Electrifrying the Innocent

The Scene: An office occupying 640 acres of space on the 123rd penthouse floor of a downtown tower in a small rural town in western Canada. Far below on the street, too far for the human eye, are what appears to be ants carrying eggs on their backs but with the aid of a space telescope we can see that they are pedestrians aring white cowboy hats.

 Seated behind a desk that occupies one of the 640 acres is a man in a suit that reeks of wealth and stale expensive cigar smoke. Standing in front of the desk is a tall and confident woman.

Woman: “We’ve got a deal here that will knock your socks off so you can wiggle your toes in the fur of that endangered polar bear rug under your desk.”

Man: “Well, let’s put it in the chute and see if it bucks.”

Woman: “We’re going to export electricity to the U.S. and people who we let in will not only make an instant fortune but will be able to build their own Heritage Trust Funds.”

Man: “That’s gonna take more money than I’m willing to gamble or can even afford. The infrastructure alone will run into the billions.”

Woman: “It won’t cost us a penny. All we have to do is buy shares in a company at, oh, say a buck, maybe two bucks a share and in a few yars they’ll be selling for a few hundred each and paying a dividend that will cover all 22 of your condo fees, fuels for the yacht, insurance on your car collection and all the operational costs of your jet.”

Man: “Sounds too good to be true and I think even those dummies down on the street are realizing that if it sounds that way, chances are it is that way. Although it wasn’t that long ago they were electing and re-electing us until we got smart and took the severance and pensions and got down to making some real money.”

Woman: “Well, here’s the deal. We’re going to get the dummies down there (she flicks a finger at the window to indicate the scurrying throngs far below) pay all the infrastructure costs and we’ll run lines from as far north as it is profitable all the way down to the border. Then, we’ll sell all the surplus electricity that will be generated when they build those nuclear plants and gas fired generators up north to the Americans.”

Man: “I’m not sure even those dummies down there will stand still for that. And, it will take 100 years with the rates as they are before you’d ever see any dividends.”

Woman: “What do you think of this:  An Act to guarantee that the electricity will be there when people get up in the middle of the night to pee or go down to the basement to check for possible hobgoblins and that seniors’ homes will never go dark, farms will be brightly lit and hospitals won’t have to use coal oil lamps in the operating rooms.

Man: “That sounds like  something you’d hear in the Legislature.”

Woman: “That’s what we wrote for our friends up there and they’ve agreed to take it forward.”

Man: “But if the people (he flicks a finger at the window) down there get wind of this even they probably wouldn’t stand for it.”

Woman: “How are they going to get wind of it? The media won’t go beyond the wording of the bill because it would take time and space away from their Lindsay Lohan stories. Even if they did, the dummies would only read as far as the preamble and thank their lucky stars their government is going to make sure they won’t stub their toes in the dark when they get up to pee.”

Man: “You still have the problem of building the infrastructure and the billions that will take.”

Woman: “No, somebody on the ledge in the Leg. will just say that it will mean rates will have to rise to cover the minimal costs that will be incurred. Then, over the next 3 or 4 years we’ll triple, maybe even quadruple the rates and bingo, Bob’s your uncle and he just left you a fortune..”

Man: “Who’s in on this? Too big a crowd and it dilutes the windfall.”

Woman: “We’re keeping this tight. It’ll be just our usual friends, you know, our former colleagues and the friends who covered our campaign costs and close family but none your previous wives.”

Man: “I’m in. What’s the minimum? Doesn’t matter, put me down for twice the minimum…no, triple it.

Woman: “Consider it a done deal.”

Man, leaning over his desk and looking into her eyes: “Did I ever tell you how much you resemble Lindsay Lohan? You could pass for her sister with that little scattering of freckles.”

She blushes and squirms obviously delighted by the flattery. “We should celebrate. Let’s go to the Club and gargle some of that two hundred dollar a bottle scotch.”

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Law and Order in the Wild East

   Have a little law and order story I’d like to share. A friend whose name I will not disclose from a city I will not name e-mailed me to tell me about a little incident in which he was a participant very recently. It will probably offend the bleeding hearts.

  My friend had stopped at a convenience type place for a coffee on his way to the office and before he got to the cashier he looked out and saw his vehicle slowly backing out of the parking space. He set his coffee down and ran out and grabbed the door handle to drag the thief out but the door was locked. But just at that moment, before the vehicle was backed up enough for the driver to turn  so he could exit the parking lot a big van pulled up and blocked the way.  

