03.04.2010 10:30 AM

The Bear Hunt

In the mid-nineties, when I still worked as a political staffer for a federal cabinet minister, we decided to introduce the two dollar coin – the one that would come to be known as the toonie.

The toonie budget was going to contain big, big changes. One of our deputy ministers, a nice but naïve fellow, thought no one would pay attention to the new coin whatsoever. He thought the other budgetary measures would dwarf the media coverage of the toonie.

I told him that, with the greatest of respect, he was dead wrong. “The media will always pay more attention to stuff like this,” I said. “You may think it’s trivial, but they don’t. Same with the public.” We made a gentlemen’s bet about the outcome. I won it.

History repeats itself: the Harper Reformatories have floated their anthem-change trial balloon, fully expecting that it would kick-start a lot of chatter around the water coolers of the nation – and thereby provide cover for the big-ticket items to come, which will almost certainly include massive program cuts. They’ve been wildly successful with this day-old gambit: check this out – dozens of iterations of the anthem word-change stunt.

Personally – speaking only for myself – I’m all for making the anthem gender neutral. (That’s not all: I also favour removing references to God in the national anthem. And I say that as a devout and church-going Christian-type guy.)

But what I think is totally irrelevant. What matters is what the government is really doing, here. That is what we need to pay attention to, but many won’t.

When you are hunting bear, I always says to my war room kids, don’t get distracted by rabbit tracks.

Or, depending on the circumstances, toonies.

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