For those who still have elections on their mind, either the by-elections just passed, or the potential spring election, it's worth checking out the newest issue of Walrus magazine, which has the second instalment in Barry Campbell's series on becoming a politician.
Campbell was the MP for the Toronto riding of St. Paul's - the riding now held by Carolyn Bennett. In the last issue, he told us of what it was like to run for office. Now, in this new issue, he tells the story of what it was like to be a rookie MP with no hopes of getting into cabinet.
The pieces are well written in raw, funny, self-deprecating detail, but with the perspective of 11 years away from this place. Walrus should offer a prize for anyone who can name all the characters that Campbell has only thinly (and tactfully) disguised with anonymity.
A couple of examples:
Describing the wacky makeup of the Liberal caucus, circa 1993, Campbell writes:
"There were single mothers and divorced fathers, and a young woman so unreconciled to modernity that she had fought a running battle with the Catholic Church for the right to say Mass in Latin on her knees (and been arrested for disturbing religious worship)."
And there's this hilarious paragraph, still on the subject of the wacky caucus and the wild variety of communication skills Campbell saw on display:
Some MPs spoke the King’s English. (Indeed, a dashing older gent from British Columbia, a former military man and college professor, looked like he could be the King of England.) Others couldn’t string a sentence together without malapropisms and scrambled syntax.
One MP expressed grave concerns about the lack of “supervision of dirigibles.” Financial derivatives, he meant, I believe.
Another went on and on about government “stewardess-ship.” A Toronto MP (who would become a minister and leadership candidate) was certain that some event “has given a lie to the deception that . . . ”
Another colleague wanted to “suck it to the Opposition,” and another insisted that we be “quick out of the shoe” on something.
When asked why an expected witness had failed to appear, a committee chair said, “I bumped him off.”
I assume the witness was rescheduled, not eliminated.
One MP took me aside to “prick my ear.”