At the beginning of February, Irwin Cotler, a 15-year veteran Liberal MP from Mount Royal Quebec, a riding once held by Pierre Trudeau, announced he would not seek re-election when his term was up. A former Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada, he introduced a law to combat human trafficking and helped define the legislation that provides civil marriage equality to gays and lesbians. In an interview with a CBC reporter he commented about the toxicity and partisanship of today’s politics. Forgotten is the impact politics has on people’s lives, public trust and public mission.
I have been contemplating the actions of Christine Melnick the former Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister and former party member of the NDP. She was shuffled out of the premier’s cabinet last year and tossed from the NDP party last week. At a hastily called new conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building, the premier indicated Ms. Melnick mislead the house and the public. I’m confused, I thought misleading, obfuscation, plausible dependability and culpable ignorance were required skills to hold public office and not a firable offence.
It seems Ms. Melnick first blamed the assistant deputy minister (ADM) for taking the initiative, then indicated he was directed to do so by her but she forgot because she was suffering from undiagnosed illness, to finally confessing the premier’s office made her do it.
I feel there may be some grain of truth in Ms. Melnicks final answer, he made me do it. When I am asked by a boss to do something it usually gets done. If I have some conflict with the decision, hopefully the process enables me to air those differences to arrive at the solution. In the end, if the solution is not illegal, unsafe or unethical and I want to stay employed, I will do it. If the solution fails, I have little doubt I will be the one discovering, and not my boss, that the wheels on the bus go round and round. Welcome to the employee’s conditions of employment.
But wait, I recognize Ms. Melnick’s explanation scenario. I have to roll the clock back to when I was ten-years-old. When my brother and I were dragged before the strap for a misdeed. I would start with ‘he did it’, then move to ‘I forgot I did it’ and quickly follow it up with ‘he made me do it’. This contrite defence was an attempt at creating reasonable doubt.
Reasonable doubt may move the strap implementer into dividing the inflicted pain as retribution for the offence across two rather than one. The punishment was thought to reform us or deter us from the unacceptable. As Ralphie narrates in the move A Christmas Story, “We knew darn well it was always better not to get caught.” If caught, misery loves company.
Something in the events of the invitation chronology doesn’t appear to be as it seems. If Ms. Melnick was asked to take the hit for the premier on the errant email, why point the finger at her ADM? If Ms. Melnick was asked to send the email by the PM’s office, why use an illness to forge her second response, ‘I forgot’? If Ms. Melnick was asked to email the invite and now points a finger, why not do that when she was first asked.? I’m speculating now, she was tossed into the toilet early, as she went round and round the bowl she was groping for a lifeline of only half a flush. Knowing it was a full flush she finally decided she needed some company during her drowning.
If you see government as a three ring circus, the illustration may assist you in understanding communication. The PM office is at the center or nucleus of the NDP atom. All magnetism flows from the center outward to the cabinet electrons and the caucus electrons. The nucleus forces hold everything together.
I do believe the government wanted publicity at the political event. It seems reasonable someone would have made the suggestion of filling the gallery with individuals that support the initiative. Nothing like a home town crowd to make the premier look good. How that would be accomplished is open for speculation. A seasoned politician, a female cabinet minister, a political candidate taking initiative without direction or consultation, that just doesn’t seem to be an attribute of Ms. Melnick. If it was, no wonder they cut her loose. What party would want someone like that?
I find the suggestion of Ms. Melnick going rogue hard to comprehend. I don’t believe she is without culpability it this misadventure. I speculate in someone’s political memoirs in the future, the details of this failure to communicate will be revealed. Unfortunately for Ms. Melnick her dramatic revelation created a confrontation that got her dropped from cabinet grace, ejected from the party and not welcomed at the NDP convention ball. Forgotten is the impact politics has on people’s lives, public trust and public mission.