J.J. McCullough Headshot

The Bevy of Puns in the Media's "Coda to Oda"

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As far as embarrassing political obituaries go, "she really liked expensive orange juice," is probably about as mild a tagline as you're ever gonna get. Orange juice is tangy and delicious, after all, so take heed Bev Oda; there are far worse things to spend the rest of your life being synonymous with. Busty hookers, for instance.

Amid the flurry of editorials that greeted Minister Oda's heavily anticipated cabinet departure on Tuesday, nearly all made some reference to her famed panache for taxpayer-funded citrus products, a correlation which currently yields more than twice as many Google hits as her now long-forgotten status as a historical trivia point.

"The coda to Oda was writ bright with orange juice," writes David Climenhaga on rabble.ca, easily winning the prize for "best editorial headline that sounds  like something a film-noir secret agent would whisper on a park bench."

Dave's view is that Bev represents merely the latest high-profile casualty of a government that's as chronically scandal-prone as it is vain and vindictive, though the two preoccupations do not always sync up perfectly. You can forge documents and bully your staff all the live long day, but there "is no sin greater in the Harper Government than politically embarrassing our sourpuss prime minister" through overpriced hotel tabs, he snarks.

Oda's fall represents lots of important things to lots of pundits, in fact, which is very fortunate! You can imagine how silly everyone would look if Tuesday's Tweet-fest was little more than an overzealous exercise in competitive gossip-mongering about a mostly inconsequential individual targeted by an insular politico-media establishment that has long since abandoned any guiding sense of public obligation regarding the prioritization of stories that actually matter to its consumer audience and thereby ultimately digging the grave of the industry itself! So that's a relief.

Over at the Globe and Mail, the editorial board, who are wearing their pro-Tory hats at the moment, conclude optimistically that by ditching Oda, the PM is sending a "much-needed signal" that he "holds his ministers accountable" for their misdeeds. True, it still took three separate scandals to get her turfed, but hey -- baby steps!

The Ottawa Citizen meanwhile, reminds us that in addition to being a juiced-up prima donna, Oda was also a member of federal government's executive branch, and as such (get this), actually did stuff that affected national policy! Bad stuff! Like using her status as head of the Canadian International Development Agency to dole out politically-motivated foreign aid in an "arbitrary, or even sneaky" manner.

Surprise surprise, someone at the National Post doesn't agree, and in his post-mortem, Jon Ivison paints a contrasting portrait of an inspiring, "hard-nosed" fiscal conservative whose greatest sin was simply displaying "a sense of entitlement that mirrored that of the NGOs she was sent to CIDA to usurp."

In the end, though, both agree she deserved to be given the squeeze.

***

$16 virgin cocktails aside, much of the frenzied reception from the punditsphere that greeted Bev's departure was clearly born from a not-so-subtle hope that she might represent the first discarded joker in the prime minister's long-awaited-but-probably-not-gonna-happen summer cabinet shuffle. (Note to aspiring journalists: it is very important to cram at least once playing card metaphor into every cabinet shuffle article).

You've seen a cabinet shuffle speculation article before, right? They're those charmingly Ottawa-insider columns that offer equal part patronizing compliment and equal part dour concern towards personality traits you weren't aware existed in politicians you've never heard of.

Did you know, for instance, that Peter Van Loan has done "damage" to "inter-party relationships" in the House of Commons, while the "highly respected" Rob Nicholson has a "steady hand and diplomatic skills" that would make him an excellent foreign minister? Well you would if you read Keith Beardsley's column in yesterday's National Post! Or how about the fact that James Rajotte is the "universally liked and respected as chair of the finance committee," while Kellie Leitch has "more university degrees than anyone in caucus," to quote the great Jeffrey Simpson?

It's enough to make you feel incredibly guilty for not following politics nearly closely enough -- or a little creeped out that some folks are following it so horrifyingly closely already.

Personally, I try to stay informed but still keep my distance. Avoid getting bogged down in the trivial minuta of politicians' careers and personalities, but still focus on the broad variables that actually affect their ability to provide competent governance.

You know, like juice preference.