It is all in the staging.

The buzzword in Ottawa used to be ‘optics.’ When asked about the optics, it meant you were supposed to understand how things looked politically. Whatever the current buzzword might be must have been flying around last week when Prime Minister Harper agreed to meet with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. There must have been a storm of messages texted back and forth from Harper’s people to Ford’s people to get the meet organized.

The first concern was the meeting place. The standard arrangement is that the junior politician has to go, on bended knee, to the place where the senior politician reigns. That was waived this time because the Prime Minister had a great photo-op (a likely picture in all the major papers and on TV that night) in Oshawa where he could be seen crowing over the supposed success of Harper-style economics and the financial accomplishments of General Motors Canada.

That did not mean that he would then travel to Toronto City Hall. That would send the wrong message. Mayor Ford had to meet him halfway. That meant they had to meet in Scarborough. (And that really is foreign soil for west-ender Ford.) Next they had to agree on a place. Somebody suggested that since they were meeting ostensively to talk about guns and policing, they should meet in a police station. The next trick was to find a cop-shop with a big enough room for the news media, a bunch of flags and egos as big as Ford’s and Harper’s. They found there was such a place.

The advance team from Stephen Harper’s office probably sent out a rush order for more lights and more flags to decorate the room but it looked fine when the media gathered to witness the meeting of these two leaders. The Prime Minister was, as usual, perfectly dressed in a buttoned-up virgin wool suit and finely coifed in his exquisite hairpiece.

Mayor Ford, on the other hand, was himself. With his gut hanging over his belt, suit coat undone, tie askew, unbuttoned sweat-stained shirt collar, spiked hair and jowls quivering, Rob Ford was every inch his worship, the slob.

These are two very different men within a common political vision. They did the meet and greet for the news media.

The media wondered why they were both so closed-mouth about their private discussion. The truth be known, they had nothing to discuss other than a common interest in fishing. Did the media think they would tell them that?

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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