I took my walk after breakfast this morning instead of after lunch as usual. I pretended to myself that I wasn’t actually planning to sit in front of the television all day long, but really, I knew.
At 10:30, I tuned into CBC Newsworld and listened to Peter Mansbridge mark time waiting for the Prime Minister designate to appear with his new cabinet. Eventually, he did. I watched the energy in the room and the crowds outside, I watched him being sworn in, and I felt a sense of enthusiasm and pride I haven’t felt about this country for quite awhile. Perhaps not since Jean Chretien kept us out of Iraq.
I confess, I bogged down at about the tenth cabinet minister swearing allegiance to her majesty and all her heirs–which seems silly enough, but which francophones tend to pronounce with a hard “h”, appearing to swear allegiance to a hairdo.
For the next hour, I puttered around the room, cleaning my desk and my bulletin board, with the television on in the background and wondering if her majesty really cares, why some ministers were taking the oath in both languages and some in only one, and why some appear to be on privy council while others aren’t. And realizing that I really don’t know what privy council is or what it does.
I took a break early afternoon, but turned the TV back on just as the ministers were emerging from their first cabinet meeting and—lo and behold!—speaking to and answering questions from the media. Unscripted–although they weren’t really prepared to say much of substance. “I’m looking forward to meeting with officials in my ministry and getting briefed.” Well, sure. They’d only been ministers for a few hours.
But there was lots of talk about openness and cooperation, from both the ministers and the media commentators–signalling that the secretive and self-serving one-man government of the past decade is finally behind us. Was it my imagination, or were the media folks almost beaming with joy that they might, once again, have access to cabinet ministers who were actually allowed to speak without permission from the PMO?
Of course, there will be blunders and mistakes, broken promises, partisan battles, perhaps a scandal or two. But for today, I felt a great weight of cynicism lift from my shoulders and a hint of teariness behind my eyes. A fresh young prime minister who inspires enthusiasm and wanders into the crowd. A new cabinet that’s 50 percent women and reflective of the county’s diversity. Words like “evidence-based policy” and “respect for parliament” floating in the air. Kind words for the CBC. A commitment to levels of openness unheard of for the past ten years, if ever.
It’s been a good day for Canada.