COLUMN

Dazed and confused in far-off Lotusland

Allan Fotheringham February 12 1996
COLUMN

Dazed and confused in far-off Lotusland

Allan Fotheringham February 12 1996

Dazed and confused in far-off Lotusland

COLUMN

ALLAN FOTHERINGHAM

There was something rather pitiful about the gathering of all those Liberals in Vancouver last week. The Natural Governing Party, which has led the nation most of this century to its present state—i.e., near breakup—appeared nervous and out-of-place.

This was only appropriate. The 178 Liberals attendant, along with their clutch of senators, flacks, flunkies, camp followers and coat holders, were on alien turf. It was Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver landing on a strange island, afraid of being tied down by the wildeyed natives.

This was, as we know, a transparently bogus operation. Astounded by the fury erupting from British California when the pointy-headed nuts in the PMO lumped B.C. into an amorphous soup with the Prairies in the constitutional veto game, the Cretinites decided to throw a sop.

They would travel all the way to the edge of the earth, beyond the mountains, to provide mucho photo ops for the boob tube, better to demonstrate their love for the unfathomable inhabitants of Lotusland. Alas, it did not work. Never could. Supplicants are never sincere.

Backbench Quebec MPs who had never seen the Pacific looked terrified, as if they were about to be hurled into hot tubs by ravenous seaside maidens. The required swivel servant advisers, their skins bleached white by a lifetime of servitude in Ottawa offices staffed by sycophants, gave the impression they were going to be force-fed nothing but sushi and tennis balls.

The fact that this ersatz government caucus was to be held in Hongcouver—rather than within martini-range of the Rideau Club—wasn’t the main charade that was the chief insult. The brilliant minds in the PMO arrived on the heels of their cabinet “shuffle”—meaning a rearranging of mediocre minds who have brought the land to its present perilous state.

Vancouver is the third-largest and fastestgrowing city in what we once used to call a

country. It presides over the most robust economy of any province. And it does not have a single cabinet minister who would be recognized by any semi-literate reader of any newspaper in the realm.

There is a reason for this. B.C. is too far away from Ottawa. The climate is too good. B.C. is not interested in Ottawa. Ottawa is not interested in B.C.

Any striving young lawyer in Toronto, or Montreal, can perceive the heights of power in Ottawa—just an hour away. Home in time to wifey and the kids, if not every night, at least frequently enough to knit up the ravelled sleeve of marriage.

Let us take the opposite example. Iona Campagnolo was a most attractive member of the Trudeau cabinet. To get to her sea-girt riding of Prince Rupert, which was closer to Alaska than anything, she had to leave Ottawa on a jet-lag flight to Vancouver through three time zones, stay overnight

and then fly an inconvenient, infrequent flip to Prince Rupert.

Two days to get there. Two days to get back. Why would anyone want to be an MP from B.C.?

An example? Bob Hutchison is an intelligent, sane product of Lotusland. Son of the legendary journalist Bruce Hutchison. A sprinter at the same Canadian Olympic level as John Turner in his day. A lawyer. The Liberals slavered over him as an obvious candidate.

Would his wife, his family, think twice about giving up Victoria’s Christmas roses for Ottawa’s weather? Today, he is a B.C. judge. There are dozens of sane, intelligent B.C. wives who look at Ottawa—and its insanity—and ask: who needs it?

As a result, thrusting, rich Vancouver has no power at the cabinet table in Ottawa. The “senior” B.C. minister is Dave Anderson of sidebar Victoria, a chap who has recovered somewhat from his disastrous start when it was revealed he was suing his own government over an old dispute and junked disabled children for his own kids to greet the Queen at the Commonwealth Games.

The panicky PMO sent over a PR aide to save his portfolio but, in the recent shuffle, declined to give him the obvious Fisheries post—Admiral Turbot gone to Newfoundland to save it for his own PM ambitions— because it was decided he couldn’t handle it.

The other two B.C. ministers—the very ambitious Dr. Hedy Fry and Herb Dhaliwal—are mere secretaries of state (i.e., out in the hall) picked for their multiculturalism credentials.

It is a sad scene. B.C.’s best will not run for Ottawa because they do not consider they are taken seriously there. (There has never been a B.C.-born PM: the brief John Turner was born in Britain, only went to university in Vancouver; the brief Kim Campbell was never elected PM.)

And Ottawa does not take B.C. seriously because it cannot understand it, cannot relate to it, considering it filled with nothing but kooks, Rollerbladers, hot tubbers, and either believers in mumbo-jumbo Social Credit or dreamy-eyed NDP bingo players.

Never the twain shall meet. Rudyard Kipling, who visited Vancouver town and thought it swell, could have invented the phrase for the problem. Winston Churchill, who visited the town on a speaking tour, found he couldn’t get a bottle of whisky legally and refused to speak until he got one.

The Cretinites, on their latest foray, did nothing to cross the gap.