The Co’s Katherine Gougeon explores social and cultural details that have an outsized ripple effect. Follow her on Twitter @kgougeon
“A lobsterman turns his back on three catches in an uncovered bucket. Why isn’t he worried the lobsters will escape? Because they’re Canadian lobsters! If one reaches the top, the others will pull it back down.”
I remembered this joke while reading Neil MacDonald’s assessment of why many Canadians are peeved about Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s request for more staff. MacDonald thinks it is because Sophie is a Tall Poppy – someone who sticks out for being too smart, rich, talented, famous or attractive. “The average American looks at a tall poppy and says: I want to be like that. In Canada, we look at tall poppies and cluck and disapprove and fervently hope somebody takes them down a peg or two,” MacDonald writes.
The Poppy Theory, combined with the mountains of correspondence and requests SGT receives from a mostly adoring public, presents a double-edged sword. The attention that feeds Sophie has the potential to choke her. So maybe the question the PMO should be asking is not how many additional staffers Sophie requires, but how much Sophie is too much Sophie?
While you’d think Sophie’s openness and accessibility would be a definite plus, it could backfire, as it did when media suggested Sophie had lots of explaining to do to ‘ordinary’ parents who juggle it all without the luxury of staff. Such is the danger of playing the relatable card in Canada. We’ll hold you to it, eh?
But back to calculating Peak Sophie. If we were to categorize Sophie’s activities and exertions of the past few years, most would land squarely in the SAFE column. This suggests that hiring an extra assistant who could help Sophie identify and pursue the right crowd-pleasing opportunities and good works is an investment worth making.
So stand tall, Sophie, and claw your way out of this lobster pit. Chances are, on most days, Canadians will be glad you did. But will you?