By Mark Steyn, Sunday, 01 May 2011
Here’s an unusual stroke of luck: On the eve of election day, all that stands between Canada and an historic political realignment is Jack Layton’s “happy ending” in a Toronto massage parlour. It’s not unusual in election campaigns for something to pop up at the last minute but I hadn’t expected it to be the NDP leader’s …oh, never mind, you don’t really need a professional for this, do you?
Before the revelations of Mr Layton’s encounter with Toronto’s vice squad, the Grits were on course to an unprecedented defeat. The Liberal Party of Canada is the most successful political party in the western world: It governed the nation for over two-thirds of the 20th century – a grip on power in a G7 nation unmatched by the US Democrats, the British Tories or anybody else. Its worst election result was the Dominion of Canada’s very first, back in 1867, when its share of the vote was a smidgeonette under 23 per cent. It was all but certain to do worse than that tomorrow night. And for the first time in the nation’s history the Liberals would be neither the Government nor the Official Opposition, but down in the also-rans vying with the Bloc Québécois for third place.
And then suddenly Happy Jack’s happy hour at what he calls a “community clinic” came along and put a big question mark over the NDP’s happy ending. When something unexpected breaks on the weekend before an election, it’s not an accident, and it always happens to the party doing well: You put it out there, there’s no time to poll, there’s barely time to do all but the most perfunctory damage control. Andrew Coyne, Jonathan Kay and, of course, Catsmeat Kinsella are among the media types bragging that they knew all about this story two years ago but, unlike Mr Layton, decided to keep it buttoned up. Mr Kay says it was a “Liberal fixer” who told him, and certainly this last minute leak has the Grits’ sticky fingers all over it. I mean, I’d like to think the Tory oppo-research hit team were nimble enough to plant this and frame the Liberals, but there’s not a lot of evidence they’re anywhere near that good. Whereas a party of such renowned “ass-kickers” as the Liberals would surely be savvy enough to figure out that if they broke this on Sun TV they might easily damage both their political opponents. Either way, poor old Jack never saw it comi …oh, forget it.
In normal circumstances, the revelation that a party leader had been found naked during a police raid on a house of ill repute would surely put a dent in his chances of being either Prime Minister or Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. But in this instance I’m not so sure Jacked Layton won’t enjoy a sudden last-minute surge. The dominant narrative of this election campaign has been the shrinkage of the post-Chrétien Liberal Party, and Masturgate (or Wankerquiddick, according to taste) doesn’t so much arrest it as confirm it. As I wrote six years ago:
Every week or so I get an e-mail along the following lines: “I was wondering if you could tell me what are the beliefs and philosophy of the Liberal Party of Canada.” It’s usually from a student of politics in America, Britain, New Zealand, India or Denmark, raising his eyes from the local scene and momentarily stunned into fascination by the dominance, unmatched in the free world, of the deranged Dominion’s ruling party. But that’s looking at it the wrong way. In a one-party state, the one party in power attracts not those interested in the party, but those interested in power.
So, when the “natural governing party” finds itself in the unnatural state of not governing, it has a huge number of hacks, opportunists, careerists and other mediocrities frantic to get back to enjoying their perks. The more high-minded ones think the answer is a philosopher-king like Trudeau. But there are none to hand within the jurisdiction, so they import a philosopher-king across the water from Harvard and the BBC. Alas, seeking to find a message that resonates with the people, the philosopher-king, unlike Mr Layton’s masseuse, can’t quite put his finger on it. And so the less high-minded hacks and opportunists decide that, with the once powerful party machine rusting up before their eyes, they might as well take it out for a spin one last time.
I gather the NDP spokeslady pointed out that, apropos Mr Layton’s Saturday night special, no charges were laid. Isn’t that an old vaudeville routine? Because the evidence wouldn’t stand up in court? Oh, well. “I went for a massage at a community clinic,” Layton told reporters in Burnaby, BC. “The police advised it wasn’t the greatest place to be, so I left and I never went back.”
Sure. Pity they didn’t say the same thing about his appointment at CASMO. Either that, or this is the new Islamist massage parlour and the otherwise attractive hostess has a faint touch of five o’clock shadow as she presents Jack with a souvenir clock showing the time he promised the Taliban he’d pull out by.
When this whole sorry episode is over, Iggy will be telling pretty much the same story to US Immigration about his long vacation: “I went for a quickie in Canada. Shortly after 7pm on Monday night I was advised it wasn’t the greatest place to be, so I left and I never went back.”
This is the way the Liberal world ends, not with a bang but a …oh, to hell with it.