Maxed Out 

The blockbusters of the summer of 2002

By G.D. Maxwell

I feel as though I’m living through a bad sequel. Grumpy Old Men III: The Leadership Race . You’ll bust a gut laughing as Jean and Paul, formerly rivals in Grumpy Old Men I , then uncomfortable roommates in the first sequel, duke it out over which one of them gets to hold the country’s remote control and choose what we all watch in this latest installment.

Yes, they’re at it again. The irascible Little Guy from Shawinigan, whose antics have delighted us for nearly a decade as he punched out and pepper sprayed protesters, padded the pockets of Friends of Liberals in La Belle Province, rebuked younger rivals with his dithering on whether he was staying or leaving and, of course, made mincemeat of both official languages, is hitting the summer hustings like Marathon Man .

Is it safe? Who knows?

The latest uncertainty over whether Big Jean will take another stab at running the country is most characteristic of a petulant child who, having tired of playing with a once favourite toy, expresses renewed interest in it whenever someone else makes a grab for it. While having spent most of his third mandate steering the ship of state like Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny – indecisively and often in circles – Jean’s come staggering out of his corner like Anthony Quinn in Requiem for a Heavyweight now that it looks like there’s gonna be a fight.

The uncharitable among us might describe Jean’s current style of governance, at least the laissez faire, do nothing approach he’s showered the country with in the past couple of years, as Dead Man Walking . But now that what’s left of his heart has been jump-started with an injection of leadership race adrenaline, we can expect an abrupt policy change back to his old standby, Promises! Promises! , as he suddenly remembers the account numbers to unlock some of the billions the Auditor General was scratching her head about.

It seems as though, after a decade of having no effective opposition from the Progressive Conservatives or Reform-Alliance – Dumb and Dumber – the Liberals have decided the only way to level the playing field is to commit suicide. Why now? Blame it on biology.

Paul Martin’s biological clock is ticking louder than a cheap Rolex knockoff. So close in age to Big Jean as to make the difference a rounding error, Paul has succumbed to the mortal fear that he will not live long enough to fulfil his vision of Canada. What, I hear you say, is Paul’s vision of Canada? That he, Paul Martin Jr., will succeed where his daddy, Paul Martin Sr., failed and become Prime Minister of all Canadians.

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