  In the parking lot, my friend ran to the passenger side of his car and it was not locked and he reached in, turned ignition off and hauled the bad guy bodily across the seat and onto http://www.viagrabelgiquefr.com/ the parking lot where a bit of a dustup began to take place. Unfortunately for the thief, a scrawny and wired 50-year old druggy, my friend outweighed him by probably close to 100 pounds, most of that hard muscle. The thief was, as the expression goes, rag-dolled for several minutes even though he was screaming that he had AIDS and was spitting at my friend and telling him he was going to kill him and his family. The thief was batted a few times as well just to remind him he should mind his manners. Then a police car with two officers arrived. They took the thief into custody and he continued to scream and threaten my friend and his family. One of the officers grabbed his head and banged it a few times on a waste receptacle and told him society wished there were more good people like my friend around and fewer wastes of skin like him (the culprit).

   As it turned out the driver of the van who blocked the thief’s getaway had been following him for several blocks after seeing him trying to kick down his garage door. When the bad guy took flight he grabbed his keys and cell phone and followed while calling 911. And as it also turned out the police had been looking for this guy because he had just tried to kick down the front door of a home in which a very elderly woman lived alone.

   I just love good news stories.

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Welcome to the Hill Kid

   Parliament Hill is welcoming a whole herd of newbies and they will outnumber the ones who were elected and sent there by voters. This bunch will be the hired help; the people who staff the offices of Members of Parliament and Cabinet and I’d welcome them each and every one if I was still there. And then I’d try to give them a little advice on how to avoid the fate that befell Jack and Jill.

   For starters, I would say, what you are about to experience is not a movie nor a television series. This isn’t The West Wing or Snakes and Ladders and it isn’t any movie in which Harrison Ford or Michael Douglas played heroic but humble presidents surrounded by razor sharp political operatives. And, if in your mind’s eye there is a camera-equipped helicopter hovering overhead while you walk briskly from the Justice Building to the Confederation Building with you centred in the frame, give your head a violent shake. There is no camera-equipped helicopter; there isn’t even a hand held video camera on a tripod unless you set it up yourself in which case you can stop reading right now because you are beyond saving.

   You are not Michael Fox playing deputy mayor or advisor to a president. If this was a movie you would be a faceless extra seen far in the background as an indistinct individual waiting to catch a bus from wherever apartments are cheapest to the nearest transfer point to catch another bus that stops somewhere near Parliament Hill. Extras on movies filmed in Canada get about ten bucks an hour which is probably not too far short of what you’re being paid and that’s why you’re taking a bus on a monthly pass and not a taxi like they do in the movies. And if you are employed by a Member of Parliament and not in a Minister’s office, that’s why your boss doesn’t arrive in a chauffeur driven Prius.

   How best to describe your work and standing on Parliament Hill? Scut and grunt work and steadying the ladder for your boss who might well be on the lowest rung waiting patiently or impatiently for the posterior immediately above to move up another step. And if your boss is trying to help that posterior above ascend to the next step so she or he can move higher, hand him or her a construction hard hat to make the pushing a little more comfortable.

   Your title might be legislative assistant, research assistant or even executive assistant and they all look pretty good on the business card and fun to hand out when you take the bus home at Christmas. But nowhere on any card anywhere on the Hill is the title Deep Throat so get that out of your mind immediately. Which brings us to the media.

  Don’t try to cultivate them. Don’t try to socialize with them as that will lead to bankruptcy or starvation because you can’t afford to hang out at Hy’s. Even if you do find yourself sidling up to one of the “media stars” chances are you will be ignored. And remember, every single member of the Press Gallery is a “media star” and they don’t have time for the little people. And you are one of the little people. And, if you do happen to run into a “media star” in a cafeteria lineup, don’t pretend to have more clout, inside information or a direct line to anybody other than your boss because they’ve heard it before and have learned from experience that you probably aren’t even allowed to touch the office thermostat.

  I mentioned bankruptcy and starvation in the above ‘graph and want to explain. You are not a member of the martini set. You are part of the crowd that chips in and shares a jug of draft at Brixton’s or at Darcy McGee’s at the other end of Sparks Street. You can avoid starvation and scurvy by keeping a lot of Kraft Dinner in your apartment. For variety, add tuna or a weiner or two. Try to eat some fresh fruit once in a while. Look in the bruised or far too ripe section for bargains. Who knows how long your life on the Hill will last so don’t be afraid to buy the cheapest wine and beer.

