Jim Silye is a friend of mine. More than thirty years ago he plied his trade with the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL as one of the best punt return men in the business. He was fast and he was fearless. And he took a lot of punishment, including hits to most of his body. And his head.
Which may explain why, when he first went into politics, he joined the Reform Party. He was elected as the Reform MP for Calgary Centre in 1993. He did not run in 1997, but returned in 2000 to run (and lose) in the Federal Election in Calgary West as a Progressive Conservative - an odd switch given that in those bleak days for the PCs under the second coming of Joe Clark, most of the switching was taking place away from the Tories towards the Reform/Alliance (for which 'RA' is a convenient acronym).
Jim took another kamikaze foray into politics in 2004 when he ran in an Alberta Senate Election - again, as a Progressive Conservative. The Federal PCs were still highly unpopular in Alberta at the time with the still clear memories of Mulroney, the GST, Meech Lake and the Charlottetown Accord, still etched in the minds of the body politic. Silye went down to defeat once again.
Since then, Jim has stayed away from public life and, like the writer, restricts himself to being an observer of the passing parade. Is he plotting a switch to Social Credit? That would seem a natural step for him, given his early deft move from the RA to the Tories. Or is he planning on joining the new Federal Tories (to be consistent, now that we have the Reform/Alliance/Tory amalgamation the appropriate anacronym is 'RAT.')? Is Jim going to join the RATs? No one knows.
But what we do know is that Jim is a cheerleader for new Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach. You see, Jim received a complementary copy of my first blog article 'Dead Fish' from me, as did the rest of my personal Email contact list. Rising to the bait, Jim then burdened my many friends and admirers on that list with a 'Reply to all', challenging my conclusion that Eddie was on his way out, and indeed, invoking the Premier's virtues of 'character, conviction, and commitment',suggesting further that these were "were qualities unknown, unfamiliar and unpracticed by many Liberal politicians that we both know."
The second part of his statement I can hardly quibble with, except that the adjective 'Liberal,' for the sake of accuracy, should have been deleted. Both Jim and I know plenty of politicians from all parties lacking 'character, conviction and commitment.'
The qualities of 'conviction' and 'commitment,' can be found in men and women, both good and evil. One can't deny that Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin and Pol Pot had 'conviction' and 'commitment.' They were not good qualities. Those qualities are positive and good only if combined with 'character' and by that both Jim and I would mean 'good character,' so that the whole bundle means good, positive leadership, as we Canadians understand it in a democratic sense.
Which brings me to Fast Eddie Stelmach's character as he has begun to reveal it to the people of Alberta. The most recent clue of his true nature is the scheme to sell intimate access to the Premier, to rich Albertans who wish to put up $5000 to his Party's coffers. Upon hearing of the scheme, Albertans, Oppostion parties and the news media expressed outrage - both at the cost, and more importantly the concept. I mean, selling intimacy is rather poorly regarded, even with our society's more permissive outlook on human behaviour. I mean, that's what hookers do.
Stelmach got the message and backtracked, scrapping the scheme. He lamented that the outrage was 'a bit of a perception' and claimed not to have paid a whole lot of attention to what was happening. But is he returning the $5000 chunks already received? No, thank you very much. He will keep the money anyway. That's Eddie the politician. A man of principle, right?
Another example of the real Eddie came during a courtesy visit of the Leader of the Federal Liberal Party Stephane Dion to the Premier's office in Edmonton earlier in the week. By all reports, they had a pleasant meeting and discussed some issues. However, when Dion was about to leave, the Preem refused to pose for a picture with his guest. That's Eddie the Statesman.
He's already showed his true colors by booting out from his Cabinet many urban MLA's who happened to support Jim Dinning in the Leadership Contest, and transferring power to his rural pals. That's Eddie the magnanimous healer.
And he joined the lynch mob on the hapless Harvey Cenaiko who tried to do the Premier's family a good deed by promoting his son within the Alberta Sheriff's organization. Instead of just refusing the helping hand, he made a big deal of it press-wise, rubbing poor Harvey's nose in it after he'd already been turfed from cabinet, thus deep-sixing Harvey's political career forever. That's Eddie the Party Loyalist.
So, to my friend Jim Silye, that is the 'character' of which you speak. 'Character' is the trait that separates good leadership from bad, courage from cowardice, loyalty from betrayal, statesmanship from pettiness. Albertans are waking up to see that the Tory mobs have elected a man who appears thusfar to be wholly deficient in 'character' . . . unless its the character of a weasel.