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For All Nails #110A: Between the Rivers

by David Mix Barrington

Excerpt from Vitavision Discussion
Confederation Public Affairs Network
26 August 1974

(C-PAN anchor and president Brian Agnello again chats with political consultant Paul Markey from the C-PAN studios in Burgoyne:)

A: So you think Monaghan lost it on foreign policy?

M: Absolutely. That was the focus of the whole debate, all the speeches the last week, and it's what our surveys of voters leaving the polls told us as well. He had enough support when he called the election to get his majority back, but he lost around eight or ten percentage points during the campaign.

A: What went wrong for him?

M: He was so used to thinking of foreign affairs as his strength, that he never realized the electorate had lost confidence in him. He might have done better to try to move the debate onto domestic matters, but he never did. Governor Skinner, Governor-General Skinner now, say what you will about his policies or his accent, but he was clear about where he thought the country should go. And the Governor-General, I guess I should say "Mr. Monaghan" now, wasn't. And then those pictures from Grão Pará on the vita ...

A: Some people are saying the King of New Granada was the real winner of this election.

M: That's a little extreme, I think, but only a little. You had these pictures of the King being cheered and the bodies being dug up, and it was clear that Mr. Skinner was on the same side as the King. It had an impact.

A: So is it too early to start speculating about the next election? Starting with when it's going to be?

M: It's never too early, Brian, a politician's focus has always got to be on the next election. As to when? The only thing certain is that the latest it could be is 15 August 1979. But if you want my prediction, it will be 15 February 1978.

A: Which is just when it would have been if Monaghan hadn't called this midterm election.

M: Right. There's actually a legal argument that claims that Skinner would have to call it then, because he doesn't get a new five-year mandate. Not many people actually believe this argument, but there's just enough ambiguity in the Burgoyne Conference documents--

A: Doesn't it say "elected for a five-year mandate"?

M: But there was this one delegate from Massachusetts at the conference who went on at great length about someone like Gilpin prolonging his mandate by continually calling elections at just the right time to maximize his popularity, as is the normal case in Britain. That delegate didn't seem to have much support -- there was talk about fixed terms being a Mexican innovation -- but they don't seem to have ever taken a vote on his proposal, so the legislative history is murky.

A: Well, who's the final arbitrator of the legal question?

M: The Confederation Senate.

A: Ah, I see.

M: Right. As you know, Brian, the Senate is a somewhat eccentric body, with very few official duties. It's used most often as a graceful way to ease a troublesome member of the ruling party out of a more critical position. And when you think of the ten years' worth of appointees that Governor-General Mason found too eccentric to work with, along with eight years' worth of Monaghan's staffing problems, you've got a rather curious group.

A: I can see your point.

M: So as long as the thirty Senators just go on having their "meetings" at the Crown over on Fourth, FN1 everyone's happy. The thought of formally asking their ruling on a matter of national policy -- well, Volk's phrase "mutually assured destruction" comes to mind, you've got a standoff. No one would want to risk how they might rule.

A: But if Skinner were to call an election in February 1978--

M: Exactly, everybody's happy. Don't underestimate the psychical impact of possibly not having an election on the fifteenth of February in a year ending in 3 or 8, as we've done since Winfield Scott's day. If Skinner commits to an election then, and commits to it soon, there will be a real feeling between the rivers FN2 of being back to normal, which always helps the party in power. Of course there are practical considerations too.

A: Such as?

M: The PC and the Liberals were already in negotiation with various cities, all in Indiana of course, FN3 to hold their nominating conventions in November 1977. They were doing that before the midterm election got called, I mean. A lot of people would like to know in advance when they should plan on those conventions.

A: But Skinner would be giving up a certain amount of flexibility by declaring a date now, wouldn't he?

M: He would, but you can already hear a lot of talk here about how it would be unfair for him to use that flexibility. Some say that the voters were punishing Monaghan for trying to pick his own time for this election, though there wasn't much evidence of that in my surveys.

A: Who will be the PC candidate in 1978, then? Or 1979?

M: I don't think it will be Carter Monaghan, and I think he'll announce that after a decent interval, within a few months. He'll be 68 in 1978, and that's pretty old to start in anew to what might be the toughest job in the world. The problem the PC has is that Monaghan kept a pretty tight lid on the party and didn't let a second tier of leadership develop. But I expect some younger man, maybe several, will emerge over the next year or two.

A: What about the other two parties?

M: That's a very interesting question, Brian. The alliance between the PC and the RJP was very tight this time, and it kept the Liberal victory from being much worse. If they don't do the same thing next time they'll each have a much bigger hole to climb out of. But a big part of that alliance was the personal trust between Monaghan and Mayor Levine, and a new PC leader might have to earn that trust over again. The RJP has a strong base now in the Northern Confederation, and they put in good showings in several districts in Indiana even though most of those eventually went to Skinner.

A: And the Masonists?

M: They've established themselves as a force to be reckoned with, with pluralities across much of Manitoba and a hard core of radical Christians and other pacifists all across the nation. It's only by chance now that in two elections it's been possible to form a majority in the Council without their help. If the next election is close, and they ease up on their policy of isolation from other parties, they could be part of the Governor-Generalcy picture as well.

A: What's going on this week in Burgoyne?

M: Well, the new Governor-General has already announced several of his choices for cabinet ministers, starting with Michael Murphy as Foreign Minister as everyone expected. Those ministers have got to assess the career civil servants that are now working for them, decide whom to keep on and whom to replace, and so on. Those are going to be some interesting discussions. You know how the Mexicans are always talking about "separation of powers" between executive and legislative branches in their system? Bit of a joke, really, there's more separation between their War Department and their President. But here we've got a real separation of powers, and it's between the Government and the civil service FN4. The minister wants to decide policy, but only the career people have the expertise that allows anything to get done, and they've each got their own agenda. I'll bet there'll be some interesting "get acquainted meetings" going on this week.

A: Food for thought, indeed. Paul Markey, of Markey Research in Burlington, Brooklyn, and Burgoyne -- thanks again for being on the program.

M: Always a pleasure, Brian.

Forward to FAN #110B (26 August 1974): Yes, Minister.

Return to For All Nails.