The current justice minister, Peter MacKay, has been taking a public flogging for recent comments about female judges and for his Mother’s/Father’s Day messages. Although the criticism does seem to me to be over the top, MacKay has not done himself any favours by publicly expressing views that might have been more relevant in the 1950s.
It must be said that I am not a fan of Peter MacKay. My dislike, nay distrust, of the man goes back to the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership convention when he made the “Orchard deal” to gain support for his leadership bid, then ignored it to merge the PCs with the Canadian Alliance.
The two right-wing parties had to merge, but MacKay didn’t have to make the secret deal with David Orchard. It was a crass political move on MacKay’s part and it cast doubt on how honourable a man he is.
The kindest thing I can say about Peter MacKay’s comments about female judges is that he could have given a more thoughtful answer, when the question was raised, according to the Toronto Star, at a private meeting with members of the Ontario Bar Association. If he couldn’t think of one or hadn’t the wit to know one was needed, he is yesterday’s man and has no place at Canada’s cabinet table.
And then there are MacKay’s Mother's Day and Father’s Day emails, which were reported on by The Canadian Press. Taken individually, I don’t find much to complain about—they each seem inoffensive enough. Read side by side, though, there seems to be a clear message that smells of patriarchy. They certainly beg questions about the minister’s view of the roles each gender plays in modern society.
Here’s what his office sent out on Mother’s Day:
By the time many of you have arrived at the office in the morning, you’ve already changed diapers, packed lunches, run after school buses, dropped kids off at the daycare, taken care of an aging loved one and maybe even thought about dinner.”
Now contrast that with his Father’s Day equivalent that opined that men were “shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders.”
I’ll let readers decide how they interpret the messages, but I find the contrast mildly offensive and would, frankly, have expected better from a senior cabinet minister.
The above being said, I find the media attention shown to MacKay’s comments to be excessive. Just as punishments are meant to fit crimes, media “ink” should be justified by the seriousness of the subject matter. For days now, MacKay has been the subject of a full-court press from newspapers, political TV shows and Internet media sites.
I find the coverage excessive, but there again, I find myself also writing about it, so I guess I’m as bad as the rest.