It’s my fault, really. I should have taken young Kevin Falcon aside and given him the benefit of my wisdom, earned the hard way.
Back in 1976 I was a newly minted member of Bill Bennett’s first cabinet as Minister of Consumer Services. Early on, after a very long cabinet meeting, I did a long, rambling interview with Mike Grenby, then of the Vancouver Sun. I assumed that we were just in a sort of friendly chat about consumerism generally – it was, but not off the record with Mike. During the talk as I was waxing eloquent on my virtual non knowledge of the subject and I offered the off hand remark that it’s probably a good thing that consumers got a kick in the ass once in a while to sharpen their consumer awareness.
Well, it hit the fan with coast to coast coverage. “BC Consumer minister says consumers should get a ‘kick in the ass'”!
If I do say so myself I turned out to be a damned good minister but I never fully recovered from my remark, (Incidentally, Mike was just doing his job and I had no quarrel with him.)
When I became Health Minister in 1980, and got back to my office from the swearing-in ceremony, I was “scrummed” by the press. I think it was Allan Garr who asked me for my views on the Long Term Care program.
I had learned my lesson.
“Ladies and Gentlemen”, I said, “I’ve been in this job for 45 minutes and I will have no comments until I’ve read my briefing books and had a chance to talk things over with my predecessor, Bob McLelland”.
I should have told Mr. Falcon this story as it may have prevented him from commenting, with a couple of days as Health Minister, that he rather liked the idea of some private medical care and since has fallen all over his tongue trying to extricate himself.
I’m surprised that Mr. Falcon, in his years of cabinet experience, has not, if only through osmosis, learned that this is a very hot potato and, amongst other things, has serious constitutional implications.
I feel for Mr. Falcon – he’s a combative chap as I am. But perhaps I can leave him with this thought – in order to survive as a minister, it’s perhaps a good thing if he gets a good kick in the ass once in awhile.