Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Twitter: What a wonderful word to describe Parliament Hill

There are many staffers and reporters who have literally grown up on Parliament Hill.
Over my 30 years working in Ottawa, I've watched a parade of fresh-faced nubes come to the Show from small towns, and some big ones, all eager to change the world.
Within weeks and months many fall victim to the allure of SWAG, alcohol, sex, Wonderful Wednesdays and the inevitable Terrible Thursdays.
It doesn't take long before they realize that Pierre Trudeau was right.
Members of Parliament and the Senate really are nobodies, and those who cover them are nobody understudies.
Most of what happens on Parliament Hill is boring, trite and bordering on the ridiculous. Unless you're Stephen Harper, you don't have much chance of "making a difference in the lives of ordinary Canadians".
There's really not a lot of wiggle room, books-wise, so most of the work on Parliament Hill is about shuffling cards or deckchairs, robbing the leftie Peter to pay the conservative Paul. Many of the Hill reporters -- except in the hot room where they get free office space -- don't even bother to go up to the Hill anymore. They prefer to watch everything on the House of Commons channel and CPAC or learn about what's going on from Kady O'Malley on Twitter.
That's how I get my news these days.
Twitter, what a wonderful word to describe Parliament Hill.
A bunch of know-it-all birds on a wire.
When the staffer or reporter from away finally realizes that the Hill is not as important as City Hall back home where actions really do make a difference in the lives of ordinary Canadians, he (or she) often drowns himself in drink or spends most of his time trying to score a gig on one of the chat shows that nobody watches other than old incontinents, the unemployed and other Hill types.
After awhile existing in that community, the once eager youngster begins to eat his own tail, then slowly works his way up the body until there is nothing left but a big, ugly swollen head.
And that, ladies and germs, it how we find ourselves in the current messes going on in the Parliamentary Precinct.
Robocalls, the padding of expense accounts, advisors playing fast and loose to score the big payday -- these things are nothing new on Parliament Hill. Back in the 60s, reporters made a second income writing speeches for Parliamentarians which they then also covered. Access to free booze, tailoring, woodworking, haircuts, subsidized entertainment and the like had had the effect of addling the brains of all comers in a very short period of time.
Combine that with "power" and you have a culture ripe for corruption.
It's very, very hard to resist.
The Press Gallery is not a glass house. People who get a coveted press pass are entitled to the same perks and then some, including free parking, office space, Internet connections, long-distance, and fancy meals with prices that rival McDonalds. They end up at the same shindigs and places of repute as staffers and members of Parliament, drinking at Hy's with their hands up the skirts of nubile young hotties in thousand dollar suits.
Truly, Parliament Hill is a test case for one's belief in a God honest and Almighty.
There is not one there meek enough to inherit the Earth.
So one might be forgiven for succumbing to a culture of grab, tickle and squeeze.
The Senators who are now under investigation have all grown up around the Parliament Hill.
They've been culturefied.
They follow the rules written by people who dined in those same restaurants and cafeterias.
It's no wonder they are telling Canadians that they've done nothing wrong by being residents and non-residents at the same time. Heck, I'm always amazed that nobody has challenged the $4,000 residency clause to be a senator. Hey dad, can I borrow 4k? If I can buy a piece of swampland in the bush somewhere, I can be a member of the Senate of Canada.
The whole thing stinks.
Just like the smell of paper products that wafts over Parliament Hill in the morning.


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