   But you can have a lot of fun and you will meet and make a lot of new friends. And there are days off for time to explore everything Ottawa has to offer. Don’t confine your potential friendships to colleagues who work for Members or Ministers of your party. Cross the floor and meet staffers who work for other parties. Just don’t share secrets you might be privy to and don’t gossip about the antics or weaknesses of your boss or any other Member or Minister. If you do, there are people on the Hill who know how to sniff out the gossips and you will suddenly find yourself standing outside your building wondering where you’ll find the money to catch a Greyhound back to where you call home. Remember that the play acting during Question Period and or in Committee is just that- play acting. Leave that silliness to the politicians and get to know your counterparts from other parties. I had and still have great friends who were employees and or staunch supporters of other parties and am much the richer for it.

   Finally, work your buns off at whatever it is you were hired to do. Make your boss look good and help him or her to shine at whatever assignment is handed down from on high or on whatever issues are important to the voters back home.  You do this and you can be confident that the people who know how to sniff out gossips also know how to sniff out talent and will some bright and shiny day find you. From somewhere far above you, so far above they probably wear oxygen masks, will come a call to have a quick meeting over coffee. That might be the day you move from a Member’s office to a Minister’s office.  You will have a little more money but all the rules still apply:  no pretending, no pretensions, no flashing the new business card (unless it is in your job description) to the “media stars” and no gossip about antics or weaknesses you might have observed or heard about from friends and colleagues.  Keep your head down, continue to work your buns off for your new boss. Make him or her as shiny as you possibly can. Do that and one lovely day the cymbals will clang, the drums will bang and the horns will blaze away and you will find yourself, and I hope this happens, in that holiest of holy places in Ottawa, the PMO. Then, in the privacy of your own squalid little apartment, you can, for a few moments, turn that mind’s eye camera on and look in the bathroom mirror and say, “you’ve come a long way, kid.” And give yourself an admiring wink.

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Don’t Blame Stephen Harper

Prime Minister Harper is being widely criticized for appointing three unsuccessful candidates in the recent general election to the Senate of Canada, two of them having resigned their Senate seats to run in the election. The third, Josee Verner was also defeated in her Quebec City area riding.

The media, as usual, ignores the real challenges and deeper part of the Senate story because they believe their readers, viewers or listeners have the attention span of gnats and, besides, it is more fun to throw crap around in the hope some of it will stick to the guy so many of them actively dislike, that very same Prime Minister Harper.

I have for many years been a proponent of Senate reform. I believe every Senator should be elected and that it should be better balanced with no province having more clout than any other. I am not as strong as so many others on term limits however. 

I’m not critical of these most recent appointments and don’t really care who Harper selects although I often joke that I wouldn’t mind being on his short list.

The fact is Canada will never have real Senate reform unless every province and territory sign on to the idea. There’s one problem right there: the New Democratic Party wants to abolish the Senate. How likely is it a New Democratic provincial premier will agree to opening up the Constitution so the reform can happen? If she or he believes it should be abolished how could they agree to a round of Constitutional negotiations that would focus on reforming the place they want to see disappear?

Nobody wants to open up the Constitution. So, the only way to achieve reform is for the provinces to agree to hold Senate elections. Alberta, where support for reform is very strong doesn’t want to hold another Senate election because of the fear a party other than the governing Progressive Conservatives will win. I was there when Prime Minister Mulroney called Stan Waters to the Senate after Stan won the first Senate election ever held in Canada. In fact, I picked up the phone in the Reform Party’s Calgary office and was told it was the Prime Minister’s office calling trying to track down Stan and asking if I could help them. We didn’t have cell phones in those days and I knew Stan was at an appointment and would be in the office in an hour or two. I also guessed what the call was about but it was a guess and I wasn’t told by my caller. When Stan arrived at the office I told him they were looking for him and that my hunch was he was on his way to the Senate.

Bert Brown was also popularly elected in Alberta but Chretien, who promised in the 1993 election that he would reform the Senate ignored Alberta’s choice and wishes. And the media and his critics call Stephen Harper undemocratic?! As I recall the quote from Chretien was something like, “you want Senate reform? I’ll give you Senate reform.” Of course I’m sure it was contingent on his getting a majority in the House of Commons, which he did, three times.

