TORYVILLE: CANADA’S ANSWER TO BRITAIN’S DISMALAND

by Geoff Olson

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You’ve probably seen reports on graffiti artist Banksy’s “Dismaland,” a “bemusement park” located in Weston-super-Mare, UK. Among the attractions is a sculpture of an overturned pumpkin carriage with a dead Cinderella hanging out the window, encircled by paparrazi.

Why should austerity-battered Brits get all the artistically sublimated angst? If I have my way, they won’t. Welcome to my newly imagined Canadian tourist trap outside of Fort McMurray, within choking distance of the Alberta Tar Sands. I call it “Toryville.”

clownsToryville is a child-unfriendly exploration of all things politically down and dirty. You enter through a polyresin replica of the Centre Block of Parliament, complete with a Peace Tower clock set at two minutes to midnight. Here security goons aggressively frisk and then frogmarch you into the Prorogued House of Horror Commons. This dark, spooky space replicates the Prime Minister’s past stints at blocking legislative debate through a dictatorial lights-out.

As you stumble about in the darkened chamber, you’re accosted by actors playing dead and living Tories, including the bow-tied Arthur Porter, chair of the Canadian Security Intelligence Review Committee, who reportedly died in Panama in 2015 after the largest fraud investigation in Canadian history brought corruption charges against him.

Boo! It’s former PM Brian Mulroney clutching a paper bag full of cash, with German-Canadian arms lobbyist Karl Schreiber at his side! Look out, it’s former Progressive Conservative leader Peter Mackay, wielding the knife he stuck in David Orchard’s back!

Staggering from this scary setting, your eyes adjust to the technicolour kitsch of the Toryville fairgrounds, complete with the F-35 Tilt-o-Whirl, made up of jet replicas. A worker playing the auditor general loudly cautions you it’s way too expensive to board these Harper-endorsed white elephants. In any case, the ride is immobile until special software is available in 2016.

Off now to The Hall of Robocalls, where you hear misleading and manipulative telephone calls reported from 261 ridings across the country. On your way out, you pass a diorama of the singular figure convicted after these impossibly widespread feats, Conservative staffer Michael Sona, sitting in a prison cell with a copy of Voter Suppression for Dummies.

This dispiriting experience is nothing compared to The Pirates of Rideau Canal. All aboard! A boat painted in Tory aquamarine sails you through a cave lined with actors in chains playing federal researchers. These gagged minions attempt to sing “It’s a Science World After All” in unison, but it comes out as unintelligible moaning. Several grinning Conservative media contacts dressed in pirate gear mistranslates this as a feel-good jingle about ethical oil and jobs for Canadians.

A surprise awaits at the cave exit: a robot rock band with a robot Harper at the keyboard, banging out robot versions of Hey Jude and Sweet Caroline. But don’t even think of jumping overboard to escape unless you’re big on tailing pond effluent.

Disembarking, you find the gangplank leads you directly toward an architectural riff on the PM’s pet project, The Victims of Communism Memorial, revised and reworked for Toryville as The Victims of Malignant Narcissism Memorial.

Time now for The Nigel Wright Career Roller Coaster. Take a slow, click-click-click ride upward, passing the former Harper advisor’s career highlights, till you reach the apex at the PMO. From here it’s a nauseating drop into the Chianti-swilling piehole of an ginormous, misshapen bald head. You’re now in the Mike Duffy Senatorial Sideshow, careening through a blizzard of Monopoly money and screeching to halt in a recreated federal courtroom, where a conga line of lawyer and expert witnesses spell out “PM Duplicity” with their own bodies.

The ride almost seems anticlimactic given the carnival of corruption that preceded it. But there’s still so much more to see and do in Toryville. The Parliamentary Press Hurdle; the Contempt of Parliament Carousel; The Ferris Election Act Wheel; The Long Form Census Target Range; the War-on-Terror-Whack-a-Mentally-Ill-Mole.

In Banksy style, you exit through the gift shop. Pick up the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the form of a box of confetti. Or buy an inflatable likeness of the late Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas, CCF architect of Canada’s universal healthcare system, holding his horrified face in the style of Edward Munch’s The Scream.

The Vancouver Courier, Sept. 3

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