Given that our society (and especially its political class) is quickly becoming almost parodically litigious, I think it wise to offer this post as a hypothetical.
Imagine that a certain Ottawa-area blogger is at a Second Cup chatting with an acquaintance while enjoying a coffee (no, not a spineless, cosmopolitan, "liberal" latté, but a morally unobjectionable, perfectly assimilated, "conservative" double-double, thank you very much). This acquaintance happens to work as a Commissionaire on the security detail at Government House.
Now let's say this woman mentions that the wife of the Prime Minister appears to have become good friends with the Governor General. In fact, the two gals--both health conscious and eager to retain their trim figures--often work out together. Conveniently, a small gym is situated on the grounds of Rideau Hall-- intended for use strictly by the Governor General, her staff, and her security detail--which has often been graced by the two ladies' sweaty presence.
Now, would it be entirely petty to wonder why the wife of the Prime Minister, already the beneficiary of public emoluments and already housed and fed on the taxpayer dime, feels the need to exploit yet another publicly provided service to which she is not entitled? Speaking of pettiness, is there not something petty about the wife of a generously remunerated head of government avoiding gym fees she could easily afford by using a facility which is really intended to serve as either a secure work-out location for the head of state or one of the few perks of boring and fairly meagrely paid jobs?
My own reaction would be to suggest that such a woman should choose: she could join the Governor General's staff if she wishes to use resources intended for its members; she could delve into whatever pin money her husband allows her in order to pay her own gym fees, or she could do so by actually getting a job.
Now, would it be unreasonable to feel uncomfortable at the mere fact of this hypothetical friendship? Would anyone else be concerned by the sight of the head of state and the head of government's wife strolling down Sussex Avenue, arm-in-arm, window-shopping for Manolo Blahniks?
Let's say the woman's husband were in a precarious minority government position. Would it be entirely illegitimate to wonder whether this friendship compromised the Governor General's ability to adjudicate impartially any sticky constitutional awkwardnesses that might arise? Are we so used to the notion of the Governor General as a spayed cocker spaniel pup, an executive irrelevance whose most significant task is delivering trite, soporific, Rotary-Club speeches to small, indifferent crowds at sod turnings that we've forgotten the key role she plays (or can play) in the fate of such a Parliament as is now in session?
I can't be the only one who would not want to see the holder of our highest office being taken to High Tea at the Chateau Laurier and being accosted with something like, "Oh Buffy, by the way... the polls are looking just fantastic, so my husband would like to make a confidence matter of a ludicrously trivial vote that he knows he'll lose, 'cause this whole "minority" thing's become such a bore. You'll be a dear and sign off on it, wont you--for friendship's sake?".
Wouldn't a government whose key theme is "transparency" seek to avoid the appearance of that most basic form of unaccountability--conflict of interest--especially if it is in danger of afflicting the highest office in the land?
It's a good thing this situation is only hypothetical, no?