Leaving aside the fact that my favourite scene in “The Princess Bride” is every scene, one of my favourite scenes in the movie is the one where Fezzik shows up at the castle after Westley has saved Buttercup, tied up and humiliated Prince Humperdinck, and Inigo has killed the Six-Fingered Man. He returns with four white horses to carry them all away. Inigo looks down from Buttercup’s window at Fezzik and the four white horses and says, “Fezzik, you did something right.” And Fezzik replies, “Don’t worry, I won’t let it go to my head.”
Fezzik is the Rodney Dangerfield of the story: he gets no respect. He’s regarded as this big, lumbering oaf, a pack horse, an enforcer (“I’m on the brute squad.” “Fezzik, jog his memory.”), a loser, even. (“And YOU — friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless…Do you want me to send you back to where you were — unemployed, in Greenland??!!”) Yet Fezzik soldiers on loyally, helping the good guys vanquish the bad guys, helping to save the princess, basically saving Inigo from himself, and generally being an all-round decent human being. He should have gotten a lot more credit…and in the end, when he finally gets a little, his response — “Don’t worry, I won’t let it go to my head” — is humble and perfect.
In his own awkward, endearing way, Fezzik embodies the noblest concept of public service: put others before self, do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, and stay humble.
Alas, “The Princess Bride” is a movie.
Real life involves partisan politics.
One of the things that used to bug me when I was in politics was the Opposition’s obsession with being oppositional. And that’s coming from a guy who was in Opposition his entire time in office.
In a parliamentary democracy, it is the Opposition’s job to hold the Government to account. That, again, is the noblest concept of the way the Opposition is supposed to behave — which is clearly seldom the way it goes in real life.
“Holding the government to account” involves a number of things: opposing bad or flawed policies or legislation; proposing alternatives; proposing amendments to improve government legislation; calling out the government when it behaves in a way contrary to the voters’ wishes; holding the government accountable for corruption, scandals, incompetence, or breaking the promises it made to the electorate; and of course — pardon my rose coloured glasses — all of this holding the government to account, keeping it honest, keeping it on track is supposed to be done in the public interest.
“Holding the government to account” does not mean opposing every damn thing the governing party does just out of partisan spite.
I think most opposition politicians don’t get that.
So here we are, being treated to the spectacle of right-wing conservative politicians (and many of their more rabid supporters) trying to put a negative spin on Rachel Notley’s big win — federal approval of not one, but two new pipelines.
The twinning of Kinder-Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline gets Alberta oil to tidewater. Enbridge’s Line 3 carries it to Superior, Wisconsin. From there it can be shipped back into Canada to refineries in Ontario, or to any number of refineries in the US as far south as Oklahoma.
It is more than a little hypocritical of Rona Ambrose, Jason Kenney and Brian Jean to try and crap all over a deal they couldn’t get done when they were all in government. Jean accuses the Premier of “showboating”. Kenney and Ambrose protest Trudeau’s decision to kill the Northern Gateway line, deciding apparently that it’s better to carp about the loss of a project that promised to create four thousand jobs than it is to support the approval of a project (Trans Mountain) that will create fifteen thousand jobs.
In approving the Trans Mountain Line, Prime Minister Trudeau said, “Let me say this definitively — we could not have approved this project without the leadership of Premier Notley and Alberta’s climate leadership plan.”
How those words must sting Kenney and Jean, locked in mortal combat like two tyrannosaurs with terribly sharp teeth and terribly short arms for the right to determine who shall lead their fellow dinosaurs to their doom. After all, they both stand for cancelling the carbon tax, bringing back coal, dismantling every other initiative Notley’s government has taken to bring Alberta into the 21st century and restore our global reputation, and here’s the PM saying that this pipeline deal would not have been possible without the very moves Kenney and Jean are trying to convince you WILL DESTROY OUR VERY WAY OF LIFE!
“So much for social license” (a favourite line of Jason Kenney’s), indeed.
As I wrote earlier, “holding the government to account” means, among other things, calling out the government when it breaks its promises to the electorate. But Rachel Notley kept her promise. We all understand that opposition politicians covet a place in government and that they live in hope that the government will fail. But I submit to you that if Opposition politicians would occasionally acknowledge when governments get it right, politicians generally would not be nearly so reviled by a public that can see right through their stupid partisan posturing.
Jason Kenney…Brian Jean…it’s time for you both to swallow your pride and your hurt feelings, look the Premier in the eye, and say, “Fezzik, you did something right.”
If I know Rachel Notley, I’m pretty sure she won’t let it go to her head.