So, to make the case for Senate reform, Harper settled for demonstrating that under the present system, a prime minister can appoint a human being who might not be able to read well enough to understand what he'll be voting on.
With admirable candour, Jacques Demers, who dropped out of school after Grade 8 and was functionally illiterate until four years ago, admitted that he doesn't follow politics and knew nothing about his new job...
But Harper's appointment of Demers, and the latter's acceptance of it, might have backfired against both.
A common reaction to the news in this province was stunned, incredulous silence, followed by "You're kidding," and then some variation on: "Don't get me wrong, I think Jacques Demers is a hell of a guy - but a senator? A Conservative senator?"
Such is the affection for Demers that commentators generally criticized Harper for making the appointment, but not Demers for accepting it. It was as though Demers was too naïve and politically inexperienced to realize that Harper was using him.
But editorial cartoons weren't so kind, poking fun at Demers' former illiteracy. An especially cruel one in Le Devoir showed him holding a "guide for the perfect Canadian senator" open and upside down, while the Canadiens' goggle-eyed mascot Youppi exclaimed: "Wow! Does this mean I have a chance of being named a senator?"
I applaud Jacques Demers for being so open about his literacy struggles and making a valiant attempt to overcome. It's for that reason that I kept my concerns on this issue private up until now. However, when you factor in Demers quotes about having to now start following federal politics, you are left with an overall impression of a man simply not qualified to sit in the Senate. Not only will Demers not be able to read government bills and presentations, he won't know what the hell they're on about anyways. Not even the most tertiary of understanding, Demers admits to being oblivious to the issues that will dominate his days. Harper said he wanted Senators that will support his agenda, but apparently Demers doesn't even know what the agenda is. Baffling.
This was always an overt pandering exercise, but Harper has been too cute by half here. Quebecers aren't sheep, and they know well when politicians are attempting to manipulate them for partisan gain. For many reasons, this appointment should blow up in Harper's face. It demonstrates just how little respect he has for Quebecers, how little sophistication he sees.
As an aside, the Canadiens blow bad and Mike Komisarek should really shine in a Maple Leafs uniform.