I was sitting at home in my favourite spot, on a leather couch in our solarium, laptop computer at hand and radio playing in the background. Suddenly, I thought I felt a draft. I got up and checked the many windows in the room, then the doors in the house. Nothing. Another draft pushed me to get up and see if there was a slit in the couch’s leather through which air passed when I shifted in my seat. Nope.
Then it hit me. CBC Radio was playing on the stereo and I had been focusing only about half my attention on the interview of federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley. She was explaining changes to Employment Insurance (EI) that are targeting frequent users, who often happen to be people who harvest food, which tends not to be a year-round activity.
These aren’t changes, she insisted. They are clarifications. This was a response to a broad consultation across the country, she said. Business told the government that frequent EI recipients should be available to work, even if they have to move and work for lower wages than they earn where they were living. Oh, and she added, as though someone had hit her with a cattle prod, we consulted with workers, too. Yeah, I’m sure, I thought. Then Finley launched into an explanation about how the “clarification” of EI eligibility would allow the government to enforce the requirements on a “regional basis”, and utterly failed to explain how exactly that might work.
I had discovered the source of the breeze that had been puzzling me. Diane Finley was blowing smoke up my butt. My anxiety started to ease, knowing that she is just a cabinet clone, selected not so much for her ability (which she very likely has in abundance) as her adeptness at staying on message, one that is delivered on high, carved in stone tablets and, therefore, not subject to debate or discussion or, heaven forbid, dissension.
Then, last week, Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks got national attention when a tape of a meeting he attended went viral. In it, Wilks apparently suggested he wasn’t crazy about parts of one omnibus bill (they are hard to keep track of — Prime Minister Harper is a busy guy, reshaping the country in his own stone-cold corporate image) or another.
So are you going to vote against it? he was asked. Wilks suddenly began to sound like he had had a small stroke, babbling about how there was no point in voting against the bill because, unless 13 others joined him in voting against the government, it would pass anyway.
Forget just how baffling Wilks’ explanation was — that became evident as he repeated the same peculiar words over and over. But consider just how far he is, in his first term as MP, from being cabinet material. No placating paternal or maternal rationalizations, like fellow party member Finley, just a confused attempt to extricate himself from the corner he had put himself into. He issued a “clarification” the following day, this one in writing and very likely not by his own hand, to say that he supported the omnibus bill and would be pleased to vote in favour. Let’s hope he has learned a lesson. Wilks seems like a good guy and, while we aren’t likely to agree on anything, toeing the party line is going to let him keep his job longer.
Last week wasn’t all political nonsense, though. The day that Finley caught my attention started by a visit to the Harris family farm, where I interviewed Nadine for an upcoming story. Members of the Harris family are passionate, visionary, articulate, energetic, enthusiastic and very, very bright. I left the farm thinking that we should just put them in charge of the Creston Valley.
Then that evening, I attended the Two Pianos, Many Hands concert at Prince Charles Theatre. What happened to those painful music recitals from my youth, I wondered, as I watched a program of wonderful performances by the very accomplished piano students of Audrey Johnston? It was an evening to be remembered.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.