I was barely seated when Paddy opened the conversation with, “You must have really enjoyed the Quebec election.”
“I did, indeed,” I acknowledged. “I’m not sure which downfall I enjoyed more, Marois or Peladeau.”
“Weren’t you once described as a keen political observer?” Paddy asked.
“Yes,” I admitted. “During the years I did election coverage for CFRB they would introduce me as a keen political observer.”
“Didn’t you tell me one time,” Paddy went on, “that you enjoy following politics almost as much as you enjoy following sports?”
“Yes,” I agreed, “I’m an absolute political junkie.”
“Then,” Paddy inquired, “how come you never got involved in politics?”
“When Anne and I got married,” I informed him, “I promised her I’d never get into politics.”
Paddy continued, “Would you have gotten into politics if it wasn’t for your matrimonial promise?”
“Probably not,” I confessed.
“Were you ever approached to run?”
“Oh, yes,” I assured him, “four times. I was asked to run by a Liberal provincial premier, a Conservative provincial premier, a Conservative prime minister, and a close advisor to another Conservative prime minister.”
“Well,” Paddy observed, “it’s pretty well known that you’re a Conservative, what approach did the Liberal take?”
“He suggested that, once in office, there was very little difference between Liberals and Conservatives.”
“Do you believe that?” Paddy asked.
“At that time, about thirty years ago, it was probably true. I’m not sure it is today?” I answered.
“So,” Paddy pushed on, “other than your ‘I do’ promise, why didn’t you run?”
“To begin with,” I told him, “my career gave me a lot of independence and constantly provided me with opportunities to be involved in a variety of activities that I enormously enjoyed. I don’t think politics would have afforded me that. I was also smart enough to realize that I wasn’t particularly suited to tolerating pesky voters and incompetent colleagues. Finally, and probably most important, I didn’t want the negative effects it would have on my family.”
“Like what?” Paddy prodded.
“Like losing control of your life by being away from them so much, the lack of privacy, and having to deal with people 24/7,” I told him. “I wanted to live my life with my family, not with constituents, politicos, journalists and bureaucrats.
“You really hate bureaucracy, don’t you?” Paddy half opined and half asked.
“I have a very low tolerance for bureaucracy,” I admitted. “Bureaucracy operates on manuals and check lists, and the problem is neither has a section called ‘common sense.’ Government is a fertile breeding place for petty bureaucrats, and I had to deal with an awful lot of them during my career. And although I also dealt with many dedicated, competent, caring civil servants, on balance there’s much more pettiness than common sense in government bureaucracies.”
“What was that great definition of bureaucracy you used to use?”
“Do you mean that bureaucracy is when the first two people you talk to can’t help you?” I suggested.
“That’s it,” Paddy said.
“You said earlier that you didn’t have the tolerance to deal with pesky voters,” Paddy continued, “and I know you well enough to believe that to be true. But you also said you’d probably have problems with colleagues. Why’s that?”
“Because,” I explained, “as a so-called keen political observer I’ve always observed that, in politics, there’s usually one more jackass than you bargain for. I also have trouble with the propensity of politicians to just throw money at problems rather than to effectively deal with them. Government programs tend to have three things in common: a start, a middle, and no end. And although many they think they can, politicians can’t really create something out of nothing. Anything they do will end up being paid for by the taxpayers and, in most cases, will be intolerably inefficient.”
“Boy, you’re really getting cynical in your old age,” Paddy charged.
“I was always cynical when it came to politics,” I pointed out, “but you’re right that I’m more cynical now than I’ve ever been.”
“What about requests for back-room involvement?” Paddy asked. “Did you get any of those?”
“Lots,” I assured him, “from both the Libs and the Tories, but I turned them all down for the same reasons that I didn’t run for office.”
“Did Anne ever have to invoke your promise?” Paddy asked.
“No,” I said, “but she did effectively assert herself one time.”
“Do tell,” Paddy urged.
“It was when the prime minister approached me to run. He and a senior cabinet minister invited Anne and me to lunch. At some point during the conversation one of them, I don’t remember which, asked Anne if she felt I should run. She said that she didn’t want me to. When asked why, she replied that I’d be assassinated. She was then asked how she could possibly think that would happen. Her answer was, ‘I will guarantee that it will happen.’ The conversation immediately turned to who would win the Stanley Cup, and we all ordered dessert.”
“How did you feel about Anne’s intervention?” Paddy ventured.
“I loved it,” I said. “It put the matter to bed once and for all.”
“I’ve always liked Anne,” Paddy said as he put on his cap and departed.