Another stumbling block is the fear in some provincial premiers’ offices that elected Senators would have more power and would be seen as voices for their province, as legitimate as any premier and because of the political media concentration in Ottawa, the premiers would be displaced as the guardians/saviours/spokespersons of their fiefdoms. Imagine how that would rankle some premiers if provincial issues were discussed without their being present.

There will not be any reforms, except term limits, until all the provincial and territorial premiers agree to hold Senate elections. It can be done, not cheaply, but not too hellishly expensive either. Leave it to the provinces and territories to sort out what would work best in their jurisdictions.

Other more scholarly supporters of Senate reform have written far more and far more lucidly on the issue. I just wish some of the media people would take time to read what has been written so they could see below the tip of the iceberg and pass that observation along to their news consumers.

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When Politicians Go Wrong

There comes a time in the life of a newly https://melbournerx.com/buy-cialis-melbourne.html elected Member of Parliament when she or he arrives at a stunning realization. It is that they have been gifted with a no-cut contract and are thus, at least for a few years, entirely invincible. They cannot be fired. They can do pretty well anything they want to do or do nothing and nobody can do a thing about it. They might be shunned by colleagues, they might be booted from caucus, they might be reviled by the media and voters back home but they can go on earning more money than most ever dreamed possible, max out their expense cialis generique accounts, live the high life, bully their Hill staff, and nobody can do a thing about it until the next election.

I’ve seen this happen to more than one and it hasn’t been confined to Members from any one party.

I won’t disclose any names here or party affiliations in offering a few examples of what I’ve witnessed over the years.

-A newly elected Member I met in the Press Club and got to know there asked me on an early Friday evening to remind him when it was 7:00 pm so he could make it to the airport in time for his flight home. I did. I reminded him again at 7:30 and again at 8:00. He never left and when the Club opened the next day for the afternoon, he crawled in for some hair of the dog. During his career I think he probably returned to the riding at most once a month and when he’d show up Saturdays at the Press Club he’d explain that he was  “on weekend duty” which meant somebody from the party had to be in Ottawa. That was a load because the city was crawling with Cabinet Ministers on any given weekend and an unknown backbencher was of no interest to the media if some big story broke. After a few terms he decided not to seek re-election for health reasons and I heard that his early death was due largely to booze and that he’d been pretty much a non-drinker before his first election.

-A newly elected Member, young and single, spent his evenings trolling the  bars for female companionship. He’d take them back to his MP Hill office and impress the hell out of them and ply them with drinks. One evening, a young woman threw up in his office and he called the security desk and told them to get somebody up to clean his office. He was brusque when he made the call and “arrogant” I was told by my friends in security when the cleaner arrived. I heard it all next day from one of the security guys. After that, this MP was considered by the permanent Hill staff, security/cleaning etc. to be a jerk of the first order. And every move he made thereafter was the subject of gossip and ridicule and probably still is.

-One MP treated his staff like dirt. When he was home in the riding he’d call his office at 5:00 pm Ottawa time to make sure they weren’t sneaking out early. When bags of goodies, candy, chocolates, licorice & stuff were delivered to all Members (don’t know if this still happens) he’d give each staffer a package of gum and take the rest back to his apartment. These bags probably had a retail value of around $200.00. Most Members would leave them in the office for staff to enjoy but not this guy. But this was the guy who also told his staffers in Ottawa and in the riding that he had complete control over their lives. He’d sit at his desk and yell at staffers to bring him a coffee, no please, no thank you. He went through staff like corn through a goose. One of his ex-staffers who landed a job in another MP office told me she felt guilty when this guy suffered a medical emergency and she gave a silent cheer.  But she said, it was a feel good kind of guilty.

-There have been Members, male and female, from all parties who treat the permanent Hill staff like servants and their own personal staff in much the same way. The weakest ones let it go to their heads when they are saluted by security or the doors are held open for them. These are the Members who call on staff on weekends to run personal errands for them. There was one, a female, who would call one of her staffers on Saturday mornings and read a grocery list to her over the phone. The staffer would do the shopping and drop the groceries off at the Member’s apartment. Sometimes, it meant 2 or 3 stops if the Member wanted wine, beer or hard liquor.  I thnk the staffer was grateful that at least the Member didn’t expect her to pay for what she delivered. My advice to any MP staff is never admit to owning a car because if you work for a lousy, two-bit MP, you could wind up providing a weekend taxi service.

