Leers And Frothing on the Campaign Trail ’96: Part One - Amor’s Revenge

by John W Herbert

The desperation in his voice should have been a clue. I should have known better. Something should have told me that to listen to him was a mistake. Where was that little voice inside my head when I needed it? Sure, it was there last night, spending hours telling me that there was a one litre jug of Oreo Ice Cream calling me from the supermarket, but now, now when I really needed the voice to tell me something HELPFUL it was long gone, baby. Outa here.
I picked up the phone. It was...him.
“John,” said the voice of Aurora Award winning radio personality with great hair Adam Charlesworth. “I need your help.” Quickly I sized up the situation and hung up.
The phone rang again seconds later. Damn, said the little voice inside my head, just before it vanished into the ether to force me to fend for myself, he called back. Fortunately, there’s Plan B.
I picked up the phone again. “Hi doodley-doo!” I said, disguising my voice as that of famous cartoon character Ned Flanders. No one would ever suspect a thing.
“John, it’s me, Adam. I have--”
“Sorry, you’ve got the wrong numberino!” I hung up again. Close, too close.
Then, the phone rang. Again.
Damn, said that little voice. He’s called back again!! Oh well, I want some ice cream. And it was gone.
“Plan C?” I whimpered to myself. “Is there a Plan C?”
There was no answer forthcoming, save the incessant ringing of the phone. No escape. Have a tequila, baby.
“John, it’s me, Adam.” There was a long pause.
“Sorry, I was waiting for you to hang up on me again. Listen, I need a favour.”
There was still time! There was still enough time for me little voice to return and get me through this. But, alas, it was not to be. My voice had deserted me. I was alone, much too alone. I had no choice but to give in, and set myself on a course that would drastically alter my life and this country as we know it. I was about to help Adam enter politics.
“Yeah, sure. Whatta you want?”
“I’ve got it on very good authority that there going to call the provincial election tomorrow.”
“That rumour’s been around every week for the last year.”
“Yes, but I have it on very good authority that they’re calling it tomorrow.”
“Okay, so they’re calling it tomorrow. So what?”
“Well, if they call it tomorrow, I’ll be announcing my candidacy for the Green Party in Victoria Hillside the day after. Will you be my campaign manager?”

Some, like MP Nelson Riis, call politics in British Columbia “a blood sport.” Wrong. Politics in British Columbia is more a cross between American Gladiators and Stupid Pet Tricks. Politics in Québec, for instance, is like watching the fifth estate; in BC it’s more like Wheel of Fortune or A Current Affair. (In fact, former Social Credit cabinet Minister Bud Smith was featured on A Current Affair because he had the misfortune of someone taping his cel phone calls to a newspaper reporter he was trying to hit on while giving her juicy behind the scenes gossip and insider information. Oops.)
BC’s second premier was Amor de Cosmos. His real name was William Alexander Smith, but he changed it to a name that he said “tells what I love most ... order, beauty, the world, the universe.” He eventually went mad.
From 1952 to 1972, BC’s premier was Social Creditor W.A.C.Bennett (Wacky Bennett). Under his reign, more dead people voted in provincial elections than at any time previously. In 1986, Bill van der Zalm was elected premier on the platform of style, not substance: “The smart candidate avoids detailed policy statements for they rarely help and can do you harm. Your answers should concentrate on style.” He stylishly treated BC to possibly the most corrupt government Canada has ever known (Mulroney’s the possible exception). Was Adam seriously considering to join these damned souls in Hades, er, um, the Legislature? Indeed, he was.

I decided the best course of action for me as Adam’s campaign manager was to hide out behind the scenes and do nothing. This way I figured I could lie low, escape unnoticed, watch some tv, and maybe see Adam at the end-of-campaign party. (I would call it a victory party, but let’s get real....)
Adam, however, had other ideas. He actually expected me to do some work. Damn him. Fortunately, the RCMP came to my rescue. Bingo-gate had reared its ugly head again.
On the day the election was to have been called, the RCMP raided a number of locations, including NDP party headquarters, for materials relating to the Nanaimo Commonwealth Holdings scandal. So for now the election was as dead as Tony Orlando’s acting career. Adam was off the hook for the moment, but plans had to be made.
Quickly, I assembled my crack crew -- The Myles in ’89 Gang: Angst Philben, degenerate, weapons expert, and speech writer for David Duke; Monika Bandersnatch, blackmailing expert and part-time Madonna stunt double; Marsha Chondrite, a financial whiz who worked in Ottawa during the Mulroney years and just loves the Airbus A320; Robert Gunderson, professional Tiny Tim impersonator and part time spin doctor; and Robert Runté, a sociologist from Alberta who paid me five bucks to mention him in this article. They were joined by our new recruits: Jamie Tower, hair consultant; Buzz Berkowitz, who claimed Adam owed him $50 and wasn’t going to let Adam out of his sight until he was paid, and Mikhail Gorbachev, former ex-communist. As the campaign manager, they were all looking to me for leadership. I ad-libbed an aspiring speech.
“Listen. We’re gonna lose. And we’re gonna lose big. But let’s make sure that doesn’t stop us from... er... not winning.”
My troops listened intently to my every syllable. Obviously, my speech had hit home; their gaping mouths and surprised expressions were testament to that. Now we needed to solidify the feeling that was in the air, that rock-hard, electrifying surge of near-apathy that was trickling through the air like a slam dancer with compound fractures in both legs.
“Now first things first,” I said. “We need to pick a campaign song.”
There was little discussion. My initial choice, Through Being Cool by Devo, was selected nearly unanimously. Jamie left our little group at this point. (They’ll never find the body. Politics is a mean game.)
Next, I presented my list of Possible Slogans:
Vote For Adam. It Could Be Worse.
Vote For Adam. He’ll Cook You Dinner.
Up and Adam.
Adam and the Green Party. Guilt is on Our Side.
Vote Charlesworth. Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures.
Adam. He Likes Cheese.
Charlesworth. He Has More Hair Than Harcourt.
Adam. No Longer on the Lunatic Fringe.
Charlesworth. Anyone But Mike Harris.
Your Options Are Limited. Vote Charlesworth.
Charlesworth. Mediocrity to the Masses.
Charlesworth. He Won’t Win, but What the Hell.
Adam liked the last one, and so did I. Mikhail liked any slogan that mentioned the word “party.”
Next I decided to spring a surprise on Adam: a practice press conference. Earlier, I had jotted down some questions he was sure to be asked. But Adam surprised me; he was ready with answers.

