Freeze and thaw
It snowed on the crisp brown leaves I’ve failed to rake up, and it froze on the windshields of the cars on my street, whitening the roofs and brightening the early morning. It’s pretty, that first snow.
Not one scrap of it was unexpected. I know this cycle insideout, no surprises: these are the hazards of being older, let alone the way time telescopes and makes that cycle seem to happen ever-faster.
My Twitter feed was positively breathless the next day, as journalists and writers (I follow dollops of both) gushed and frothed about the official appointment of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet. They cheered Stephen Harper’s official resignation with as much fervour as Munchkins cheering the death of the Wicked Witch of the East in “The Wizard of Oz.” (One Tweet actually said “Ding, dong, the witch is dead.”)
For me, politics is like the reverse of the myth of Sisyphus: political administrations start at the top of the hill with a huge boulder of hope, which they carefully and consistently spend their mandates rolling downhill to the very bottom.
I’ve watched countless administrations slide into aged self-service, their public-service arteries hardening and their visions failing.
I saw John Turner, whose hands were tied about stopping the Pierre Trudeau gravy train of diplomatic appointments and privilege.
I watched the Mulroney government, elected to change things, sliding into near-Nixonian distrust of everyone and everything, all the while shedding courtiers mopping up the gravy of political patronage with both hands. I saw both Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin administrations govern this country as if by right, handing out sinecures while their hangers-on gorged on the milliondollar scraps that fell from the political head table.
Then there was Stephen Harper, elected to change a culture of entitlement — a government I truly believe was dangerous to this country — but one that, on top of bigoted small-mindedness, still managed to fall into the tried-andtrue school of self-service.
I see your appointment of re- tired politicians as diplomats, and raise you a Duffy, a Wallin and a Harb.
Then there are the provincial administrations. I don’t have enough fingers to count the administrations I’ve watched that started with hope and ended with politicians intent on pensions, patronage and pork-barreling.
Everyone starts as selfless agents of change and then changes into mere agents of selfishness.
It’s a two-way street: a Newfoundland politician and organizer once told me, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Everyone gets into politics thinking they have something to offer. Everyone leaves hating the electorate.” (I took out the swearwords.)
Don’t class me as pessimistic; what I am is pragmatic.
I’ve seen this movie a dozen times before, federally and provincially, and the ending has always been the same.
Will the latest crowd do better?
I sincerely hope so. Probably, in the short term, they will.
But I’ve had high hopes before.
It snowed Tuesday night. It must, and it will.
When you’re old enough, you know that March comes, too.
For governments, as well as winters. And all too quickly.
I don’t have enough fingers to count the administrations I’ve watched that started with hope and ended with politicians intent on pensions, patronage and pork-barreling.