Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ambassador Heyman: Powerless Ottawa’s personnel narratives

Being in politics without power used to drive good men to drink. Today they settle for storytelling. They feed and write narratives. Because they live in the capital of the One Big Country that decided to nestle beside, and not inside, the center of its own civilization, they read Globe and Mail stories about personalities and their chemistry in Ottawa.

Today’s front-pager “The U.S. ambassador who got left out in the cold” by Campbell Clark reports darkly that Ambassador Bruce Heyman is not being entertained as a valued friend by the amateurish Harper government. Unfortunately, he buries a wonderful observation, demonstrating how more sophisticated governments used to work on U.S. ambassadors:

“Former deputy prime minister John Manley noted the Chrétien government figured only one person in the U.S. administration woke up every day thinking about Canada, so they’d better get close.”

Ambassadors from Washington exist in Ottawa to permit men and women in elected positions of power in Washington to concentrate on anything but Canada. They service networks within Ottawa; they deliver messages and bits of gossip.

If we need powerful American politicians to wake up thinking about Canada, we’ll have to send them to work in Washington as our representatives.

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