Peter Stoffer & the etiquette of the new norm

In June of 1995, thanks largely to the persistence a Cape Bretoner, then Cape Breton MP David Dingwall, Halifax played host to the world as the G7 Summit came to town.

If any Liberal cabinet minister had the ear of then prime minister Jean Chretien, it was the scrappy and single-minded Dingwall.

Those of us who lived through that mainland circus will recall a pop-up beer tent magically appeared on Barrington Street on the site of the old Birks building.

The scene of the crime. Or not the crime.

The joint was packed on this particularly hot humid summer night, so I saddled up to the bar where I enjoyed drinks with a couple of ladies — one in particular. The one with the expansive Kennedy-esque smile.

She was a full-bosomed, shoulder-length brunette who maintained a genuine interest in world affairs & Wolf Blitzer sightings.

As well as an interest in pulling her blazer wide to one side and guiding my hand over her bare breasts.

Soon, a table opened up where myself, Ms. FBB and her girlfriend took refuge. To this day I have absolutely no vivid recollection of the girlfriend.

The two friends sat on the bench side of the table. I, on the other.

More drinks.

Shortly thereafter, I thought I heard a pair of heels hit the floor. I looked down to spot Ms. FBB’s bare feet taking up space on my chair, perilously close to my crotch.

Finally, my new friend convinced her old friend to go home. Workday tomorrow, don’t ya know.

That left just the two of us. My new friend and me.

I suppose I could have called the police or a sympathetic reporter at the Chronicle Herald, but I did not.

What happened that hot June night was entirely consensual. But I didn’t initiate the chain of events. Neither did I yell or scream for help.

And, odd, though it may be, two decades later, the events of that evening have yet to permanently scar me. Nor are the events of that evening something I boast about.

But Ms. FBB was not in a position of power over me. And, no! I didn’t suggest a threesome!

Former Sackville MP Peter Stoffer might have suggested just that. I don’t know.

But the allegations against Pete are piling up. I’ve lost track of the number of workplace allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

It doesn’t look good for Peter Stoffer. Certainly not as good as the seemingly increasing number of people who want to nail the Stoffer ass to the wall.

At any rate, can we just slow this thing down and maybe play it at half-speed for a moment or two?

Some modern day facts are:

l There are, like it or not, manhaters out there.

l There are male sexual predators out there.

l There is a rather significant difference between such things as rape, attempted rape, forcible confinement, and an unwanted peck on the cheek, however sloppy or close to the mouth.

l There are folks who crave their 15 minutes of fame.

l There are women out there, who don’t know each other from Adam or Eve, emerging with stories strikingly familiar.

In Peter Stoffer’s case, if these women are to be believed, then the 62-year-old, 18-year veteran of the House of Commons retreats to his $90,000-pension, but not before having exhibited, again if these women are to be believed, what appears to be a certain pattern of bad behaviour.

I’ve known Peter Stoffer for years, not closely, but through this news racket.

I have taken his photograph on many, many, occasions. Sometimes into the v. early hours of the morning at a political celebration, or maybe an anniversary party for some weekly pop culture based, cheap newsprint magazine.

I’ve learned Peter can put away the beers with the best of ’em. Like a lot of us.

I’ve seen Peter Stoffer a little tipsy on his feet, with his shirt tail out, at his bear hugging best.

He tells us he’s a fun guy, gregarious guy. Touchy-feely and all that. He was born in Holland, after all.

Nevertheless, if 10, 12, years after the fact, an unwanted kiss or two from Peter Stoffer still haunts you and sends you to therapy then, and no offence, then I think you have much larger problems than Peter Stoffer. Problems which likely began long before Peter Stoffer ever laid eyes on you.

It doesn’t make it right.

But neither, in my humble opinion, does it do anything to keep Stoffer’s behaviour, as piggish and boorish as it might have been, in proportion. Unless far, far more serious allegations come along.

On the other hand, what troubles me greatly is, again if these women from all across the country are to be believed — is Peter’s language, the alleged focus on sexual activity, the relentless (allegedly) sexual innuendo, the alleged obsession with sex. Where the hell is that coming from?

What if the jokes weren’t really jokes after all?

I don’t know.

I don’t know a lot of things these days. I don’t know the lines. The etiquette.

All I know is that former prime minister and serial female bum-patter John Turner, under this new-norm, would be dead on some hill; hunched forward, limp, hanging off the cross to which he’d just been nailed.

That’s all I know.