Dale Bass – Kamloops This Week
Back in the spring of 2009, KTW editor Christopher Foulds wrote the following about Cathy McLeod:
“The Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative MP is simply an honest woman, a regular Josephine who happens to have that rarest quality among politicians: When asked a question by a reporter, she offers up an answer devoid of political bafflegab and spoon-fed sentences from party elders.”
The issue was attack ads her party was running about then-Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, a tactic McLeod criticized.
It was our front-page story and, given how unusual it was back then for an MP to criticize her governing party, it was also picked up by national media.
Imagine that — a Conservative MP who spoke her mind.
Kamloops has returned McLeod to Ottawa, but she will be in Opposition.
Will Stephen Harper, her dictatorial leader, be just another back-bencher if he really does decide to stay in Parliament?
Anyone taking bets?
Perhaps her new reality will bring back McLeod’s forthright frankness, coming from an MP Foulds described six years ago as having sensible and honest opinions.
Kamloops reporters have been luckier than many of their colleagues in other areas with Conservative MPs; while many simply ignored calls from the media, McLeod has always responded to us.
Yes, we knew she’d parrot the party line, but she at least acknowledged her role in the give and take of covering politics.
In my hometown of London, Ont., folks there started a “Where’s Ed?” campaign in the run-up to Monday’s federal election, mocking the complete absence of the minister of state for science and technology from anything that might have involved speaking to reporters or, apparently, voters.
He lost the election.
McLeod’s comments in 2009 were also a welcome relief because her predecessor, Betty Hinton, was a Conservative MP who we knew, as Foulds described it in his column on the attack ads, “would have waxed eloquent on the production quality of the marvellous television moments, regardless of their crassness — the story would have likely been placed inside the newspaper.”
Occasionally, my out-of-office path would cross with that of McLeod and it was always interesting to talk with her.
Yes, there would be the anticipated responses to anything political asked, but there were also welcome moments when the real McLeod came through.
At the 2014 official opening of a preschool’s new space in the renovated Kamloops United Church, for example, I joked with McLeod about saving the plants in her Ottawa office. It was a bit mocking, to be sure, but at the time, future-hero-turned ambassador and then-sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers had declared plants in the House of Commons government property would be removed and sold because it was too expensive to water them.
“Really, Cathy?,” I asked. “Can’t you all just water them yourselves?”
The reply came from the McLeod about whom Foulds wrote five years earlier.
She leaned in, put her hand on my arm and answered: “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
There she is!
The real Cathy McLeod!
I can’t wait to watch that one once Parliament resumes. And, for those of you who despair that the majority of Kamloopsians voted against her, do not worry.
This is the same woman who was praised during her time as mayor of Pemberton for being good, for always having the time to listen to others, for taking concerns to heart, for working hard for her constituents.
I don’t see her changing — and she’s already got a self-declared neighbour to all Conservatives in the new prime minister.