Grandma, Uncle Frank and Peter Mansbridge

CBC tackles the big questions of 2011 with an exclusive panel made up of my relatives

Who needs polling and pundits? To see what Canadians really think, just turn over CBC’s popular At Issue panel to my relatives during a big family dinner.

Peter Mansbridge With MPs away from Ottawa, we have time to look back and look ahead. Joining us to do so: our panel. Uncle Frank. Mike, the new boyfriend of cousin Audrey who we’re all meeting for the first time. And Grandma.

Grandma Thanks Peter, and I just want to say: is the roast chicken supposed to be this dry? Not that I’m criticizing.

Peter Talk about what 2010 meant for Stephen Harper.

Grandma Pfft. Don’t get me started on that guy.

Frank Harper had a great year, Peter.

Grandma I pay my taxes and he plays his piano all night long like a fancy boy.

Frank Harper really gets it, you know? He gets it.

Peter Expand on that point: what does he “get?”

Frank It.

Peter Compelling. I see Mike is eager to get a word in.

Mike With all due respect, the failed UN Security Council bid serves as evidence that the Conservatives have abdicated their global responsibilities. If you read my blog, you’d know that—

Grandma Blog—is that the one with computers?

Frank It’s the Internet, Ma. With the cats you like.

Mike Under the Harperites, we’ve become insular. The UN vote was a strong rebuke of—

Frank Peter, I like that Tony Clementine fellow. Who saved us from the census and that potash invasion or whatnot. That nerd knows the score.

Grandma Is he the one married to a Chinese?

Frank That’s Layton. With the moustache and the cancer.

Mike But the census is a valuable instrument that improves the delivery of public services. To sabotage its efficacy for purely ideological purposes is—

Grandma I don’t like his smile—that Ignotchy. It’s creepy. And always with the bus. I’m on the bus! I’m on the bus again! Enough already.

Mike You mean Ignatieff?

Grandma Yeah, Ignootchit. He’s as bland as this gravy. Not that I’m criticizing.

Frank He wants to bring in his coalition. He wants to collate with the NDP and the French. It’s plain as day. And then where will we be?

Mike Well, for one thing, we may actually have a government that—

Frank He spent 60 years living outside of Canada. And now he wants to be prime minister? Go back to Mexico, buddy.

Grandma The one I miss is that Trudeau. What a leader he was.

Frank You hated Trudeau, Ma.

Grandma But a leader!

Peter Will we see an election in 2011?

Mike If Harper gets a majority, women will lose the right to choose, the poor will go hungry and the Canada we love will be forever changed.

Frank /beans Mike in the head with a dinner roll.

Peter Strong counterpoint, Frank.

Grandma Peter, the question that interests me for 2011 is whether the cheese sauce for the broccoli is supposed to be lukewarm like this. Not that I’m—

Mike [standing up, voice rising] I don’t understand you people. To govern for the sake of power and power alone. To ignore climate change and the plight of impoverished families who—

Grandma I still can’t believe they replaced Bob Barker. You just can’t replace a Bob Barker.

Frank Let it go, Ma! No matter how many letters you send, he’s never going to sign your chest.

Peter Well, we’re going to have to leave it there. My thanks to Mike, who’s heading for the door; to Uncle Frank, who’s heading downstairs to watch the game; and to Grandma, who’s wondering how she’s supposed to stir her tea without a spoon—not that she’s criticizing.

Grandma These brownies are crumbly.