02/12/2012 01:32 EST | Updated 04/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Sunday Roundup: My PM Went to China and All He Brought Back Was a Lousy Panda?


Aww just kidding folks. How YouTube-adorable are those pandas we are going to be hosting for the next 10 years? Apparently panda fur is not soft and fluffy as you'd expect, but tough and bristly like a shoe brush (or so someone once told me who'd actually pet a panda). Which is also a good way of describing Stephen Harper's mood as he embarked on his four day trade mission, which ended yesterday. The whole message of the trip seemed similar to that of a jilted girlfriend driving past her ex with a new beau, with the hope of making the ex jealous. It seemed to have worked -- at least upon some American lawmakers critical of Obama's recent decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline:

"I hope the American people fully understand exactly what's going on here, because it's time to act. Right now, Prime Minister Harper is talking to President Hu Jintao, the president of China, and believe me, China wants the oil," Republican Sen. John Hoeven, from North Dakota, said this week on the floor of the Senate.

Yeah, take that boyfriend! So how do ya like me now?!

Well, maybe it's more serious than that. Could Harper really be into this new relationship? HuffPost contributor Yoni Goldberg thinks so:

[Stephen Harper's] trip to the Middle Kingdom was all about fostering a new friendship -- and it seems to have worked. Now it's official: Canada and China are friends.

We've got oil, and China wants it. They're fake-communists and we're fake-socialists. It's a near-perfect match. Well, except for the human rights thing -- but just because we treat each other like human beings and the Chinese leaders treat their citizens like lowly serfs doesn't mean we can't get along. Hey, nobody's perfect.

When you think about it, Canada's getting a pretty good new ally. China's super-rich and with its billion-person army will probably rule the world someday soon. As its newest, bestest friend, maybe they'll let us be be vice-overlords or something. Plus they're loaning us a bunch of their pandas, which is super-nice of them.

Our U.S.-Canada expert, Christopher Sands, went for a different metaphor, and compared Harper's behaviour to that of Lady Edith Crawley from the hit BBC series Downton Abbey. Lady Edith's prospects are perpetually being undermined by her elder, prettier sister Lady Mary, who:

keeps indecisively toying with suitors, only showing an interest when Edith fancies one of them for herself. Like Lady Edith, Prime Minister Harper must feel frustrated that Obama expects him to stand aside while the U.S. courts China and simultaneously wait around for a decision on Keystone. Worse still, there is the fear that Chinese interest in Canada is only a ploy, Beijing using Ottawa to spark Obama's jealousy and get Washington's attention.

While the Canadian leader was courting his Chinese suitors, our American leader was joining our new team in Quebec for the much-anticipated launch of Le Huffington Post on Wednesday.

"We promise that Le Huffington Post Quebec is going to be all in French and is going to be all about the things that matter to Quebeckers in terms of culture, identity," Arianna Huffington said at the roll-out in Montreal.

An article in the Globe and Mail touched upon a recent controversy in Quebec, but one that constantly surrounds HuffPost -- and that Arianna decisively smacked down:

The company's Quebec edition made headlines recently when several left-leaning politicians and activists who had signed on to write blogs free reportedly quit amid controversy. The free blogs drew criticism that the contributions would weaken local journalism and drive down worker salaries.

On Wednesday, Ms. Huffington called this issue a misunderstanding about the interactive character of the Huffington Post, and blogging in general. She said that millions of people around the world author opinion blogs free, including contributors to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

"This is just the nature of the Internet," said Ms. Huffington, who delivered an invitation to business leaders in the crowd -- from the microphone -- to write blogs for the outlet.

"People who want to express their views, who want to be heard, will use any platform. I was on multiple radio shows this morning, I'm here with you because you're providing me with a platform to express my views -- you're not paying me."

And as Arianna reigned over Quebec, we published two great -- if opposing -- views on the English Queen. Lifestyle editor Rebecca Zamon scored an interview with best-selling author Sally Bedell Smith, and spoke with her about her newly published biography, Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. Bedell addressed the Queen's "feminism" and contrasted her views interestingly with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

But all this royal watching of late -- the result of the celebrations of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee -- sent another of our contributors, J.J. McCullough, into sleep mode. Why all this fuss about a woman "who doesn't really do much?"

As Minister Moore is insisting we spend this week reveling in memories of Elizabeth II's six decades on the throne, it's worthwhile to recall just how just magnificently little of note or substance this woman has actually done with the office she's held for so very long.

Motivated primarily to ensure the survival of the mummified monarchical institution itself -- "The Firm," to use the Windsors' preferred nickname -- amid an ever-more democratic citizenry, the Queen has mostly spent the past 60 years perfecting the art of being an uncontroversial irrelevance... To this list of lacking output we can just as easily add a single memorable speech, principled opinion, brave deed, or inspiring act. Only by the meaningless standard of sheer longevity can this reign be considered a success."

I have to admit I took the same jaundiced view towards Madonna's performance at last week's Super Bowl, and ended up debating another contributor, Erica Diamond, as to whether old Madge still really had it. I basically took the "Good God, no" side, while Erica gamely argued that the middle-aged singer kicked ass.

Erica, by the way, yesterday posted an intriguing interview with Sophie Trudeau, wife of politician Justin, and a childhood friend of Erica's. In it, Sophie reveals her struggles with bulimia, her courtship with Justin, and the causes she is now passionate about.

Stay tuned for more juicy stuff this coming week -- including exclusive video of The Tragically Hip, who will be playing the Attawapiskat high school's gymnasium. Oh you want to know more about that? You'll just have to come back...