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Cabinet ministers, an Old Dog, and Me

It is hard to amaze, these days. But today, I am gobsmacked.

Last evening…my dog’s legs are giving out and he’s leaving outlines of sweat that very old pets puddle in. Sweet ancient Tartuffe with his skittery paws and gentle milky blues. He’s been such a faithful tenderhearted fellow: the kind of dog who sleeps under the crib. When he was a frisky youth, he chummed with my friend Cheryl’s dog: Felony. This was an adorable three-legged lab who lived up to her name. She was diagnosed with fatal cancer and the doctors gave her perhaps a month or two to live (as I remember it). So, I agreed to let Tartuffe stay with her as palliative care; he was a comfort to Felony in her dying days. Such a comfort, that she didn’t die at all. For a long time! His vitality kept the old dog alive. My mind immediately parallels this with Justin Trudeau, soon to be sworn in tomorrow.IMG_3085

Around the block in the rain, Tartuffe and I bump into Ed, our local urban outdoorsman. He’s a bit shivery and wet, his beard drips. He is pushing his cart, hunting for bottles with a deposit. He does not smell of booze right now. He smells of nothing, with an after whiff of deep deep discomfort. I say, “How you doing today, Ed?” Which always seems a bit of a stupid question, and he always avoids answering it. However, his eyes dart down to the dog, “That’s a sweet pup”. I offer, “Yup”. Tartuffe and Ed give each other a weary compassionate grizzled eye and both trot on. cart-culture-22-0

We walk further down McLean, past the three squatter trailers by the broken mosaic park. Three drunken teens set fire to a cracker. Do they know it’s only eight or so? They are embarrassed when they see me, as though I’ve surprised them upon a sneaky ejaculation. “Sorry, lady!” They proffer, all red faced. I laugh, “oh I’m just glad my dog is too deaf for it to scare him…” We are joined by my husband who has jogged to catch up. “You boys stick together…don’t leave anyone behind….” He says. The middle popper is so drunk, the other two are holding him up. He has a glaze of helpless relief across his smooth brown face. Beautiful, actually. I’ve seen him before, give or take a toque. Wasn’t he with a three layered pavlova cake of a teenaged girl, rolling out of her leggings and low cut t, pushing a baby carriage? Or not. Or could be. Kitty corner low income housing. Maybe I’m just piecing that together to make a story. Whatever the case, it’s likely close to true. The boys are relieved by our free pass and wish us a hearty and oddly polite, “have a good evening, Ma’am, Sir.”

I see Tartuffe has left some of his food and he shivers long after getting out of the wet. When he gets up to move from the living room to the bedroom, my little shadow, his back legs give out again. I give him a good long ear rub and whisper over and over what a good boy he’s been and how grateful I am to know him. Then I catch up on a bit of the news. Rumours: Trudeau is going to appoint more women to the cabinet, creating a gender balance. Is this actually going to come true? I’ve never paid much attention to cabinet before, give or take a minister of Canadian heritage. And why is that? Why have I never really paid much attention to politics? Why have I always felt helpless and cynical? Why do I carry around this image in my head of a pack of old men pretending they have power, while a smaller pack of old men, from banks and mega-corporations, tell them what to do? I have always felt completely left out of the equation. Is that true? Or is that an idea I present myself with to justify my own political apathy? Hm.

But there is something about Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie, and my local MP, Jenny Kwan, and frankly also Melanie Joly…they seem like people I’d enjoy the company of. People who may just come to a play. People I’d have over for dinner. (though not Jenny, because she’s currently trying to live off of welfare food rations, which means a lot of apples and peanut butter in her briefcase) They seem like those who might call me up and ask me to volunteer for something and I’d say “yes”. People who might just give a crap about my family, the fire cracker kids and Ed. I close my eyes to sleep and it’s a little like…what…what is this…anticipation? It’s a little like Christmas eve.Trudeau-war

I wake up in the morning and get through the quick and busy kids out the door routine. I check in on my operetta and…that’s when the first miraculous thing happens: the first wednesday is sold out. What?! This never happens in Vancouver. Hooray! And then I quickly tune into the news to watch Justin Trudeau become prime minister. His tour around the parliament buildings beforehand with his children and Peter Mansbridge is humble and endearing. But it’s the swearing in of his cabinet ministers that catches me entirely off guard. Woman after woman after woman, accepting her ministry. And I mean, we have an Inuit leader from Nunavut as the Minister of Fisheries & Oceans, a lawyer & treaty commissioner as the first-ever indigenous Minister of Justice, a farmer as the Minister of Agriculture! And the list goes on. People who know first hand what they’re talking about. I am so shocked this actually happened. Equality. When asked why, Trudeau said, “Because it’s 2015.” And for those few idiots who talk about merit over gender balance, I say: this cabinet is going to work harder and with more integrity than any before it because all eyes are on these ministers. Unknown-3

Unexpectedly, I weep. I never cry over politics. Well, alright, I did shed a few frustrated tears when Harper was re-elected with a majority in 2011, and I was very sad for our country when Jack Layton died. But this is the first time I’ve wept. Deep. Okay. What’s going on here? I usually know why I feel what I feel.Unknown-6

Ah. For the first time in my life, my government actually represents people like me. And for Trudeau to not waste time justifying his decision, speaks to its inherent justice. It’s like…my ground shook and up shot a new pillar for me to stand on. I will speak as an equal in parliament. I will speak as an equal in the theatre. I will speak as an equal in my family. It’s not just wishful thinking. It’s 2015.

I give Tartuffe a loving rub along his back as we curl up by the fire and contemplate a puppy.

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