A Man of Poor Character and Thin Talent

John Chuckman

Were a senior member of any national government to insult a woman in public, there would be reason for concern. An apology might put the act down in the public’s mind to poor judgment in the fierce heat of partisan debate. Were the senior member then to refuse admitting what he had done, despite many witnesses, surely a question of character is raised.

But reportage of Peter MacKay’s sleazy remark in Parliament about Belinda Stronach has revealed other behavior far more disturbing. Apparently for months, MacKay has been glaring and making faces at Stronach. His abusive behavior continued with such intensity that her party changed her seat to one behind another member.

This is not the mooning of a lovesick pup or the melancholy of a jilted lover, although the mainline press has tended to treat it in this light fashion. This is aggressive behavior by an obsessive personality, carried out repeatedly in a public place without any concern for embarrassment or shame, behavior typical of a stalker, warning signs of a dangerous personality.

We already knew there were serious flaws in MacKay’s character. There was his unapologetic, hasty breaking of a written agreement made at the former Conservative Party leadership convention. He simply brushed it off with saying politics was a blood sport, a rather odd choice of words coming from the representative of a party trying to promote itself as doing business in a new and ethical way.

Following Stronach’s crossing the floor to the Liberals, MacKay busied himself doing simpering interviews about being abandoned both as deputy party leader and as lover. In fact, without MacKay’s bizarre little press blitz, most Canadians would never have known about his affair with Stronach.

This, too, was commonly attributed to the freshly-jilted lover’s overwrought emotion. His words and tone in these interviews seemed tailored to give that sympathetic impression, but they were quite unconvincing coming from a self-professed, blood-sport politician. What MacKay was actually doing was character assassination only slightly disguised as sympathetic pouting.

What also bothered me at the time was that no one in the press raised the important issue of a senior executive in an organization, the deputy leader of the new Conservative Party, having an affair with someone directly under his authority. This is not considered ethical in the business world, a situation fraught with many possibilities for abuse, and is often a reason for dismissal.

MacKay has shown himself unfit for high office, not because of an affair, but because of his repeated display of questionable character and personality traits, and these traits are accompanied by what can only be called a slim endowment of talent. MacKay has made blundering statements as foreign minister several times that certainly have embarrassed his boss. It really is time for him to go.