-The best, most popular and highly regarded Members are those who know they’ve won the lottery, know that a four year no-cut contract is manna and don’t let this new found security, prestige and power go to their heads. I’ve met and known more of the good ones than the bad ones but it is unfortunate that there are so many bad ones.


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Coalition? Not! 2004 Revisited

There has been much talk, speculation and misinformation from some media about talks that took place in 2004 between then Opposition leader Stephen Harper, NDP leader Jack Layton and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe.

Let me say at the outset I was not there during those conversations and was not “officially” informed of what was discusssed. But it is not hard, if you spend more time listening than talking, to learn what’s going on backstage.

In 2004 there were rumours swirling and much speculation that Paul Martin was either going to be defeated by the combined opposition parties or trigger an election. I think it is safe to say that opinions in all shop viagra online parties were mixed. I think it is equally safe to say that the hawks in all parties were confident they would be re-elected while the doves, especially those who had just been elected, weren’t as cocky. Among unelected backroom strategists opinion was equally divided although I had a hunch at the time that the hawks outnumbered the doves in the Liberal backrooms.

There were discussions at all levels about the possibility of yet another election and whether anybody would show up to vote.

As everybody now knows, the three opposition leaders met for discussions. I again repeat Iwas not privy to those discussions and was unaware of them until after the fact. When I did become aware my first question to one close friend who was aware and informed was were we looking at or seriously negotiating a coalition. I was told no, in no uncertain terms.

What was under discussion was if the Governor General explored other options or alternatives and asked if any other party in the house could form a government, could one of them answer yes. But that would require the co-operation and support of the other two parties. The big question then was what would a legislative agenda look like to gain the support of those two parties.

The Bloc Quebecois makes it perfectly clear that its Members are there in Parliament for Quebec, first and always. But the Bloc will support legislation that benefits the rest of Canada. “Hey, as long as it’s good for Quebec, if it’s good for Canada, no problem.”

The NDP has supported budgets in the past that gave them what they considered half-measures but half-measures are better than no measures at all.

The challenge was to create a legislative agenda and budget that would, if the Governor General asked that question, allow the party leader who stepped forward to govern for a period of perhaps 18 to 24 months. After that all bets would be off and it would be, I guessed at the time, every party for itself.

This would not be a coalition. This would be a minority government in a very precarious position. There would be no New Democrat or BQ Members appointed to Cabinet.  But there would be discussions on legislative initiatives involing the leaders of those parties. Would there be, for instance, support for a family friendly tax credit? Would there be support in Quebec and in NDP held ridings for a reduction of the GST? And, this is my speculation, if there were some initiatives that would raise the ire of the other opposition parties, they could be set aside for the time being.

There was another consideration as well. My well informed friend said that it would not be a challenge to find Liberal Members who would support some legislation. So while it would be a precarious minority, it was not without possibilities. Lester Pearson did a masterful job of governing with a minority; it could be done again using that as blueprint.

Only once did the word coalition enter into a conversation and I uttered it in my question to my friend. Were we looking at or seriously negotiating a coalition. And the answer was an emphatic no.

One last note, a cool and rainy night I was leaving the Centre Block in the company of another staffer and heading to the Press Club. It was quite late and as we walked out under the Peace Tower, Opposition Leader Stephen Harper’s car came up alongside and he leaned out of the window and said, “what do you think, Woody, should we bring them down?” I said not right now because I was going for a drink and late dinner, but if he did it the next day or even in a few months, he’d be Prime Minister. I have a letter signed by the PM wishing me all the best in my retirement and thanking me for my service in the trenches with John Reynolds. The letter is typed and signed but over in the right hand margin, a hand-written note, “You were prophetic, Woody.”

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Sympathy for the Tireless

It is election time in Canada. On March 25th, the government of my good friend Prime Minister Stephen Harper was defeated on a confidence motion and today (March 26th, 2011) the PM will visit the Governor General to tell him what he already knows; it is time for  a general election.

But my thoughts turn to old friends and friends I haven’t met but would have met and befriended when I was on Parliament Hill. These are the staffers in the offices of Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers and even in the Office of the Prime Minister. I am not excluding people who toiled for Members of opposition parties (the Liberals and New Democrats & even the Bloc).

