Perfesser Dave explains ethics in lobbying and how to manage political marriages

Posted on June 24, 2015, 3:22 am
14 mins

VICTORIA, B.C.

Some stories are just too confusing for ordinary bloggers to explain. That’s when we turn to the expert knowledge offered by such distinguished academics as Perfesser Dave, The Answer Guy ™, Canada’s No. 1 expert in politics, now at the Observatory of Political Phenomena in Victoria, B.C. As a result of his years of studying politics, Perfesser Dave knows practically everything there is to know about political ethics, and when he doesn’t know something, he knows where to look it up. So if you have questions about political ethics, don’t just ask some blogger! Ask Perfesser Dave! That’s what we decided to do here at AlbertaPolitics.ca, and why we travelled all the way to the Observatory of Political Phenomena on the campus of the University of Victoria. Here are some of the things Perfesser Dave told us:

Questioner: Perfesser Dave, it’s been a long time since we last talked.

prof.dave_Perfesser Dave: Sure has, Questioner! Too long. But I’ve sort of given up on Alberta. That’s why I moved to B.C.

Questioner: Why’s that, Perfesser?

Perfesser Dave: Well, nothing interesting ever happens in Alberta. I mean, seriously, how many times can you re-elect those Tories anyway?

Questioner: Um … Perfesser … that’s sort of what I wanted to ask you about. They didn’t elect the Tories again in Alberta! This time they elected … the NDP!

Perfesser Dave: Questioner! Stop pulling my leg! Didn’t you read your own introduction? I’m a serious student of politics!

Questioner: Seriously, Perfesser! I mean, really. Seriously!

Perfesser Dave: Questioner! I’m a busy man. Did you have a real question, or are you just goofing around? I need to get back to the Observatory and do some work getting corporate funding for our programs …

Questioner: But they really did elect the NDP in …

Perfesser Dave: Questioner …

Questioner: … OK. Never mind. Let’s imagine they just elected an NDP government in Alberta.

Perfesser Dave: Mmmmmm-hmmmmm…

Questioner: And let’s imagine that the premier was married to this union rep …

Perfesser Dave: Why would he be married to a union rep?

Questioner: He’s a she. Rachel Notley… Remember her?

Perfesser Dave: Vaguely … But I thought Brian Mason was the NDP leader.

Questioner: Well, that changed, and Rachel became the leader, and then the NDP won the election, and the whole time her husband was a union rep, and …

Perfesser Dave: So, going along with this silly story for the moment, just for the fun of it, what’s wrong with that? Lots of people have spouses who have careers nowadays. I don’t see what the problem is.

Questioner: But, see, the Edmonton Journal explained it, and I find this very confusing, which is why I came to see you, but the Edmonton Journal said her husband used to be a campaign manager for the NDP …

Perfesser Dave: Wouldn’t you expect an NDP premier to be married to someone who supported NDP principles?

Questioner: … and he works in communications for a union, so isn’t that, like, a conflict? The Journal said it puts the premier and her husband “in a tricky position.”

Perfesser Dave: Hmmmmm…. And who complained about this?

Questioner: Well, I think it was the Journal. Or maybe Ezra Levant. See, the husband sent out an email calling for a higher minimum wage, and …

Perfesser Dave: And the government also supports a higher minimum wage, right?

Questioner: Yeah, they campaigned on it…

Perfesser Dave: So a union that supports a higher minimum wage sent an email to the media supporting the government for already agreeing with them …

Questioner: But, see, it came from the husband’s email account …

Perfesser Dave: Mmmmm-hmmmm … and he’s the union’s communications guy, right?

Questioner: Right! Well, he was.

Perfesser Dave: And the problem is … ?

Questioner: Well, that’s what I’m not clear about. The Journal didn’t explain it very well. But they’re Serious People, and they’re worried, so shouldn’t we be worried too? I mean, I think they said it’s like Caesar’s wife?

Perfesser Dave: Caesar had a wife?

Questioner: He had a couple, I think. But it’s an expression…

Perfesser Dave: For what?

