Opinion

Tex Enemark Says Goodbye with Thoughts on PMO Power

The well-known BC political figure shares some last insights.

By Tex Enemark 8 Mar 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Tex Enemark has had a long career in B.C. politics and public policy and lately has contributed to The Tyee.

[Editor’s note: Tex Enemark, a long-time Liberal party organizer and candidate, earned his superior reputation in many roles. He was a B.C. deputy minister (Rafe Mair’s first when he was a Social Credit Party MLA in cabinet). He was a ministerial assistant in Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s cabinet. He helped create Granville Island, was president of the B.C. Mining Association and, as an avid scuba diver, headed the B.C. Artificial Reefs Society which sank ships to foster marine habitat. He’s also contributed pieces to The Tyee. This will be his last. Tex has stage-four cancer and sent us this today.]

We who are old enough to remember the time in 1956 when the federal Liberal government was rocked by cries of arrogance over using closure to hasten legislation for a gas pipeline across the country (and paid the price by being defeated the following election) also remember a time when ministerial aides were never told what to do by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Over the years the Prime Minister’s Office has exponentially grown in influence, further directing cabinet members on political staffing and policy. The PMO achieved unprecedented power under the Mulroney government. Over time, cabinet ministers were expected to heed the words of young, often very bright but largely inexperienced PMO staff, creating a gulf between the prime minister and his ministers.

Flagrant misbehaviour of PMO staff was conspicuous in the Harper government. The judge who dismissed charges against Senator Mike Duffy was scathing in his criticism of PMO head Nigel Wright and the behaviour of political staff.

The concentration of power in the hands of unelected political staff is contrary to our parliamentary democracy that depends on a responsible cabinet, elected and accountable to Canadians. It has festered more and more in governments both Tory and Liberal, and also in some provinces.

These dismal thoughts are the last I will offer publicly. I offer them in the hope that current experience will prompt a fresh look at how our system of stable government can again be the envy of the world.

trudeau_pic2.jpeg
Prime Minister Trudeau last week sent this inscribed photo to Tex Enemark with a personal note of appreciation including this: ‘You led by example, inspired many to public service, and improved the lives of people in British Columbia and across Canada.’

To be clear, I am unable to offer special insight into the SNC-Lavalin affair.

However, the affair itself lends some insight into the workings and dynamics of cabinet and tensions with the direction of the PMO.

I am enormously grateful to two of the affair’s protagonists, Dr. Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould, for the law they worked out together that now allows me peaceful resolution of an intolerable medical condition.

I am grateful for a handwritten letter I received this week from Prime Minister Trudeau acknowledging my contributions to public life. I hope we will find our way back to the vision of 2015 where transparency and inclusive leadership is how we will move forward.  [Tyee]

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