In politics, speculation is half the fun – the other half is figuring out how, with all your experience in the field, you could have been so bloody wrong.
Actually, for the new minister, the reasons he or she is usually wrong are predictable as hell to a guy like me – not because I’m smart, but because I was there once myself. I went into my new Ministry office back on December 22, 1975, full of piss and vinegar, not to mention urgent plans. After all, I had 3 1/2 years of mismanagement to clean up and there’s no time to start like right now.
Well, yes, there is, you quickly find out from your Deputy Minister, because there are several decisions to make first. Not that they’re earth-shattering, just that not making them means you’re going to be pestered until you do. You need a good parking spot, preferably better than Vander Zalm’s, a key to your private loo lost by your predecessor, and clear instructions on how to replenish your liquor cabinet.
This turns out to be a good thing because you quickly learn that you need to take a bit longer getting acquainted, but it will have to wait a few days because, at the Premier’s request – well, not really a request – you’re flying out to Ottawa that afternoon with two colleagues to meet federal counterparts to straighten out an issue that the Premier pledged to clean up personally the moment he was sworn in.
When you get back to your office four days later, you discover that priorities you were going to deal with up front will have to come even later because you have a cabinet meeting you’re already late for and, afterwards, your deputy has arranged for you to tour your offices, show the flag, and meet the people who work for you. Cabinet runs late and you’re off to meet the 120 pissed off employees that didn’t leave at quitting time. Welcome to government, Mr. Minister.
A sticky problem
Former Minister and friend, Dr. Tom Perry and I were talking about this not long ago and agreed that if you’re lucky, you run into a sticky, double-headed problem right off the bat because it re-occurs with nauseating frequency and best you get used to it and have some practice dealing with it. I’ll make up an example because it’s just the kind that happened to me and, later, Tom.
A rancher is irate and won’t leave your office. Once a year he must drive his cattle over a faraway piece of unused land but the Agricultural Land Commission won’t permit it. Exceptions are routinely made in cases like this, so my Deputy Minister tells me, but they won’t budge. He is sure that a nudge from me will get the job done.
Then, prepare a suitable letter and I’ll sign it, I say. “Minister,” my deputy replies, “the trouble is he’s a regional director of the opposition party, hated by your party, and we know that if you do him a favour he’s going to raise hell with your party for doing him, the enemy, a favour you were under no obligation to do. Your cabinet colleagues will shun you, your constituency president will give you hell, and the Land Commission members will badly lose face and accuse you of usurping their sworn jurisdiction.” Shit!
The other scenario is exactly the same except the rancher is a bagman for your party, is the premier’s wife’s second cousin, and the Opposition is just waiting to pounce, big time! Shit!
If you don’t think this happens, you’ve never been in politics.
Out to get you
Actually, we’re all in for a huge adjustment and we should get ready – a good, stiff, single malt whiskey should do it.
Are you ready?
The Postmedia papers, the Sun and the Province, will have columnists, editorial writers, the editor of the Op-Ed page, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Fraser Institute on high alert to pour it on this pack of Reds now running things and, at the suggestion of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, there will be a new feature in the Sun called “Oil and the Sun for everyone”. Resource Works – the BC LNG booster – will have a feature in the Province, their formal partners, called “Hey, hee, golly gee, LNG is good for ye, hotter weather for me and thee!”
Phil Hochstein will have a feature called “Breaking the Union for Sun and Fun”, but Jimmy Pattison, having killed all the salmon, in a public display of contrition, will set up a benevolent society called Jimmy Pattison Pals in Poverty for fishermen, last place car salesmen and talk show hosts he’s known.
The biggest change will come in the media, of course, where the Masthead of the Vancouver Sun will holler, “Hating Horrible Horgan helps keep the climate crummy and casts comforting kisses to Coleman and Christy.”
The last big change may come when Damien sees this and puts his own masthead saying “Rafe’s Ready for Retirement”. [Publisher’s Note: You’re not getting off that easy, Rafe]