They said that if I searched long enough, hard enough and deep enough — I’d eventually find something to admire about Stephen Harper. That’s Stephen Harper the Prime Minister, you understand.
I don't know Harper the man very well. In fact, I don't know him at all and am prepared to keep it that way without too much loss of sleep. Perhaps I'm being too hard on the man, but considering how hard he's being on me as a pensioner, a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, and a Canadian I’m not worried too much about it.
I heard a story about Mr. Harper just this past week from an impeccable source. Seems St. Peter was showing this man around heaven and pointing out areas of interest. The man noticed that there were several clocks on display on the shelves lining the halls and corridors, and asked what they were for.
“Oh,” the saint replied, “these are clocks that tick whenever the person who owns them tells a lie. For example, the clock on your right has never ticked — it belongs to Mother Teresa. The clock next to it has only ticked once — it belongs to Abraham Lincoln.”
“I see,” the man said. “What about that space where there’s no clock?”
“That's where Stephen Harper’s clock used to be,” Peter replied. “I took it back to my own room.”
“Why would you have it back there?”
“Because it ticks so fast I like to use it as a fan on hot nights.”
You may not believe it, but that’s a true story. Would St. Peter lie?
You will have read elsewhere that the prime minister has negotiated with the People’s Republic of China for the loan of two adult giant panda bears for 10 years. Aha, you say, what a coup. No other prime minister in our history has been able to manage it. Perhaps that’s because those other prime ministers looked into the arrangements a little more carefully. The devil, as they say, is in the details.
Before getting to that, however, I should point out that I did a little survey around the province to see how people generally felt about it. A woman from Bumblebee Bight thought it was a great idea.
“I’d go to see them everyday,” she said, “even if it costs a loony every time.”
I pointed out gently that the pandas would be going to zoos in Toronto and Calgary.
“I thought they’d be coming to Pilly’s Island,” she said. “That crowd out west got everything. That’s Stephen Harper looking out for his friends.”
A man from Nain said he didn’t give a rats posterior one way or the other. So did a fellow from Croke except he didn’t say “posterior.” (Gotta love those people from Croke — it’s where I spent the first winter of my life while my father and his family cut logs for their sawmill in St. Anthony. I wasn’t a lot of help.)
Told a young boy in Grade 6 from Grate’s Cove about Harper bringing over adult pandas from China and asked what he thought of it. His reaction surprised me.
“I think they should be set loose on the Funk Islands in the middle of February,” he said. “Let’s see how they’d handle that.
“Surely you don’t expect pandas to survive in a place like that,” I protested.
“Not the pandas,” he cried in horror. “The Harper Conservatives.”
I shook hands with him warmly and thought of what a great job our teachers must be doing to be developing young minds with those insights. Come to think of it one of the best teachers I ever had was from Grate’s Cove. His last name was Noel.
China has been known to charge $1 million administration fee simply for loaning the animals to another country, and that’s just the beginning of it.
A couple from Rose Blanche ventured the opinion that the Canadian taxpayer would probably have to feed them as well.
“No doubt they eat IAMS,” he said. “Won’t be any no-name brand for them. Costs a fortune.”
“Yes,” his wife agreed, “not much bamboo growing around here. Probably have to bring it in from Cuba.”
I hesitated to tell them that some experts have suggested the cost of keeping them for a decade would be about $19 million. Others have speculated that in order to build a panda pavilion, it might be necessary to downgrade the beaver and black bear exhibits.
Don’t suppose the Japanese would be willing to shell out a few million to us for some seals. We can throw in a few pelts, a few dozen flippers, a dozen cases of seal oil and, if necessary, John Efford.
No one knows what deals Harper has made with the Chinese in order that Torontonians and Calgarians can gaze their fill at cute, furry animals that would rip you apart as fast as any grizzly. He’s talking free trade with the Chinese. If that wouldn’t cause the hackles on your neck to rise ...
Someone once said that Canada living next door to the U.S. of A is like a mouse being in bed with an elephant, or something like that. Basically, what it means is that when you get screwed it’s really going to hurt. Now you might consider the population of China compared with our own.But deals can be made when one has the will to make them. China wants our natural resources, such as our oil our minerals and our food.
A lot of mouths to feed over there. We have a few seals over here as well as a scattered fish. I wonder if the word fish came up as often as the word wheat. And I wonder if the word seals was mentioned at all.
Oh yes, you know the “they" in "they said” in the first sentence of this column? “They” were wrong.
Ed Smith lives in Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.