Why have the media gone so nuts over l'affaire Bernier? Simple. They get to run that picture again and again! The one with the fabulously good-looking boob. Okay, two boobs. One is barely contained by a dress that appears to be made from a handkerchief, and the other one is walking along beside.
This being Canada, good old-fashioned sex scandals don't come along that often. So we've got to make the most of it. A classic sex scandal must have three ingredients: a voluptuous femme fatale, a horny (preferably married) senior politician, and state secrets worth spilling. This one rates no more than 2.5 out of three. But hey! It's good enough. It's even good enough for the British papers. If only we had more biker molls and cleavage, they might run more stories about Canadian politics.
If only Julie Couillard hadn't worn that dress, Maxime Bernier might still have his job. But it could have been worse. One of her other boyfriends wound up dead in a ditch. Ms. Couillard seems to be attracted to high-flying, risk-taking guys who can't see the hit coming.
Naturally, the opposition parties are demanding answers. They're out to milk this scandal as hard as they can. What secrets were in those documents? Why did nobody notice for five whole weeks that they were missing? What if they fell into the hands of the Taliban?
Personally, I don't think we need to be too worried. Who was Ms. Couillard going to pass the secrets to? As my friend Jack Granatstein remarked, the bikers would have been "puzzled." Also, those secrets seem to have been just the run-of-the-mill kind, not the top-top-secret kind.
On the other hand, you could argue that Mr. Bernier shouldn't have been trusted with anything more secret than a tourist map of Bucharest. He was a well-known lightweight with more than a passing resemblance to Ted Baxter, the puffed-up anchor man from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Mr. Bernier may be phenomenally popular in Quebec. He may even be the sexiest MP on the Hill (where the bar admittedly is low). But he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
The square-jawed foreign affairs minister fell hard for Ms. Couillard, a former model/aspiring actress/real estate agent with no visible means of support, no pun intended. He asked her to be his official girlfriend about five minutes after they met. This would entitle her to first-class travel, at public expense, and a chance to meet interesting people. "I can't switch girlfriends like I change shirts, so you have to be my official girlfriend for at least a year, in spite of what might happen between us," Mr. Bernier said, according to her.
Some people were quite impressed with Ms. Couillard's attributes. "Well, well, well," George W. Bush apparently said to Canada's new foreign affairs minister. "Haven't you been keeping good company." Sadly, the PMO was less impressed. While Stephen Harper was accusing the opposition of being a bunch of nosy old busybodies, one surmises that the PMO was delivering not-so-subtle hints that Mr. Bernier's relationship with Ms. Couillard was not a good career move. So he did what men do. He dumped her and fled. He left behind a few state secrets and a dirty shirt or two.
The secret documents made her feel very nervous and frightened, even though she never read them. For five weeks she pondered what to do. One option was to call him up and say, "Hey, jerk, you left your briefs here." Unfortunately, nobody was going to pay her $50,000 for that.
Not for lack of trying, Ms. Couillard didn't make a cent from Mr. Bernier's fecklessness. But boy, did she get even! Not only did she end the guy's career, she made his boss look like an idiot, for hanging on so long to such a loser. And she reminded us how embarrassingly shallow Mr. Harper's Quebec talent pool really is. Not a bad day's work, in all. Never, never, never underestimate a woman scorned.