Part I – Mom’s Cookie Tariff
Hello Canadians, and Harper fans in the U.S. Many leaders write their memoirs to set the record straight after they leave public office. This is quite illogical because by then nobody cares and so I have determined that I will write my memoir now, in the middle of my service as Prime Minister. The value-added of this strategy is that there will no longer be any point at all to the biased reporters on the hill. Anyone who wants to know what I’m up to can just read this straight from the guff repor’ – that is to say “report”, only with the ‘t’ left unpronounced like Stephen Colbert when he says “it’s the Colbert Report!”. Just a little humourous pop culture reference there.
I recently read Brain Mulroney’s ‘Memoir’ and noticed that he spends a great deal of time on his childhood – spinning fond warm-sweater memories of what it was like to be a boy from Baie-Comeau living in a company town with a hardworking dad and close-knit family. In that vein, I would like to frankly admit that I have had a childhood. Certainly, I seem to have residual memories of some kind of idyllic small person existence and I presume that this is what “childhoods” are for – although I do remain open to correction on that point. I try not to let this strange, kind-of bubbly, emotional residue affect my judgement but I do appreciate the memories and I feel that my principles and character have been much informed by my childhood experience.
My first clear memory revolves around the unfair tariff Mom placed on paper airplanes. Perhaps my favorite joy as a small person was to launch paper planes into the autumn sky and watch them make ways through swirling leaves flitting and falling to the ground. I was not a proficient plane maker, but my sister Kellie was excellent – sometimes spending hours in a day crafting her buoyant creations – and I would often spend my entire allowance buying her planes for 15 cents each. One day little Jimmy Cratchit was hobbling through the park with his walking stick and stopped to watch my sister’s planes carve their scientifically determinable yet delightful earthbound paths. “Wow! Did you make all these Stephen?” Jimmy asked. I engaged him in conversation: “Oh no Jimmy, the planes I make are generally deficient. I bought all these from my sister with my allowance.” Jimmy’s eyes opened wide and he squeaked, “You get an allowance?”. I never saw anyone hobble as fast as little Jimmy did on his way back to his house. Three days later I was at the park with Kellie trying out some new plane designs and Jimmy showed up with a cardboard box. “Stephen!”, he cried from the tree lined edge of the park. Little Jimmy started hobbling towards us carrying his box, faster and faster. There was something exciting about the moment and I found myself yelling “Run Jimmy Run!” The next thing we knew he had both hands on his box and his walking stick lay settling in the leaves as he streaked towards us. Little white things began to pop out as he came near and I realized they were paper planes. “I learned how to make good planes too!” Jimmy said breathlessly through rosy puffing cheeks. My sister and I were amazed by Jimmy’s run and we hugged him and bought the whole box for 5 cents a plane. And they were good! That box lasted me all week and although I still bought a few planes from Kellie she had stopped making very many by next Tuesday and she didn’t really know what to do with her time anymore. Well, Mom noticed this and asked her why. Kellie explained to Mom that I was buying Jimmy’s planes now for three times as cheap. When I came in for supper that night Mom told me that if I didn’t buy Kellie’s planes anymore I would only get one cookie every week instead of two. The colour drained from my face (where it remains to this day) as my world crashed down around me. I searched my soul for a way to make my mom understand little Jimmy’s plight. “But Mom!”, I said, “Ricardo’s Theory of Comparative Advantage suggests that if Jimmy can make paper planes three times as cheap as Kellie and if she can make something he wants more efficiently than he can, then if we trade him those things for his paper airplanes we will both have more of what we want than if we try to make both things for ourselves!” Mom, who often looked worried for me, furrowed her brow and replied, “Eat your food Stephen”. To this day, I am convinced that Mom’s Cookie Tariff was sub-optimal for the general welfare of our neighborhood. When as Industry Minsiter Maxime Bernier lifted the tariff on Chinese bicycles – although there is bicycle manufacturing in his constituency – I considered it one of the greatest vindications of my childhood in office… or, no, yeah, dammit yes – vindications of my childhood! Justice! Harper Justice baby!