OK, so Tuesday was the final day for the spring session of the House of Assembly, and Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons decided to do something special.
Parsons decided to wear a bow tie.
More specifically, Parsons decided to borrow one of my bow ties, decided to get me to tie it for him, and decided to wear it on the final day of House of Assembly.
(By the by, I can report that the honourable member for Burgeo-La Poile has a 17-inch neck — so if you were curious about that, you’re welcome.)
In any event, this is kind of a long story, so let me start at the beginning.
There’s an aspect to the House of Assembly that I think most people don’t really appreciate.
For a few months of the year, MHAs, ministers, staffers and journalists all have to occupy the same small bit of Confederation Building day after day.
We all sit in the same room. We all walk the same halls. We all use the same washrooms.
Under normal circumstances during the rest of the year, politicians are kept very deliberately separate from journalists, and both sides are carefully chaperoned by public relations people.
At a news conference or any other sort of public event, the press shows up and waits, (as a rule, the politician is usually anywhere from 5-30 minutes late.)
He or she walks in, says something, answers some questions, poses for a picture and then walks out.
The cameras and recorders are on the whole time. Everyone is careful with what they say.
There is basically no chance for chit-chat or normal human interaction.
Up at the House, though, you bump into people in the hall. You chat about the weather and plans for the weekend.
Journalists get to know the politicians in a different way.
For example, I can tell you that Premier Kathy Dunderdale is a health freak, and if you get her started, she’ll talk your ear off about healthy eating and exercise.
I can tell you that New Democrat MHA Gerry Rogers plays hockey, and she can be pretty fierce about it.
I can tell you that there’s a cabinet minister who *builds* canoes in his spare time.
I can tell you that both the Liberals and the NDP tend to have a pot of coffee on in their offices (which are right next to the press room.) The NDP brews better coffee — fair trade organic roast from Jumping Bean — but the Liberals have candy in their office.
I *could* tell you which MHAs like to chat via Twitter direct message with members of the media when they’re sitting in the House — but I won’t. (HINT: It’s some of the ones with BlackBerrys.)
Personally, I think this casual interaction between politicians, staffers and reporters is of enormous value.
I’ve heard plenty of comments from people who say political journalists get “too close” to the people they cover. This can definitely be a problem; journalists need to maintain a professional distance to be aggressive and critical of politicians.
But I think it’s also possible to be too distant; it’s easy to forget that politicians are real human beings.
They’re not just pictures in the newspaper and talking heads on TV. They’re regular people, with regular lives. An awful lot of them are grandparents.
Anyway, I bump into Andrew Parsons from time to time up at the House, and I noticed that he had a bit of a sartorial quirk.
Parsons, to my knowledge, is the only MHA who routinely wears three-piece suits.
We got to talking about it, and joking about my own sartorial eccentricity: sometimes I wear bow ties.
Anyway, things sort of spiraled from there, and I promised Parsons that if he wore a bow tie in the House of Assembly, I’d do a blog post about it.
What followed was a lot of wrangling, because Parsons wanted to borrow one of my bow ties, but I thought he should buy his own.
(I mean, come on. The guy makes more than $95,000 and he’s earning a super-sweet pension. You’re telling me he can’t spring for a $15 bow tie?)
Never mind. I caved. I lent him a bow tie, and I even tied the damn thing for him.
(There’s a video attached to this blog post of me teaching Parsons how to tie a bow tie. You should really watch it. Right up top of this page, just click on the video tab to find it. Trust me. It’s worth watching.)
So yeah, that’s about the long and the short of it. He wore the bow tie, and true to my word, here I am writing a blog post about it.
Parsons endured his fair share of abuse on Tuesday about wearing the bow tie, too; I heard some heckles from the PC benches about “popcorn” and “Orville Redenbacher.”
Personally, I don’t see it. I think the bow tie clearly evoked the bold leadership and hydroelectric cunning of Joey Smallwood.
I hope he makes it a regular part of his wardrobe.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THIS BLOG:
Alright, so the House of Assembly is done for the spring. I’m still planning on doing sporadic updates. Up until now, I’ve mostly been writing about legislative minutia, and I don’t expect there’ll be much of that with the legislature closed. If there’s any political miscellanies or public policy peccadilloes that don’t warrant a story in the paper, I’ll post them here. Check back for updates, or follow me on Twitter (@TelegramJames), where I’ll always tweet a link to newly-posted Briefing Notes.
Have a good summer, y’all.