Questioner: For not sending out emails when your wife is the premier …

Perfesser Dave: OK, Questioner, I’m going to continue to pretend that the NDP really is the government of Alberta, and the Edmonton Journal really thinks it looks bad when the communications guy for a union that agrees with the government sends out an email saying the unions agree with the government … because he’s married to the premier, right?

Questioner: Right! This is why we all come to you, Perfesser Dave. Because you’re The Answer Guy ™ …

Perfesser Dave: Well, give me a chance to get to the answer, Questioner. Obviously what the Journal needs to do is get the Opposition Party … the Tories, right?

Questioner: Why are you chuckling, Perfesser Dave? And, no, it’s not the Tories, it’s the Wildrose Party …

Perfesser Dave: Oh, the Wildrose Party. Mmmm-hmmmm … The Lake of Fire guys? OK, why don’t they ask the Wildrose Party to demand a law that says that any politician in Alberta who gets elected has to divorce her spouse, or his spouse … ?

Questioner: Why do you keep laughing at me, Perfesser? I don’t think the Wildrose Party would go for that…

Perfesser Dave: And why’s that, Questioner?

Questioner: Because they believe in the sanctity of marriage! Marriage between one man and one woman, that is. One marriage at a time, anyway …

Perfesser Dave: Even when things get “tricky”?

Questioner: Well, I guess that depends how you define tricky. You’d have to talk to the Wildrose people about that. But I don’t think their contributors down in Taber would like it if they tried to force a man and a woman to get divorced …

Perfesser Dave: So you don’t think the Wildrose Party, would go for that. What about the Tories?

Questioner: Hmmm… It’s a thought, at least if the married couple in question lived in a nursing home.

Perfesser Dave: But I take it the premier and her husband don’t live in a nursing home just yet. So you obviously don’t think making them get divorced as soon as one of them gets elected is going to work?

Questioner: Perfesser? Shouldn’t I be asking the questions here?

Perfesser Dave: Don’t worry about it, Questioner. It’s called the Socratic method. It’s OK for me to ask you questions too, as long as you think about the answers.

Questioner: Sure. You were asking me if I think the Wildrosers or the Tories would go for a ban on married politicians? Well, they might, but I think their base would stop giving them donations… And with the ban on corporate and union donations …

Perfesser Dave: The government of Alberta has banned corporate donations?

Questioner: Mmmmm-hmmmm. Even some of the Tories voted for it!

Perfesser Dave: You’re really testing my patience, Questioner!

Questioner: No really. It’s an NDP government. But never mind, Perfesser, if you can’t ban marriages involving politicians, what could you do to keep tricky situations from happening?

Perfesser Dave: How about a private member’s bill that says NDP politicians have to be married to people they disagree with?

Questioner: Actually, Perfesser, it happens more often than you think, and it doesn’t seem to make that much difference …

Perfesser Dave: OK. Well, forget that. But I think I’ve got it!

Questioner: You do?

Perfesser Dave: You bet! When a politician gets elected, they should have to put their marriage into a blind trust, you know, like their investments!

Questioner: OK … I guess … But who would manage the blind trust, and for how long?

Perfesser Dave: How long is easy: For as long as either of the partners held elected office.

Questioner: Sure. But who would be the manager?

Perfesser Dave: Oh, someone the politician-partner trusts … you know, just like the person managing their stock portfolio. You’d probably want the other spouse to trust them too. They just couldn’t talk about whatever is going on.

Questioner: And what would be going on?

Perfesser Dave: I’m sorry, that would have to be a matter strictly between the non-political spouse and his or her marriage manager.

Questioner: Perfesser Dave, you really are a genius. I think you’ve solved it! You’ve probably even solved it to the satisfaction of the Edmonton Journal.

Perfesser Dave: Thank you, Questioner. It’s all part of the service.

Questioner: Just one more thing, Perfesser?

Perfesser Dave: Yes.

Questioner: What happens if it turns out an NDP political staffer who used to be a union staffer is lobbying himself?

Perfesser Dave: What would he be lobbying himself about?

