On one hand, scoring a couple panda bears from China is quite a coup for Stephen Harper. On the other, the Prime Minister still needs to break it to Peter MacKay that neither of the pandas is voiced by Jack Black. Such are the cruel nuances of foreign policy.
But in a time of financial uncertainty, Harper’s efforts should produce tangible results. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that in 2013 the pandas alone will result in a 5.3 per cent increase in our Gross Domestic Adorability. That should be enough to ensure Canada leads the G8 not only in “cuddly” but also in “wuddly.” Your move, economic turmoil.
Harper rushed off to China last week after being spurned by the U.S. on the Keystone XL pipeline. Time for some foreign policy on the rebound. Only a few years ago, the PM belittled those who would sacrifice the Canadian values of freedom and human rights in pursuit of the almighty petro-dollar. This time around, he was saying different things about the petro-dollar. Mostly he was saying, “Gimme.”
And China’s government? Hey, maybe it isn’t really all that totalitarian anymore! Maybe it’s barely more than halfitarian! As Harper noted in a speech: “Today, the drive in from the airport is a powerful picture of how millions of people are bettering their lives through industry and investment. Without a doubt, this is its own kind of liberation.”
Now listen—I’m no expert on global affairs, but I have spent a week at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic and therefore act as though I am. So, two things about that paragraph:
1) It’s hard to get much lazier than an anecdote of the What I Saw on the Drive in From the Airport variety. It’s right up there with Observation Made by Cab Driver.
2) Congratulations on your “liberation,” person of China! Now what’s that mean thing you just said about the government on Twitter? (Is disappeared for 11 years.)
But enough about illegal detentions and extrajudicial killings—PANDAS! To Harper, China’s decision to rent us two pandas at a cost of $1 million a year wasn’t just good business, it was deeply symbolic: “The pandas’ visit to Canada represents an important step forward in the blossoming relationship between our two peoples.” If we get just a little closer as nations, we’ll be able to ask China to watch our cats when we go on vacation.
There is some confusion about what the bears’ names mean in English. Ji Li translates to either “Successful Achievement” or “Successful and Pretty.” Meanwhile, Er Shun has been referred to in the media as “Two Smooth,” “Double Smoothness” and, somewhat unfortunately, as “Number Two Smoothness,” a translation that if nothing else should guarantee a corporate tie-in with All-Bran and the giggles of eight-year-old boys everywhere.
The animals are officially scheduled to spend the next 10 years at zoos in Toronto and Calgary. But let’s get real: Harper has grander plans for these pandas. The PM surely saw how the media lost their marbles over some video footage of him scratching a panda’s neck. (“Our top story tonight: AWWWWW!”) A savvy politician doesn’t let assets like these spend the next decade in an enclosure. A savvy politician puts these assets to use.
Reporter: Minister, you abused your expense account and used a military helicopter to ferry a half-dozen strippers to your buddy’s bachelor party. Will you resign?
Minister: I’d like to answer that question by holding this panda bear while it munches on bamboo and stares quizzically at its own feet.
Reporter: Cuuuuuute! IT’S LIKE PEOPLE!
And it’s not just the media. Here in Canada, we’re all suckers for cute animals. We fawn over little polar bears. We coo over baby bunny rabbits. We see a cute little seal out on an ice floe and, uh, well, let’s go back to those other two examples.
The bottom line is that pandas are so visually pleasing we’re willing to overlook the 40 per cent chance that at least one of them is actually going to be three Chinese spies in a black and white Snuggie.
Most important: the pandas’ arrival will mark the birth of the Harper Doctrine. Acting on his defining foreign policy principle, our PM will set about coaxing other countries to lend us at least four lemurs, two wombats and one Kardashian.