Hope and hard work

I drove away from my house a little after 9:30 this morning to do my usual Saturday morning provisioning at the farmers market. So when I turned on the radio, Chris Hall of CBC's The House was already in mid-interview with someone from the federal government. I guessed—correctly—that the interviewee was Dominic LeBlanc, the government house leader. And he was...answering questions! Not all of them, but most of them, giving straight responses with no obfuscation. At least once he said "That's a good question" and proceeded to honour the good question with a good answer. At one point when he didn't answer (and didn't pretend to), Hall asked again, saying, "Just between you and me," and LeBlanc laughed and said "You and me and about two million of your listeners, right?" It was very much a political interview, with Hall asking direct and sometimes pointed questions, but there was an openness to the whole thing that was striking.

I thought maybe I should pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

That's a sad commentary really. This kind of exchange between a national affairs correspondent and a government minister should not have seemed exceptional. Yet after almost a decade of hostility, stonewalling, and often complete bullshit (former foreign minister John Baird being one of the few Conservative ministers who seemed relatively at ease and forthcoming in interviews), it was absolutely refreshing to hear the obvious change of tone.

LeBlanc didn't know the answer to a question about specifics of the troop training deployment in Iraq and Syria because he was waiting for a decision from the Minister of Defence. He brought up several other cabinet colleagues who were clearly very hands-on with their portfolios. He spoke of having a discussion with the leader of the Conservative caucus in the Senate and with the leader of the Senate Liberals (technically no longer a caucus) about the role of the Senate as currently configured and how a Conservative majority in the upper house would handle legislation from a Liberal government.

I spent the years of Conservative minorities warning about what would happen if the Conservatives won a majority, and the last four years helping cite the abuses that the Harper government was perpetrating. It was a surprisingly uphill battle. For a long time, many people seemed to have thought that things weren't so bad, that they were really okay, and that the new normal was fine or even inevitable. Since the election, I have seen so many with a palpable sense of relief at the change in the government and in the country. It's that stark. I read someone saying that the defeat of Stephen Harper and the end of his tenure as Prime Minister was like getting away from an abusive partner. You don't know just how bad it was until it stops.

Certainly the new government is far from perfect. Except among the media, whose job it is to be skeptical, and some of the chattering classes, who do what they do, the Trudeau honeymoon seems not to have finished. But the government faces huge issues, those they promised to deal with as well as things they did not anticipate. The Prime Minister will inevitably disappoint some. Rookie ministers will make mistakes. And that is especially true because we are not just back to the status quo ante. In many ways, Canada is back. But in many more ways, this is a government of new ideas. Some of those will run aground on the shoals of reality and changed circumstances, but I think that with this new generation of politicians we might see some changes that we really do like and have been needing for a long time.

I am cautiously, realistically excited. Is that possible?

I have even applied to work with the transition team, despite being able to see the light of retirement at the end of the work tunnel. Somehow I think my lack of direct government or political experience and my fair-to-middlin' command of French will not put me high on any minister's list of potential employees, but who knows. I even said I would be willing to relocate to Ottawa. And I hate winter! But I have always wanted to go ice skating on the Rideau Canal. And right now, Ottawa is where it's happening.

Whether I am in Ottawa or, much more likely, here in Vancouver, I really am realistic. But I am also really excited. This is Barack Obama time for Canada, except I think this government might be even more forward-looking and has the advantage of a majority in the House rather than a hostile Congress. I'm actually anticipating the Speech from the Throne and for the House to be in session again. Let's get to work! We have a lot to undo and a lot to do.

No comments: