The DAVE McGRAW INTERVIEW: Belinda Stronach, Redux
Being one of Canada's most trusted and pliable...reliable journalists, Dave McGraw was one of the first members of the fourth estate to interview Belinda Stronach after she announced that she was entering public life early last year.
That was then. Now, is not then, but...now. Belinda turned Ottawa on its head on Tuesday of this week when she announced she was crossing the floor to join the Liberal party as a member of Paul Martin's cabinet. Seeing that she was talking to pretty much every media outlet in the country, from the Winchester Press to the Estevan Eggplant, to discuss her announcement, she even made time for Dave, her very close personal friend. The following is a verbatim transcript of their conversation at Dave's downtown Ottawa pad the night of her stunning crossing of the parliamentary floor.
OK, it was at the Salvation Army. But, y'know, the interview really happened, Dave assures us. He even has the notes to back it up:
DAVE MCGRAW: WOW!!! Belinda! Nobody could see this move coming! Well, except for Stephen Harper and his wife, but Jesus! What the hell, eh?
THE HONOURABLE BELINDA STRONACH: Yes, I just came back from Rideau Hall, where I was sworn in to the cabinet.
DM: Yes, I'm sure the Liberals who've been toiling away in virtual anonymity for 15 or 20 years on the backbenches are very supportive of your cabinet appointment.
|Some "conversation lubrication" is in order.
DM: Never mind. Sorry, I'm a little mixed-up...and drunk. Can you clarify for me-Martin split up HRDC, and you're the Minister of one of the new departments, right?...Ms. Stronach?
BS:...Sure, I guess.
DM: So, what's your official title?
BS: I'm the Minister of Human...something or other. I don't know.
DM: And the mandate of the department you're now heading is what, exactly? What programs does it oversee?
BS: Look. I don't want to talk about my personal life.
DM: Uh, I asked you about the programs that your department administers. I don't see what that has to do with your personal life.
BS: First of all. Look...
DM: (After three minutes)...yes?
BS: I can't remember your question.
DM: Right. I forget too. The important thing is, we know that you couldn't get hired as a summer student at the very department at which you've been made Minister.
BS: Yup. What a country, eh?
DM: Now, the Prime Minister has also thrown you several other bones. On top of your departmental duties, he made you responsible for addressing Justice Gomery's report, he put you in charge of democratic reform, and he gave you the task of 'fixing' government ethics. Uh, I don't want to come across as...sexist by suggesting that maybe you aren't the most...qualified person, because, as Anne McLellan rightly said, any criticism whatsoever of any woman or her capabilities is obviously sexist, but well, if the shoe fits...uh, do you think you can handle all of these responsibilities, given your lack of political experience?
BS: Look. First of all. I am committed to national unity. I am not committed to aligning with people opposed to unity. I am committed to the pie that is Canada. I want to bake our pie very high. Into the sky. I look forward to working from within the Liberal government, Wait...(turning to one of her 13 handlers in the room with us) LINE!...I want to reform our institutions, to make them better institutions of government, and of all that other stuff.
DM: About your role as chief bolsterer of government ethics, I'd like to read a quote you made earlier today that was cited in a column in the Globe and Mail: "Let me say I'm very proud to undertake this role, to bring greater ethics, because without ethics, that's the foundation, that's our moral fiber." Minister Stronach, what the fuck is that supposed to mean?
BS: Ethics...are important, for freedom-loving peoples...
DM: Have you been studying the speeches of George W. Bush?
BS: Isn't he a great public speaker?
DM: Uhm, yes. Anyway, Minister Stronach-
BS:...Honourable Minister Stronach.
DM: Honourable Minister, if your government loses the budget vote, (EDITOR'S NOTE-this interview was conducted before the vote) you could be a cabinet minister for even a shorter period than you were CEO of Magna...
BS:...I beat out a field of several thousand applicants for that job.
DM: Of course you did, Minister. Of course you did. But, seeing that this was such a gamble, surely your decision to cross the floor to the Liberals was a difficult one.
|McGraw drills his point home, or forgets his next question.
BS: It was a very difficult decision. A very, very difficult decision. Oh, so difficult...the decision I took, was a difficult decision...So, so incredibly...
BS:...You cannot fathom the difficulty that went into this decision...it ripped apart my innards...Oh, the difficulty...
BS:...I agonized for such an agonizingly long amount of time over this agonizing decision...
DM: OK, you've made your point. It was a difficult decision. But why now, Belinda? Why now?
BS: Look, I believe in the unity of Canada, and I am committed to fixing our institutions in an ethical manner. Social conservatives will not bring Canada together. But I will. I'm a fixer. I'm a doer. In my six weeks in public life, I have always been committed to getting the job done.
DM: That's great and everything, but you didn't really answer my question.
BS:...I really wish someone had told me that it was the Liberals that always win elections. It could have saved me and the Conservatives a whole lot of embarrassment.
DM: Well, uh, maybe I'll try a different question. David Peterson.
BS: A dear friend. A very dear friend. David and I, we are the dearest of friends. I love him. In a platonic way, of course.
DM: Yes. I thought he died, actually.
BS: Uh, no...only politically.
DM: It turns out I had him confused with Robert Bourassa.
DM: Never mind. So, it was David Peterson who organized your defection to the Liberals?
BS: Could you not use that word please? It sounds so...communist.
DM: OK, your uhm, wanton political bedhopping?
BS: Yes, it was David who arranged for me to meet with the PM, and who asked if there was a cabinet position waiting for me if I fled from the wicked Harperites.
DM: Would you have jumped ship, even if Mr. Martin didn't guarantee you a cabinet position?
BS: Fuck no! Are you crazy? I'm a Stronach! Like I'm gonna sit on the backbenches like some commoner...please. Wait...my teleprompter...is...broke...again...I mean, uhm, yes. Absolutely.
DM: What about your relationship with Stephen Harper? Gossip columnists, like Jane Taber, have indicated the two of you had a screaming match in his office just last week. You had some very harsh things to say about him, and he likewise. I know that every politician is ambitious, but was he right? Are you too ambitious for your own good?
BS: Look. I've paid my dues. I've been an MP for what, 11 months now? That's a long time. I think I've been very patient. And I'm willing to continue waiting another five, six months before I become Prime Minister. I look forward to undermining and usurping Mr. Martin's leadership, just like I did with Harper in my former party.
|Everyone enjoys a chuckle at the incorrect spelling of Liberal (spelled "Libel") on the cue cards.
DM: Well, it is a proud Liberal tradition. Maybe the Prime Minister can give you some tips of his from the Chretien days. Speaking of the Prime Minister-just over a year ago when you were running for the leadership of the Conservative Party, you said that he wasn't fit to be Prime Minister.
BS: Look. I'm not here to defend the Liberal Party.
DM: Huh? But you're a minister in the Liberal cabinet. Isn't it, like your job now, to defend the Liberal government?
BS: Look. First of all, you don't know anything about politics.
DM: Yes, that's true.
BS: My job is to represent the department I've been put in charge of...you know, the Human...place. I can get the help to do all that...defending and policy mumbo-jumbo...
DM: But Minister Stronach, what do you say to your former colleagues in the Conservative caucus? Many of them, according to your buddy Steve-O, are shocked and betrayed with your switcheroo from one corporate, right-wing party to another, more successful, corporate right-wing party. Many of them feel...well, they're Conservatives, so I don't want to say they're heart-broken, because that would assume that they have hearts, but they really seem to be disappointed in you.
BS: Look, I am always gonna speak out as to what's best for Canada. And what was best for Canada two days ago, is not necessarily what's best for Canada today. A week is a lifetime in politics. And a weekend is also a very, very long time. Belinda must come first. I mean, Canada...Canada must come first. I will not associate with separatists...I believe in principles...I believe in prosperity...I believe in Canada...I believe in being a uniter, not a divider. I believe...let me check my list of platitudes...yup. Got 'em all.
DM: Will you be spilling any of the Conservatives' top-secret election plans to your new Liberal colleagues?
DM: Care to share any? Give our readers a 'thehammer.ca Exclusive'?
BS: OK, I'll give you the motto that the Conservatives are gonna use for the campaign. "The Liberals are corrupt."
BS: And here's what they're putting on their lawn signs: "The Liberals-Even Bigger Jackasses than Us."
DM: Hmm...should be a great campaign. Ms. Stronach, your former caucus colleague, the dashing Peter MacKay, with whom you've been "romantically linked"...
BS:...We weren't "romantically linked." I was banging him. He was a piece of man meat. Nothing more, nothing less. As a matter of fact, I told him of my decision while we were...being intimate...it was at his place...
DM:...Erm, really, that's enough...
BS:...They call it 'rodeo' style...
DM...No really. That's all we need to know. Good Lord.
BS: He'll have no trouble finding someone new. That angry Diane Ablonczy woman has had her eyes on him for ages. I think she really needs to get laid.
DM: Actually, on the topic of Peter McKay...Stephen Harper claims that it was him, not you, who informed him of your decision to cross the floor. Isn't that kind of...well, unethical, getting your boyfriend to tell him the bad news?
BS: Look, I don't want to talk about my personal life.
|Dave McGraw illustrates his patented "Rolling of the eyes" interview technique.
DM: But you were just giving us...gruesome details about your sexual relations with him.
BS: That was then. This is...(an advisor whispers in her ear)...now.
DM: One final question, Ms. Minister. What do you say to your constituents?
BS: Look, first of all, look. Look.
DM:...That's enough, Belinda. Thank you. And uh, thanks for not bringing up Brian Mulroney's name once during the whole interview. Man, I need a drink.
Posted on May 19th, 2005