As was expected, last night's news was dominated by the appointments of David Emerson and Michael Fortier to the federal Cabinet.
I have spent a lot of time since 9:30 yesterday morning defending Minister Emerson. I will continue to do so, and will do so cheerfully.
What people don't understand about David Emerson is that he is NOT a politician. Rather, he is someone who got into public life because he saw a problem that he wanted to try and fix from inside government (softwood lumber). Minister Emerson, although he has run under a party banner and spun the usual partisan platitudes during that time, is really not a Liberal... nor is he a Conservative. He's a pragmatist.
When I explain it to people here in Fort McMurray, I liken it to having someone like Eric Newell in Cabinet. Eric Newell was the CEO of Syncrude Canada Ltd for many years. He is a renowned philanthropist and one of the most respected non-partisan advocates on public policy issues in the country. In essence, the kind of person you want to see in government no matter what stripe they take on.
And to all the naysayers, it IS different than Belinda. Belinda Stronach joined a government that was about to be defeated and saved its parliamentary bacon. She got into public life because, like the contest that Stronach-owned Magna Corp. runs for students, she wanted to be the Prime Minister. Minister Emerson has repeatedly stated he has no leadership aspirations at all. Rather, he's in this to fix the softwood issue. (As an aside, some people suggest that Belinda got into politics to work on economic issues... compare her record on economics as a Minister to Emerson's record on softwood lumber as a Minister and that weak argument quickly goes down the toilet).
I know the complaints about Minister Emerson will continue for a while, but I suspect people will be pleasantly surprised when they see what he is capable of under a government that is more supportive of his efforts.
The situation with Michael Fortier is much trickier.
I certainly understand the rationale behind the need to have a Montreal-area Minister, and i'm not sure there are any better options (other than appointing a Minister from nowhere near Montreal)... but this one will be a lot harder to justify in the eyes of the public.
Still... if Minister Fortier can prove himself to be both a capable Minister on the Public Works file as well as a strong and effective voice for Montreal, this one may blow over too.
To me, the most disconcerting thing surrounding these appointments is the complete and total ignorance of a great many in my own party.
Standing up on this mole hill of righteous indignation seems to be en vogue at the moment, but it certainly doesn't help our cause.
We've been in opposition so long that seeing the forest for the trees is a very foreign concept to some, and its something to nip in the bud.
Do I wish Minister Emerson had run as a Conservative? Yup.
Do I wish that Minister Fortier had run, period? Yup.
But they didn't.
They DID, however, answer the call of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper to serve their country as he saw fit.
Now I don't expect the Harper naysayers to get on board with these decisions... it would be far too much to expect from people who would make a national story out of what the Harper's had for dinner.
But I DO hope that those of us who have faith in Stephen Harper to try and think a bit more pragmatically about this, and see how it'll benefit us in the long run.
Some tories are saying that this is a crucial and possibly fatal misstep on the part of a day-old government. I disagree.
I think if the naysayers want to truly discover what our party's worst enemy looks like, they need to pick up a mirror.