Stuff Still Happens, week 10: Justin does Washington

It was a good week to be Justin Trudeau. Just like the other 51, only a little bit more.

Trudeau made the official rounds of Washington this week, including a rare state dinner, the ultimate accolade for a visiting leader. The American media has lavished attention on the rookie leader, with the Washington Post calling him the “anti-Trump”, and the Christian Science Monitor calling him “Canada’s JFK”. (Why is it always JFK? Why did nobody call Stephen Harper “Canada’s Herbert Hoover”?) Compared to the abysmal selection of would-be presidents the American electorate faces, the eternally sunny and optimistic Trudeau is a breath of fresh, cold, northern air. The fact that he’s handsome (especially compared to the bloated, orange-crusted Donald Trump, the troll-like Ted Cruz, or the crazy-old-man-who-shouts-at-kids look of Bernie Sanders) doesn’t hurt. I have my doubts about Justin, but I am happy to bask in his reflected glory. The Canadian media went all in on the visit, with CTV National News in full ga-ga mode. On the night of the state dinner, anchor Lisa LaFlamme and Washington reporter Joy Malbon sounded like star-struck teenage girls watching the Grammy red carpet. They gushed over what Sophie was wearing, and over all the cool celebrities. It was painful to watch.

Still, despite the hyperbole, I’m glad the trip went well. Canada, everybody’s little brother country, is so rarely given any attention, it’s just a teeny bit thrilling to have somebody — anybody — pay us some attention. Trudeau could end up being a colossal failure as a prime minister, but for now, the world doesn’t need to know that.

Don’t like the idea that Canada has admitted 25,000 Syrian refugees? Well, that’s small potatoes compared to what’s coming.

Back at home, the Trudeau government announced its goal of accepting between 280,000 and 305,000 permanent residents this year. If the target of 300,000 is reached, it will be the first time Canada has resettled more than 300,000 new permanent residents in one year since 1913. In order to make way for the new arrivals (under the family reunification and refugee umbrellas), the number of economic immigrants (skilled workers and business immigrants) will be reduced to 160,600, down from 181,000 last year.

The legislature is back in session, and it wasn’t a good start for Notley’s gang. 

Right off the bat, the Wildrose laid into the government for stealing away the top negotiator for the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees to act as the top negotiator for the government. This is either a stroke of genius (like hiring the coach of the opposing team just before a playoff game), or another sop to the unions (hiring a union guy to negotiate with the same union; who will he represent?). The answer to that question came from Gil McGowan, the head of the Alberta Federation of Labour and an NDP supporter and former federal candidate. McGowan loved the idea, which tells you everything you need to know about what a bad idea this is.

Maria Sharapova, the reigning tennis superstar/hot Russian, is in serious trouble.

Sharapova, the world’s highest paid woman athlete, confessed this week that she tested positive for a banned substance, meldonium, after her loss in the Australian Open. Meldonium, which sounds like an instrument played by Russian ethnic music bands (“Sergei is the world’s greatest meldonium player.”) is registered and prescribed as a drug for human therapeutic use in Latvia, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Moldova, and Kyrgyzstan. No other country allows it, which tells you everything you need to know about meldonium.

Entirely gratuitous photo of Maria. 

Sharapova claimed that she was taking meldonium for a litany of health concerns that you would associate more with your grandma, rather than a finely conditioned (see photo, right) athlete. She also claims that the tennis authorities made it really, really hard for her to know about the ban. According to Maria:  “In order to be aware of this ‘warning’, you had to open an email with a subject line having nothing to do with anti-doping, click on a webpage, enter a password, enter a username, hunt, click, hunt, click, hunt, click, scroll and read. I guess some in the media can call that a warning. I think most people would call it too hard to find.

“No excuses, but it’s wrong to say I was warned five times.” Sounds like an excuse to me.

Apparently, this multi-millionaire, superstar athlete has no entourage to look after all that hunting and clicking.

It’s The Ides of March for the Republican party

On Friday, a Donald Trump rally in Detroit had to be cancelled because so many protestors infiltrated the rally that the situation became too dangerous to continue as a number of brawls broke out. Who saw that coming?

This Tuesday, the Ides of March, is the last chance for the Republican party to derail the demagogue. There are three huge primaries Tuesday — Illinois, Florida and Ohio — and they are all winner-take-all states. If no. 4 man John Kasich wins Ohio, his home state where’s he’s very popular, he’s marginally back in the race. The situation is more dire for fading Marco Rubio. The Florida senator is not popular in his home state, and if he doesn’t win its 99 delegates, it’s all over for Little Marco. By Tuesday, the Republican race could be down to Donald Trump in charge, with the party’s only hope being Ted Cruz. That would be the Republican party’s reverse Sophie’s Choice.


Nancy Reagan, 92, former first lady and fiercely devoted wife of Ronald Reagan … The Most Interesting Man in the World, the spokesman for Dos Equis beer. Actually, the actor who portrayed him in the hilarious, long-running commercials, Jonathan Goldsmith, is being replaced with another actor, as yet unnamed. That will make the next guy The Second Most Interesting Man in the World … George Martin, 90, the most important and influential record producer in the history of popular music. How can I say that? Well, the guy produced all but one Beatles’ album, so, case closed. It was Martin who gave them their break with Parlophone records, and it was Martin who took the musical genius of Paul McCartney and John Lennon and turned their songs into some of the great classics of modern music. In a statement upon the death of Martin, McCartney gave this description of how Yesterday (the most recorded song in history) came to become a Beatles classic, which demonstrates the genius of Martin:

“I brought the song Yesterday to a recording session and the guys in the band suggested that I sang it solo and accompany myself on guitar. After I had done this George Martin said to me, ‘Paul, I have an idea of putting a string quartet on the record.’ I said, ‘Oh no George, we are a rock’n’roll band and I don’t think it’s a good idea.’ With the gentle bedside manner of a great producer he said to me, ‘Let us try it and if it doesn’t work we won’t use it and we’ll go with your solo version.’ I agreed to this and went round to his house the next day to work on the arrangement.

“He took my chords that I showed him and spread the notes out across the piano, putting the cello in the low octave and the first violin in a high octave and gave me my first lesson in how strings were voiced for a quartet. When we recorded the string quartet at Abbey Road, it was so thrilling to know his idea was so correct that I went round telling people about it for weeks. His idea obviously worked because the song subsequently became one of the most recorded songs ever with versions by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and thousands more.”


By Maurice Tougas

Maurice Tougas is a lifelong Albertan, award-winning writer and reporter, and a former MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

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