost law-abiding Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars each year and thousands of jobs. We expect the CBSA to enforce Canada’s immigration laws by removing individuals who take advantage of Canada’s generous immigration system by jumping the queue.”

Alexandrine Latendresse, the diminutive New Democrat, was unimpressed. “Mr. Speaker, for the cameras, no substance!” she shot back. “For them, human dramas are a good opportunity to make a television show. Bravo!”

Awhile later, it was Liberal Kevin Lamoureux fussing about the program. Once more, Mr. Toews returned to his feet to read his remarks. “Mr. Speaker, the show is about the situations faced daily by our front line border officers. The privacy of individuals is respected at all times. It is important to remember that illegal immigrants cost law-abiding Canadian taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year and they cost the member’s constituents, our constituents, thousands of jobs. We expect the CBSA to enforce Canada’s immigration laws by removing individuals who take advantage of Canada’s generous immigration system by jumping the queue.”

Whatever his interest in reality television, this much from Mr. Toews was rather scripted. He will likely have to be a bit more interesting if he hopes to make it into the next episode of Border Security.