As I was walking in front of the Parliament Buildings recently, I was approached by a well-dressed man pulling an oversized suitcase along the sidewalk. He said, “You look like the kind of a man who would appreciate a good bargain.”

Hiding my inexpensive briefcase under my arm, I assured him that I certainly was. He said: “My name is Joe. I’ve got just the deal for you. How would you like to buy a submarine?”

“A submarine?” I exclaimed.

“Yes, I’ve got four submarines for sale. Well actually – three. I sold one a few days ago to a guy in Switzerland.”

“Switzerland!” I asked. “What’s he going to do with a submarine in Switzerland?”

The man said: “Sell it for five times what he paid for it. He paid $50,000 for it and he expects to sell it for a quarter of a million dollars.”

“He does?” I exclaimed.

“Yes. After all, they cost the Canadian taxpayers $250 million dollars each,” Joe said. “Ottawa got these four second-hand submarines from the British government in 1998 for $750 million. The subs needed some ‘refitting’ and it cost the Canadian government another $250 million. That means those four subs cost Canadian taxpayers $250 million each and I’m offering you the same deal. You can’t get a better deal than that anywhere.”

“Where did you get the subs?” I asked.

“I’m acting as a sales representative under the sponsorship program,” Joe replied.

“Where can I see one of your subs?” I asked, suspiciously.

“Where did you think I keep a sub, on the front lawn of the Parliament Buildings? The Canadian government shipped them to Montreal to be re-outfitted.”

“Can I see them?” I asked.

“No. They’re submarines you know – they’re under water. I can loan you my snorkel outfit if you really want to see them.”

I declined his offer and asked: “Do you think the government is going to scrap them?”

“No,” he replied. “Not until they spend a lot more money on them.”

“I’m sorry, Joe, but the deal is too rich for my blood.”

“Well,” said Joe, nonplussed, “how about some government taxi passes? I got a pile of them going cheap. These ‘chits’ are real classy. When a cabby sees you’ve got one of these passes, he gets out of his car and opens the door for you. A cabby hasn’t done anything like that for anybody since 1927.” I respectfully declined.

“How about some Canada Customs uniforms?” he asked. “We’ve got six cases of them – uniforms – belts, jackets, handcuffs, protective vests, stamps, boots, binoculars. I tell you – you come dressed up like that and you’d have no trouble getting across the border.” I told him that I didn’t go across the border that often.

“How about a truck, ATV’s, computers, cellphones, digital cameras, flat-screen TVs, lawn tractors, lawn mowers, tires, a chain-link fence? These things are going cheap.” I said thanks, but no thanks.

“Hey, how about a $250 oak coat rack from the Citizenship and Immigration Department?” I told him I’d have to pass on that one.

“Wait a minute – I’ve got a special for you. How would you like chairs from the Supreme Court of Canada worth $1,496? Just $300?”

I said: “How can you guys get away with all that stuff?”

“Oh, we’ve got guys who could take your underwear off while you’re wearing it and you wouldn’t notice it. There’s got to be something you’re interested in. How about 4,611 combat clothing kits worth retail $234,074? If you’re planning a little war or something like that, it could come in real handy.” I told him I wasn’t.

I turned to leave, but when I looked down, I noticed something strange. I yelled: “My briefcase is missing! Joe, you haven’t seen my briefcase have you?”

“It’s not a thin briefcase with a ‘Bush-Cheney’ sticker on it, is it?” he asked.

“Yes!” I exclaimed.

He looked at me calmly and said: ” I think I saw it around here. Is there a reward?”

“Yes, $50!”

He paused for a second, then said: “I think it fell under my suitcase.”

Sure enough, it was there. I paid Joe the 50 bucks and took off, never looking back and holding grimly on to my wallet and … my briefcase.