Questioner: You know, trying to get himself to do things he agrees with.

Perfesser Dave: You’re still pulling my leg, right? Where did you hear about this?

Questioner: From Ezra Levant …

Perfesser Dave: OK! That’s it!

Questioner: No, seriously, Perfesser. And Brian Jean, the leader of the Opposition …

Perfesser Dave: I thought Brian Jean was the MP for Fort Mac. You know, the bored crossword guy with the weird red hair…

Questioner: Well, he’s the leader of the opposition now, and he says it looks bad if a political party hires someone it agrees with to do political work because, you know, they need to be sensitive to the appearance they’re letting people they agree with set their agenda.

Perfesser Dave: You mean like the oilpatch guys the Wildrosers and the Tories think should be running the oilpatch?

Questioner: Yeah! I mean, no. That’s different. Because the oilpatch is essential to Alberta’s economy and what’s good for the oilpatch is good for Alberta. That’s true, isn’t it? Perfesser?

Perfesser Dave: Sorry, Questioner. I have to go. A potential contributor to the Observatory is calling.

Questioner: But Perfesser, what if I have more questions?

Perfesser Dave: You’ll have to call my secretary.

Questioner: But you told me you don’t have a secretary yet … Perfesser! Perfesser! Awwww…

NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Situations like those described did not and could not happen in real life. Any relation between the characters mentioned in this story and real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental, even if they have the same names. No one could really be that obnoxious! This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

6 Comments to: Perfesser Dave explains ethics in lobbying and how to manage political marriages

  1. anonymous

    June 24th, 2015

    Perfesser: Separate dining rooms, separate bedrooms coupled with supervised conjugal visits would work just as well in eliminating the ethical political spousal threat, no?

    Reply
  2. Doug Meggison

    June 24th, 2015

    I read the ridiculous Paula Simon’s column yesterday. She even went so far as to bring up the case of Denis Thatcher as a quiet non-conflict background spouse, and implies that Lou Arab should quit his job to maintain appearances. Too bad Lou A is not indepentently wealthy like Denis T. The short Wikipedia bio on him contains the following: Thatcher was already a millionaire when he met his second wife and financed her training as a barrister, and a home in Chelsea; he also bought a large house in Lamberhurst, Kent, in 1965. His firm employed 200 people by 1957.

    Reply
  3. Alvin Finkel

    June 25th, 2015

    Well, Perfessor Dave, some of us are thinking that the whole idea of a “lobbyist” was a lot easier to understand when the Tories were in power and lobbyists were folks looking to get $150 million contracts for firms that had given funds to the PC party and hired the lobbyists to deliver. The lobbyists trying to get stuff out of this new government, including the husband of the premier, want to get $15 an hour for people who are poorly paid workers and have not hired anyone to deliver for them. What’s next? Calls for the rights of farm workers to unionize and to be covered by occupational health legislation and workers compensation? Calls for subsidized daycare? What a terrible conflict of interest it is when a union staffer married to the premier thinks he can suggest to her that people making low wages–who are almost exclusively people who don’t have the benefit of a union–should get something close to a living wage! It’s so obvious that this is a personal benefit to him.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      June 25th, 2015

      Very good points, Dr. Finkel. Indeed, I expect soon to see a big expose in the Edmonton Journal about how an employee of the Human Services Ministry has children, and therefore is lobbying in his or her own interests by developing policy on subsidized child care. I’m sure the leader of the Opposition will soar to new heights of concern and outrage. It will be described as, you know, “tricky.”

      Reply
    • Athabascan

      June 25th, 2015

      Why stop at exposing those with children and those who care about the poor.

      Full disclosure: I am in a conflict of interest, because I drink water as do my family. I also breath the air. I suppose I am in a conflict of interest because I support and encourage the government to impose clean air and water legislation, and I personally would benefit.

      I guess we can only aspire to be as pure of heart as the oil and gas industry who aren’t, and have never been, in such a conflict of interest. Everyone knows big oil only exists for the benefit of mankind. Oh, selfish me!

      Reply

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