To most of us, Canadian politics are confusing and/or infuriating. What’s the big deal about the Throne speech? Why did our riding’s MP vote against a pro-choice bill? Do any of these politicians really know what they’re talking about? I generally share your views. With the exception of two months in Grade 7 when I entertained the possibility of becoming a Legistlative Page, politics are beyond my comprehension. If you’d told me three months ago that the subject of today’s blog post is a Canadian political satire, I’d have been sure you were kidding.
One day at the library I came across a book called Operation Angus by Terry Fallis. Its plot of an international intelligence operation which two Canadian government officials stumble into sounded pretty interesting. Too bad that it was actually the third book in a series. Googling informed me that the first book in the series, The Best Laid Plans, had won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. Even though its book description sounded politics-heavy, I figured that it must have won a humour award for a reason. That reason was more than clear once I’d finished reading it.
The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis:
When burnt-out Liberal speechwriter Daniel Addison walks in on his girlfriend getting… cozy with her boss, he calls it quits and decides to make his escape from the world of politics. As a final favour, however, he finds himself convinced to locate a Liberal candidate in his new home of Cumberland-Prescott and run their campaign during the upcoming federal election. The catch? Cumberland-Prescott’s Conservative candidate is the very popular Finance Minister, and the riding itself has been a Conservative stronghold as long as anyone can remember. No Liberal dares challenge him. No Liberal except Angus McLintock, that is. A professor of Engineering at the University of Ottawa, Angus agrees to let his name stand in the election if newly appointed English professor Daniel takes over Angus’ English for Engineers course. Both think they’re getting off easy. Daniel has a candidate and an easy-but-hopeless campaign to run. Angus is free from his course with no fear of actually getting elected. After all, he’d only agreed to the deal in the first place fully aware that a Conservative victory was a shoo-in. Yet Angus is a man who speaks his mind and means what he says. Despite his terms of no interviews, no lawn signs, no promotion, Angus just might find himself with an unwanted victory.
Terry Fallis doesn’t mess around when it comes to comedy. The Best Laid Plans is rife with witty remarks and circumstantial comedy that not only makes you laugh, but feels genuine instead of forced. Combine Daniel’s internal monologue with Angus’ midnight swims and Pete1 and Pete2’s creative style choices for a hillarious journey through a federal election and beyond. I laughed audibly countless times reading The Best Laid Plans and its sequel The High Road, which is no mean feat in my books.
Comedy aside, I enjoyed being able to take an in-depth look at Canadian politics through this book that even ordinary Joes like me can understand. The transition from the familiarity of local campaigning to the House of Commons is eased in gradually, with Angus serving as the face of all of us wondering how this political machine functions. But don’t mark him as a bumbling idiot. Angus McLintock is a skilled orator whose decisions are guided by the country’s interests first and his own second. He’s more like Elle Woods from Legally Blonde in the sense that he had this political ability all along but chose to focus on his other passions instead.
Books two and three (The High Road and Operation Angus) further follow Angus’ foray into politics with Daniel Addison by his side. I can’t say any more than that without spoiling The Best Laid Plans. Trust me when I say that the follow-ups are just as good as the original! If reading this series still sounds like it’s going to be too much, you can get the same experience by watching CBC’s miniseries adaptation of The Best Laid Plans. The miniseries only covers the first half of The Best Laid Plans, so a number of the sub-plots are fabricated to give substance to the drier bits. Most of the sub-plots are plausible, though, and the few that are a little off give the cast the ability to show off their comedic chops. As far as book-to-screen adaptations go, this one has my seal of approval.
You know that a book is good when you learn something from it without realizing you were learning. Thanks to Terry Fallis’ The Best Laid Plans, I’ve learned the importance of the Throne Speech, laughed until my sides ached, and really come to terms with how desperately we need people like Angus working in positions of power. It shouldn’t have to be up to us voters to do something about the terrible plans and policies made by our governments. Our candidates should be the ones fighting, but fighting the government isn’t easy when you’re the only one taking a stand. As The Best Laid Plans clearly illustrates, going against the party makes the party look bad. And if the party looks bad, the catalyst will quickly find themselves surrounded by enemies. If you’re Angus McLintock, this won’t faze you. Other politicians will spend years toeing the line before they dare to suggest a minor policy change. With issues like the Ontario government’s announcement of plans for the construction of Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass, remaining silent won’t just affect the lives of constituents. This will negatively affect all of Canada.
To briefly summarize, the Ontario PC government is suggesting building a 4-6 lane highway designed to ease congestion in the Greater Toronto Area. This project will create several hundred jobs. It will also create a massive rise in greenhouse gas emissions, making Ontario’s emission-reduction goals increasingly difficult to achieve. New highways mean more vehicle traffic. More vehicle traffic means more developments will be built. New highways and developments mean that vast swaths of our Greenbelt will be destroyed to make room for construction. If you’ve seen The Lorax, you know that this won’t end well. I remember back in October proudly informing my Science class that the non-govermental organization I’d done my presentation on had had a role in stalling Highway 413 when it was first proposed. Now it’s as if all of that progress has been erased. Everything about this plan makes me want to scream. Surely increasing public transit options and investing money in electric vehicles is a better solution than bulldozing habitats that contain carbon dioxide-absorbing greenery and of thousands of animal species? As the CBC article I’m linking at the end of this post says, “Ontarians generally do not want to see highways going through the Greenbelt during a climate crisis.”
Thank you for staying with me during my rant. I encourage you to read The Best Laid Plans first and foremost- it won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for a reason! I more strongly encourage you, however, to educate yourself about the issues our politicians are failing to address, and do something about it. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but if everyone signs petitions, shares articles with their friends, and protests peacefully, our combined people power will show the government that we aren’t going to sit idly and let them ruin our lives. We have to be the change. Do you see anyone else stepping up?
Below is an article which you may find interesting and informative. It’s an article from CBC outlining the Ontario government’s plan for the construction of Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass, with experts weighing in on why it’s a bad idea. You can also find plenty of information about this plan by simply Googling the words “Highway 413” and “Bradford Bypass”.
Cover photo credit: discoverwalks.com