Serious sun-silliness in the summertime


The first day of summer is always a revelation. It is the day on which, in most parts of Canada (even the formerly frozen north), we may put away our winter bomber jackets and know that, in so doing, we will not be sorry. For this reason, alone, it is the day on which the news of the world is more likely to provoke chuckles than outrage.

The U.S. economy now turns a corner – its long, dark night being over – and begins to generate jobs and growth. The unemployment rate, we are told, will probably fall to under 6.5 per cent for the first time in seven years. Gross domestic product will rise to more than three per cent a year. Thousands will build houses. Thousands more will buy them. Naturally, then, the value of the average American’s retirement portfolio won’t be worth a plug nickel.

“Markets tank as end of easy money looms,” blares the headline in the Report on Business. “The upheaval began with Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernake’s observations. . .that prospects are looking up for the U.S. economy,” the story strives to explain. “Paradoxically, his forecast of better times was greeted with considerable dread among investors, coming with a likely timeline for pulling back on stimulus measures.”

My naturalized American of a brother has the right idea. In California, he plows his hard-earned dough straight into his Hollywood condo – all the better for properly hosting family and friends. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird should be so lucky to meet his acquaintance.

According to the Globe and Mail, our nation’s chief diplomat is currently “defending his New Year’s holidays at Canadian official residences abroad, arguing they were a favour from friends, rather than a perk. . .The opposition said Mr. Baird was freeloading from the public – but Mr. Baird’s office says the minister was only taking favours from friends, and it ‘did not cost taxpayers a dime.’”

Neither, apparently, did it cost Mr. Baird a dime, which is kind of the point of NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar’s rebuke: “It smacks of entitlement. . . abusing his relationship with the high commissioner to get a freebie. . .For him to have his vacation at an official residence of the government of Canada without paying one red cent is entirely inappropriate, and to bring along six of your friends complicates matters more.”

We wonder whether they made their own beds, or did residence staff “do them a Duffy”. Allegedly, the less-than-venerable senator from Prince Edward Island hasn’t made his own bed in years, though shortly he may be required to lie in it. Or so the Globe reports: “The RCMP is investigating Senator Mike Duffy for possible breach of trust in connection with payments he received during the 2011 federal election.

“Court documents show that the probe into Mr. Duffy’s affairs is being conducted by the ‘sensitive and international investigations’ detachment and focuses on whether a breach of trust occurred. It was revealed last week that the RCMP were investigating the Senate expenses affair, including a cheque from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former top aide, Nigel Wright, to Mr. Duffy.”

Some people have money; some do not. Take federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. He had a good thing going for awhile, charging charitable organizations a pretty penny to flash his pearly whites at their fundraisers. Then came Saint John’s Grace Foundation, which asked the good fellow to return the $20,000 they paid him last year to say a few words on behalf of old folks’ homes. Party poopers! Apparently, that sort of thing just isn’t done in those circles.

Still, according to a CBC report, “Trudeau, who was an MP at the time of the fundraiser, has offered to compensate charities that paid him to speak at events. He stopped accepting paid speaking engagements last year when he decided to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party.”

Ah yes, as Sly and the Family Stone once observed, it really is “hot fun in the summertime”, even here in the Great White North.

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