On Families & Conservatives

From Judith Timson at the Globe and Mail.  Go Judith:

“Family is everything”?

Did Stephen Harper’s campaign actually say that at the start of the federal election? If so, I can only imagine that an interview with him describing how he juggles work and family as both a working dad and wannabe Conservative majority Prime Minister is not far behind.

After the media whirlwind that accompanied Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, I intended to write about how we won’t see the same family circus – with all its messy high-wire acts – here. Canadian politicians don’t do family and politics in the same way. They don’t exploit their kids, they don’t burnish their image as a “hockey mom” or “family man.” They don’t audition to be “the first family.”

But in the arena of family and politics, it looks like we’re going down a different road this time, at least with the Conservative leader. And it may not be a good thing.

When it comes to manipulating a “perfect” family image, a politician can’t win. He will end up splayed across the front pages with his peccadilloes hanging out because families are actually the one thing we’re all experts at. There’s nothing mysterious and everything messy about family life, and every one of us has dressed our family to the hilt and taken a picture that would melt the heart of a nation. That’s why holiday cards were invented (although I oohed and aahed more over Stephane Dion’s dog, Kyoto, when I saw his holiday card last year than I did over his wife and daughter, who looked just fine to me.)

The fact is, these wonderful personal roles don’t have any bearing on how a person would govern the country. It’s an American model. And we’re different because, as Mr. Dion emphatically put it yesterday when told that Mr. Harper wondered aloud whether Mr. Dion was “a family man,” we have this wonderful thing called “privacy” here.

The only famous political kids we’ve all been aware of are Justin and Alexandre Trudeau, sons of the late prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and Ben Mulroney, former Tory PM Brian Mulroney’s son – and only because these three young men chose to be in the spotlight, in politics, journalism and television entertainment, well after their fathers relinquished it .

I know the names of Barack Obama’s two adorable daughters, I have opened a separate file on 17-year-old Bristol Palin, but I would lose a bet if I was asked to name either Mr. Harper’s children or Mr. Dion’s daughter.

But if Mr. Harper hopes to “humanize” himself by trotting out his still young family, he should remember what happened last year when he tried to walk his young son – whatshisname – to school and shook his hand at the school gates. Shook his hand? What kind of dad doesn’t give his son a huge hug on the first day of school? Well, you get the picture.

Read the rest here

Yeah, that’s right.  I have no idea what the names of Harper’s and Dion’s kids are, even though I read the name of Dion’s daughter yesterday.  I read it in the context of a news report in which Dion noted that we have something called “privacy” in Canada.  I’m also not sure what the names of the Harper/Dion spouses are.  I know Jack Layton’s spouse is Olivia Chow.  Because she’s an MP.

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