Question: Just how will the Green Party save the world?
Adam: I think you are really just asking me how am I going to save the world, or how is my voting for you going to save the world. My answer to this is to ask you the opposite. What are you going to do to help destroy the world? Today for instance we are over fishing and deforesting so massive an area of the planet that naturally occurring species are being removed from the Earth at over three hundred times the rate from the previous century. If we were to do nothing, the NDP strategy, all life on the planet can be safely removed in less than 250 years. But I am sure that we could improve on this figure if really try to. Lets remove those tiresome environmental bonds that hold industry back and hinder job creation in the province, of course we should also allow the foreign logging companies and the off shore fishing industry to take whatever they need so as to help provide more jobs in their countries as well. And it all will come with the special added bonus feature that we could reduce the lifespan deficit we are currently facing so as to be able to maximise extinction of the Earth in only 100 years time. But it wont happen if we are not prepared to make bold hard decisions. We will have to cut health care, selling out to foreign multinationals never actually generates any revenue for BC, just looking at the Mining and Forestry books for the last fifteen years shows that it has actually cost British Columbians money to denude our forests. Health care wont be enough of course, the Liberals plan bold incisive cuts in Education as well so as to further protect the future of British Columbia’s economy in the Global marketplace. This is how I choose to answer your question. Last year the Herring fishery was considered a success because it ran for half an hour. The entire year’s catch during a lunch break, and it was considered a success from the previous years twenty two minute fishery. Salmon rivers that carried 150,000 salmon last year brought only thirty and this year just ten thousand. A 96% reduction in fish stock is what business as usual has done for the future of this province. The flaming letters in the sky that say the World is Ending are getting bigger each day, UV ratings, Air quality index, sunblock in the high double digits. A vote for the Green Party doesn’t mean all this will go away but it does mean that you are voting for a party that can see farther ahead than four years.

Question: What’s your view on this Québec thing?
Adam: As a BC provincial candidate my views on events occurring in another province are moot I just hope that the citizens inside Québec are able to come to a decision that they can live with.

Question: Why are you goddam fascist tree-huggers taking away an honest man’s right to work?
Adam: Actually we are trying to make a world where you can keep your job cutting down trees for your entire life. A sustainable cut that provides a guaranteed number of jobs. Remember the pictures of the province at the turn of the Century. Trees so big it took forty men a week to cut one down. Today, if we had those trees still, forty men could cut them all down in a week, instead of the years it did take. Where are all those trees now? Why are you afraid you are going to lose your job. Because there are no more trees to cut down? If you are accusing us of cutting down the trees that sustained your livelihood and that of others in the logging industry you must remember that it was the forest companies being allowed to overcut in the past that has led to our present state. We are suggesting a certain level of restraint to protect what is left, but if the people of BC are willing to vote for legislation to remove every single tree from the province in order to keep you in work than we are more than willing to go along with it. Newfoundland used to be covered in trees, so did Scotland and Greece actually. Beautiful places really, a bitter cold bare empty rock of an island with no jobs, an island where you can get an excellent pint of bitters but no place to get out from under the rain with no jobs and a group of islands and bare rock with less topsoil than a pound of Moneys mushrooms but luckily also surrounded by a warm and inviting Mediterranean Sea. Best two out of three?

Question: Why are you running when you’ll know you’ll never win?
Adam: Good question! Why would someone run? I suggest you think about it.

Question: What is the airspeed velocity of an unladden swallow?
Adam: I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I may have to provide a demonstration of my silly walk after I do so.

Question: How can we balance the budget?
Adam: Carefully, considering our ozone deficit, our salmon deficit, our forest deficit and our fiscal deficit, I’d say carefully about covers it.

Question: Boxers or briefs?
Adam: Briefs.

Question: What about welfare reform?
Adam: What about it? I believe that welfare should always be there for the people who need it. If you design an American welfare system. The Laisssex Faire approach to social programs. You will find that people will approach welfare with a more “do it your self” air, with Smith and Wessons at bank machines, rather than a quiet queue. The difficult part is designing a system that provides welfare for people who need it not just people who want it.

Damn. He had an answer for every question I had posed. Some even made sense. He was serious. I realized I would have to change tactics. I was going to have to come up with a better strategy than changing Adam’s last name to Charlesworthsanjabi.

NEXT: Premier Mike Quits, The Job No One Wants, Adam on the Trail, and Stupid Political Tricks.

Click here for Part Two
Click here for Part Three

Originally published in UNDER THE OZONE HOLE Number 13, March 1996.

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