In 1993 when dozens of Reform Party greenhorns were elected, I saw first hand how the huge Progressive Conservative defeat affected so many good, hard-working Parliament Hill staffers. I went to bat for even those I’d just met urging Reform Members to consider hiring them because they knew their way around the Hill and had experience that would be invaluable to any new MP entering that political maze. I talked with many of the newly unemployed at the old Press Club and told more than a few to forward me their CVs and I’d forward them on to the people charged with recruiting staff. Some declined with thanks, others accepted the offer with thanks.  There were some newly elected Members who would not hire anyone who had worked for any old line parties for fear of sabotage. Others bought my reasoning that these people were what I dubbed Hill Professionals who were unemployed, needed jobs and would transfer their political loyalty out of both necessity and gratitude. As far as I know, not one of those hired disappointed any MP who took the chance.

This election will see further disruptions in the lives of these good and dedicated people. Some of the Members for whom they work will be defeated and replaced by MsP from other parties. These staffers will get modest severance packages and will try, if they are so inclined to continue working on the Hill, to find employment in other Member offices. Some will be successful but more will not be. Some of them have been there long enough shop viagra online to have bought homes and will have mortgages to meet, car payments to make, groceries to purchase and lives to continue living. I never experienced it but talked with enough people in that predicament from 1993 through all the elections until I retired in 2006 to know it can be an awfully worrisome and depressing stretch of time. I don’t how many times I picked up the tab at the Press Club for out of work staffers from all parties who were there to network and trying to make a mug of beer last through a whole evening. I became a sort of sympathetic career counsellor and advocate and reaped a huge benefit; a whole whack of new friends.

So on this morning of the day the Prime Minister visits the Governor General and the election begins officially, my thoughts turn to all those Hill staffers who face a worrying and uncertain future. While I hope my party gains a lot of seats and elects a lot of new Members, I hope just as fervently that every one of those people who will be displaced no matter which party has employed him or her in the past finds a spot back on the Hill if that indeed is their desire and ambition.

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Why I Joined The Alberta Party

A few friends asked why when I told them I had joined the Alberta Party. Really very simple, I’ve replied more than once, I’m looking for a provincial political home. I’m a federal Conservative and that won’t change but provincially and politically I have been one of the homeless. In the last provincial election I voted Liberal simply because I could not bring myself to vote for a party that was drawing from a talent pool so shallow you wouldn’t get your socks wet if you waded in it.  It has been said that every vote counts but I knew when I Xed the ballot, it wouldn’t count for anything. Albertans have made it abundantly clear they’re not going to embrace a Liberal government, now or ever. The last time voters flirted with the Liberals was when the late Lawrence Decore led the party and that will remain the last time.

When the Alliance and Wild Rose parties united, I was interested but not excited. In my mind it was just some of the people in the house that Lougheed built siphoning off some of what remained in an increasingly shallow talent pool. It was just part of the same old family squabbling over who should occupy the master bedroom.

Then I watched as the Alberta Party began to develop and my reaction to that was a yawn. When I read about The Big Listen I paid a little more attention, thinking that at the very least they might get a few more people engaged in the politics of their province. I find it profoundly embarassing that voter turnout in Alberta is so low, possibly lower than in any province or territory in the country.

Can’t say that I blame voters who I think have decided it isn’t worth the bother because nothing changes except the faces from time to time. In the last election, Stelmach became Premier with the support of around 24% of the eligible voters. The rest stayed home or voted for other parties. I predicted at that time that Stelmach wouldn’t make it to the next election.

Back to the present, I read the odd article about the Alberta Party and they were odd, as in rare, because the media doesn’t pay a lot of attention to a political party they don’t believe will ever get off the ground. To be honest, I didn’t think so either but then I wasn’t convinced the Reform Party would ever take flight back when I joined Preston Manning in early 1990 and began visiting every community hall, church basement, coffee shop and living room from Vancouver Island to the Manitoba-Ontario boundary.

So I read what little there was in the media about the Big Listen and I was intrigued. This was very much like the early days of Reform. I asked around and was told the early players in the Alberta Party were previous supporters of other parties. An old Liberal supporter and good friend who keeps his finger on the pulse of the province told me there were former Progressive Conservative, Liberal, Green and NDP supporters and even some previous candidates in on the ground floor. This too, was like the early days of Reform when the party was signing members who had previously been staunch supporters of those same parties federally.

I liked the idea of The Big Listen. This was small groups of people getting together to discuss the politics of their province and the issues and ideas that are important to them. This too was reminiscent of Reform in the early days. Good on them, I thought, hope it takes off. I had seen firsthand how  former NDP supporters could sit down with former Progressive Conservatives & Liberals and hammer out a policy everybody could support.

