I’ve never really liked Peter MacKay, to be honest, but I feel quite bad for him in the latest phony scandal from Ottawa. MacKay was so audacious as to send a feel-good message to recipients of the Conservatives’ e-mail list for Mother’s and Father’s Days. True to script, the right-wing “chauvinist” (that’s Chrystia Freeland’s word) praised women for their role in raising children and husbands for their role as providers.
I personally received the Father’s Day e-mail, though I can’t find or recall the Mother’s Day one, and remember thinking at the time that this was exactly the kind of thing that some CBC hack would milk out of proportion to show how “out-of-touch” the Conservatives are in our post-modern genderfied age.
And so, equally true to script, the National runs a leading story about how MacKay has “done it again”, using it as an opportunity for more mutual stroking of Canada’s bien-pensant class. Laughably, they said that the e-mail was “leaked”, even though anyone can join the subscribers list of thousands of people.
I’d only like to express my disappointment with the political right’s tepid response here. Margaret Wente starts her analysis well, calling this an instance of manufactured outrage, but ends by essentially bashing MacKay for failing to realize that “there are certain things you can’t say in public, even if (sometimes especially if) they’re true.” She went on: “Anything to do with gender differences, for example. If he isn’t smart enough to know this, then you’ve got to ask whether he’s smart enough to be a cabinet minister.”
There should be a bit more shame in this sheepish acquiescence to political correctness, which needs to be confronted as often and as sharply as possible. As Wente herself points out, the very figure of Ms Freeland, who took to the floor of Parliament to denounce MacKay, herself juggles a career as a public intellectual and now politician with mothering three young children. But that seems to provide her with no perspective on how other women are unable to do both at once, or who do not want to do so, and how a perceptive public figure may well recognize and even celebrate this.
So our smiting and wrath on this occasion should logically be directed at the CBC for its attack not only on MacKay but on conservatism as well. If only the constituency of most reasonable and in-touch people were a bit more institutionally robust, perhaps Ms Freeland could be floundering from her own ill-conceived comments.