J. Baird answerin' Qs. via Flickr.
When Canada's Conservative government won a majority election government over two years ago, many Canuck leftists braced themselves for a nightmare. A country run by a right-wing party that only won 39% of the popular vote? What could possibly go wrong? Everything, it seemed.
In particular, some queer lefties worried about the grim potential for a rabid right that had carefully kowtowed to their socially-conservative base of self-declared pro-life, family-values-oriented fundies.Canada's Conservatives seem to be moving closer to the British Conservative model—that is, shifting their brand away from traditional family values and attaching it to the larger umbrella of freedom and human rights.
Here's the really wacky thing, though: Canada's Conservative government appears to be run by a queer mafia that rivals the Vatican. The best part is, the press corps in Ottawa is itching to report on the gay shenanigans of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet, which seems about as straight as an episode of Glee.
First up is the most obvious: John Baird. As I wrote about in the Canadian gay mag Xtra, Baird lives in a glass closet. He was first outed by another Conservative on a radio show, who remarked on his sexuality so matter-of-factly she didn't even realize he was still in said transparent closet. Baird recently got busted for using government properties to hang out with friends during his vacations in both London and New York. And some wondered who his "handful of friends" were and what they were up to in lavish, luxurious locations.
Baird has also been incredibly active in helping out gay refugees worldwide. Many have connected his shutting down of the Iranian embassy to Canada as a response to their anti-gay laws. He has specifically stated that he helped “a large number” of gay men and women escape Iran to come to Canada.
The second question that arises, however, is for Canuck political journalists: are we reporting on the Canadian government or doing promo for a new season of The Bachelor? Indeed, covering this administration has proven taxing for writers, eager to reach for that word that might mean queer, but not really. Witness the national news magazine Maclean's, which has marveled at the number of "single white males" who populate Harper's inner circle. Indeed, writing about the current Canadian government requires employing more euphemisms than an Ed Koch obituary. Maclean's columnist Paul Wells points to several bachelors—among them Baird, Jason Kenney, the recently married and ostensibly heterosexual James Moore, and Nigel Wright—who have been very committed team players. "All four are bachelors, which means only that they can devote truly extraordinary amounts of time to their roles." Roleplaying, eh? Even reading an estimation of their commitment sounds kinky! Wells also suggests that getting ahead in Harper's Ottawa is helped with "infinite flexibility and a bottomless appetite," which sounds suspiciously like a contortionist's Grindr ad.
It must be noted that Wright recently resigned due to the senate scandal. A reporter desperate to catch up with him to pose a few questions camped out to catch Wright on his morning jog—at five in the morning. Hard to believe someone prances around a downtown street in tight track pants before sunrise just for the exercise.
Then there's Canada's first lady, Laureen Harper, seen at the Prime Minister's side, often apparently quite begrudgingly, through various public events. Spreading irresponsible innuendo and hearsay is not proper reportage, nor is it gentlemanly, so we won't go there. But it's important to note what Laureen Harper's nickname is on capital hill: The L Word.
So what is up with a country run by avowed conservatives who apparently run their private lives by an entirely different set of rules? Canada's Conservative gays may well be ruled by a cross between the Roy Cohn effect and the Stockholm Syndrome. Their fantasies may involve getting tied up at the Calgary Stampede and slapped senseless with a bible belt.
While much of this might sound like wild speculation, the current scandals facing the Conservative government do suggest bent leadership. Evoking the dark impulses in a Cronenberg horror movie from the '70s, there is something more repressed and twisted to this cold, polite country than initially meets the eye. Perhaps Canada needs even more therapy than we thought.