Saturday, 17 March 2012

CPAWS, the Hill and a Cowboy

This is a rewrite of my very first CPAWS blog.

I’m what you would call somewhat of an “awkward conservationist.

Last October, I’m sitting in a beautiful restaurant at the Mill in Wakefield, Quebec with some of my CPAWS friends from across the country. We’re having a great supper and the room is buzzing with excitement, as we are all heading to Parliament in a couple days for some meetings with MP’s and Senators from all of the Parties represented in the House. All told, there will be a few dozen of us meeting with about 80 of them, so needless to say, we were getting pretty pumped! The food was wonderful and the mood was light and happy.

Now, I’m sure our National Executive Director wasn’t intentionally planning to dampen the mood, but this is kind of where the trouble started. Eric sits down beside me and says “So, just what are you planning on wearing to Parliament?”

Silence…and remember that “awkward” thing I mentioned earlier?

Now just take a glance at my profile photo. This is how I dress. For weddings, funerals, brandings, meetings, at the beach, riding my horses…that’s me. My friends have now all turned their chairs to engage in some fake conversations at the other end of the table. “Well,” I respond, “I’m probably going to wear something like this,” pointing at my current attire.

More awkward silence…

“You know”, he says, “you have a couple meetings in the Government Lobby, and no one has ever gone into the Government Lobby unless they were wearing a suit and tie… and for sure no jeans!”
So apparently now we’ve got a problem. I didn’t bring a suit to Wakefield. This is because I don’t actually own a suit. I rented one for my wedding back in the day. I guess I never really thought I would need one again. I sure don’t want to disrespect the House and its traditions! Heck, we are lucky to live in a great democracy and to have this chance to talk to our decision makers, so I’m not about to abuse this privilege.

At this point CPAWS now has two people on full “Find Gord A Suit” detail. Jill and Emily went hard on this thing. There were calls to a suit store of some sort, but they only rented out tuxedos (like the one at my wedding), so that was a bit overboard. We even thought about maybe a fringed leather jacket that I had along and trying to pass it all off as “traditional dress”, but decided that was just plain dishonest.

Then along came Nick from Wakefield, driving up in some kind of army surplus thing. Like me, he wore a hat. He was a little bigger framed than me, but it looked close. Plus, I’m thinking the style might be tolerable, given his unique entrance into the picture. Sure enough, Nick had something that was “close enough” to ensure I would not get the boot from the Lobby.

There were a few half-baked “compliments” on my attire that morning over breakfast. I didn’t buy them at all, but I’m sure they were meant in good humour. To my delight, I learned that I would be allowed to wear my hat! Good thing too, as another colleague had already vowed to “strip naked” should I be asked to leave or remove my hat. When I asked Eric how this made him feel, he swallowed the lump in his throat and quietly replied “Nervous!”

So now we’re in Parliament! I’ve made my way safely past several levels of security (a feat for sure when you think about the combination of removing your belt from pants that are slightly too large and having to hold out your arms for a metal detector) and am now waiting with my colleagues Ray and Kjelti to be called into our first meeting, with an MP on House Duty. We’re all set to talk about the Federal Caribou Recovery Strategy…pumped and ready to go.

Then right in front of us walks a handsome young fellow named Trudeau…in jeans…