Monday, November 28, 2005

"Choo-Choo" Martin?

One wouldn't expect the National Review to have a story on the upcoming Canadian election, but sure enough they do, with a story by David Gratzer:

There’s an old joke that Toronto is like New York, if the Swiss ran the Big Apple. Americans view Toronto and the rest of the country as clean, unexciting, and a bit boring. Canadian politics, too, seems uninspired. The Liberal party of Canada has been like the Yankees of old: winning again and again. Around the time the Babe helped lift his team to its first World Series, the Liberals began consistently winning national elections — and didn’t really stop. In the past eight decades, the Liberals spent just 16 years on the opposition benches.

And yet, today, their support is stuck at about 33 percent — the lowest polling in nearly two decades. Why the slip in popularity?
It's a reasonably lucid summary of the Adscam scandal and the Gomery report for American conservative eyes. And yet, with typical Yankee ignorance, there are a few misleading details, such as:

If he wins, Stephen Harper will not be a Margaret Thatcher. However, he may prove to be a Tony Blair — and that would be a refreshing change from "Choo Choo Man" and his friends.
"Choo Choo Man"? Where the heck did that come from?

As it turns out, Mr. Gratzer was quoting from chapter 9 of the Gomery report:

Mr. Mignacca asked to speak to Mr. Brault, and asked him if he was going to agree to "look after" Mr. Renaud, mentioning that he had just finished dinner with the "choo-choo man," which Mr. Brault took to refer to a senior executive of Via Rail, one of Groupaction’s most important clients.
And he refers to that name in an earlier paragraph:

This spring, the nation was captivated by the televised hearings of the Gomery Commission. No wonder — witness after witness painted a picture of scandal befitting any banana republic: bribes, intimidation, kickbacks, phony invoices, and money laundering. The details are breathtaking. Key players went by code names like "Choo Choo Man" and "White Head." Mysterious suitcases filled with cash were distributed to Liberal candidates, for instance at a campaign rally attended by the entire Cabinet.
I suppose Mr. Gratzer looked at "Choo Choo Man" and thought it appropriate to apply to Paul Martin. It certainly has the connotation of juvenile, simplistic thinking that characterizes the Librano caucus recently, but it's still a misleading misnomer.

Of course, the only way it'll catch on is if the upcoming Martin campaign starts to look like a train wreck. But with Paul Martin, it's not a complete impossibility ...