Politics is indeed a blood sport. Look what happened to the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois in the recent federal election. The leaders were unseated and the parties beheaded. But the amputation didn’t end there. Some snouts were cut off from the public trough, and if it were not for gold plated pensions, many more would have suffered a similar fate.

Oh, I know that phrases like blood sport, snout in the trough, and gold plated pensions are clichés. But clichés are a reporter’s best friend. Without a head full of stock phrases like braving the elements, fueling fears, and thinking outside the box, few reporters could meet their deadlines.

Federal elections rarely escape reports of politicians fanning out from Ottawa in search of votes. My favourite, from several elections ago, gave new meaning to the cliché. Quoting party sources, it declared that its leader and his wife would each fan out across Canada, making appearances, giving speeches and helping local candidates.

Stephen Leacock couldn’t have written better. His line about a horseback rider galloping off in all directions is one of the most enduring bits of nonsense in Canadian humour. A party leader fanning out across Canada could well be another. To me, a lone politician fanning out is every bit as funny as Leacock’s rider galloping off. The politician’s wife doing the same only adds to the humour.

I have no idea how party aides planned to bring this about. Maybe they intended to recruit a troupe of leader look-alikes to meet in Ottawa and fan out at the start of the campaign. I’m not sure, though, that party leaders have any look-alikes. If I looked like the leader of a political party, I’d do everything I could to change my appearance. Besides, if the party sent out look-alikes, some human rights commission would insist that it include sound-alikes, so that blind people could heckle the leader, too.

Alternatively, the aides could have produced a group of leader-like manikins to fan out. If all went well, the electors wouldn’t have known which dummy was the real one.

To implement their campaign strategy, the aides might have sought the help of psychics and their out-of-body experiences. A politician would find it much easier to fan out across Canada if he could get out of his body. Unlike bodies, which normally occupy one place at a time, spirits can be everywhere at once. Although there is no evidence that a party leader has ever gone out of his body, some seem to have been working up to it. Insiders have confided that their leader sometimes goes out of his mind.

Joe Campbell

Like some of the saints, politicians appear to have mastered the mystery of bilocation. They’re often seen in the House of Commons and out to lunch at the same time. Bilocation may have been what the party sources had in mind when they talked about their leader making appearances. I hope not, because if a politician ever appeared to me, I’d reach for a clove of garlic.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the sources were speaking figuratively. It may not have been the leader who was going to fan out across Canada, but his ideas. The same ideas can exist simultaneously in different minds, and if they’re new and exciting, we can expect them to fan out quickly. The challenge, then, is to find some new and exciting ideas. Perhaps by the time the election was held the leader had thought of some.

It’s possible, though, that the aides had really discovered a way to make their leader and his wife each fan out physically. If so, they would have had to travel separately or risk bumping into each other. If they had each fanned out across Canada together, it would have been like two horseback riders galloping off in all directions at the same time. The carnage could have been catastrophic.

The only person I’ve seen fan out physically is Mary Poppins in the movie of the same name. Well, it wasn’t actually Mary Poppins who fanned out. It was her umbrella. But it certainly enabled her to cover a lot of territory. If the party leader and his wife had umbrellas like that, they could have fanned out across Canada in grand style and made dramatic appearances in every constituency. Of course, Mary Poppins and her umbrella were magic. But magic is what some party leaders need if they hope to win a national election.