When I retired and came home from the road in 2006 I put that life behind me. It had been as much fun and exciting as anything you could ever do with your clothes on but having time to golf, hunt and fish whenever the seasons and weather permitted was a helluva lot more restful than racing through 14-16 hour days, 7 days a week with a cell phone grafted to your ear and a blackberry in each hand. Even after all this time though, I still haven’t broken the habit of rolling out of bed at 4:00 am to read 3 or 4 newspapers and everything that’s newsy on the internet.  I was doing just that a few mornings ago when I came across a story about The Alberta Party. That was the morning I got on the party’s website and got a phone number and called Midge in Red Deer, had a pleasant conversation, hung up and signed up. A few days later I met Brian Thiessen downtown and had another pleasant conversation, tossed him a few observations and ideas and said yes when he wondered if I might be up to writing something about why I’ve become a member.

So I am now a supporter of The Alberta Party. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go back to 14-16 hour days etc. etc. but I will offer advice or recount experiences that might help or be of some value to this new venture. I will keep my fingers crossed that it continues to grow and gain momentum and most critically important that it engages Albertans and ignites or reignites their involvement in the politics of their province.

I do want to stress that I gave my daughter my Blackberry the week I returned home from the road and my cell phone is only turned on when I’m making calls and those calls are only made when I’m on my way to meet friends with whom I golf, hunt or fish, or when I forget the shopping list and am wandering down the aisles at the grocery store.

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Christmas Past Remembered

I have a recollection of a Christmas a very long time ago, when I was 4 years old when I discovered something that convinced me Santa Claus not only existed but came early and visited some homes at least twice. One of my jobs then, if I was up before everybody else, was to go out to the front porch and get the milk the milkman placed inside what was called the milk chute. In those days the Union milkman drove a wagon drawn by two horses. They were big glass quart bottles and I’d have to make 2 trips to the kitchen, carrying one at a time. This one morning, it was December 24th, I went out and discovered two or three huge boxes filled with stuff. They had been placed just inside the front porch door which was never locked in those days and some of things in the boxes were wrapped in Christmas paper. I forgot the milk and ran to inform y parents that it was Christmas morning and Santa had visited.

As it turned out, it wasn’t Santa but a delivery man and he had brought a Christmas celebratory gift from my Dad’s employer. This was in 1946 and people were still able to order gifts, or piles of them, from companies such as Hudson Bay or Eatons and have them delivered.

Inside those boxes were all sorts of magical stuff. Although Dad didn’t smoke, there were flat 50 tins of cigarettes, cigars, scotch, rye, gin and rum as well as winter gloves for Dad. There were toys and candy for a 4 year old boy, presents for his older brother and sister, a scarf and gloves for mother PLUS a turkey, ham, canned oysters, all sorts of other canned and pickled delicacies and boxes of chocolates and all manner of Christmas candies.

Years later I read somewhere that such home to home gifts were fairly commonplace among some segments of society which, I suppose, means those who could afford it. “RJ” as my Dad called the owner of the company was at home in Ontario and we were in Calgary where Dad was busy getting the flour mill RJ had purchased up and operating for a hungry postwar world.

That delivery was made, I think, every Christmas until RJ sold the flour mill and every Christmas Day, we’d have two, sometimes three guests for dinner. They were the old bachelor guys who worked at the flour mill and had no families and no other place to visit. They were the recipients of the cigarettes and cigars Dad didn’t smoke and always left after dinner with vast slices of turkey and ham and other fixings, including sandwiches if they were due to return to the mill that night for the midnight shift.  They’d also be given a tot of whatever liquor they preferred in 4 oz. bottles because all of the stuff RJ had delivered had already been purchased so it was surplus to our needs and or wants.

The turkey and ham we already had on hand was saved for New Year’s Dinner and the same old bachelors were always invited to come and share the bounty again. I think, on reflection, that was one of the reasons those old guys were always so firecely loyal to my Dad.

And, I’m grateful that everymorning before and after Christmas when the season is in full swing, I still get the same excitement I experienced that morning on December 24th so many years ago.

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Actor Loves All Roads Lead To Manyberries

I read All Roads Lead To Manyberries on Air Canada flights to and from California. Laughed and grinned for 6000 miles–should be an award winner–Ray Stone- actor, author, broadcaster, poet, cartoonist.

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