There used to be, back in the dress-for-success ’80s, a one-liner about women who put career over family.
“Oops,” went the line, sometimes seen on a T-shirt. “I forgot to have kids.”
I thought of it Thursday when I read of Scott Brison’s sudden resignation, and, it appears, his happy realization that doh!, he did remember to have kids and now that the girls, twins, are four, it is time to more fully devote himself to them.
Does that sound overly cynical? Perhaps. Brison may be completely sincere, one of the few of a myriad of politicians who abruptly pack it all in, many at points that are indisputably convenient for them in other critical ways, in the holy name of family.
The Treasury Board president and career politician, in a move that seemed to be unexpected, announced he is stepping down as member of Parliament for Kings-Hants, a mostly rural Nova Scotia riding not far from Halifax.
Brison issued an almost five-page letter of resignation on Facebook.
About a page and a half was devoted to slavish praising of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (“no prime minister more committed to improving the lives of Atlantic Canadians,” blah, blah) and Liberals.
About a page and a half was given over to Brison’s own career (this was done in a most endearing manner), fond reminiscences and how for him, as a gay man in government, decisions made in the House of Commons “shaped my life” — gave him the opportunity to marry the man he loves and raise a family while being open about who he is.
It was clear he is a genuinely proud and grateful Canadian.
There was almost another page of thanks.
On the final page, he got to the main bit, the “three main reasons I’ve made the decision to not run again.”
First, after 22 years as an MP, proud of what he helped accomplish, he said he was “leaving on top.”
Second, “it’s time for a change.” He’s 51, as he said, and “ready for new challenges…
“Third, and most important, is my family.” Parenthood, he said, didn’t come to him and husband Maxime St. Pierre, as it does to so many, easily or accidentally.
“The greatest roles I’ll ever have are being husband to Max, and Daddy to Rose and Claire. As I watch Rose and Claire grow into such special people, I can’t wait for the next chapter of our life together.”
(In the video version, at this last bit, Max and Rose and Claire, Max dimpling beautifully and the girls looking adorable in their little dresses, come into view and join Brison, who tells them he looks forward to spending the “next chapters of my life with you.”)
It was, as befits a fellow who spent more than two decades in politics, an indisputably political farewell.
There is some reason to accept that Brison may have also come to the understanding that he had gone as far in politics as he was likely to go: A twice-unsuccessful leadership candidate, once for the Conservatives and then after he’d crossed the floor once for the Liberals, Brison’s chance to be PM has likely passed.
And as one of my Ottawa colleagues says, the Treasury Board gig, while important, is all about giving the thumbs down to various projects, and can be a little soul-destroying as well.
So there’s all that.
But there’s also this: Brison is one of the key figures at the heart of the prosecution against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, the second-in-command of the military who is accused of leaking cabinet secrets.
His name appears on the Crown’s list of witnesses when the case goes to trial in August, two months before the federal election, though it is not from government lawyers he can expect the rough ride.
Brison was vice-chair of the ad hoc committee meeting, at which, shortly after the Trudeau Liberals took office in 2015, he allegedly was “the driving force” behind the Liberals’ decision to delay awarding a contract for a supply ship to Quebec’s Davie Shipbuilding.
It was he who walked into the meeting with a letter of complaint about that contract from rival Irving Shipbuilding Inc. co-CEO James Irving, begging for the Davie contract to be “competitively evaluated.”
The letter had been sent to new Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote and new Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, and copied to Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Brison.
Only Brison brought it to the meeting, and he admitted to the RCMP he raised it there.
And as described in the factum filed by Norman’s defence lawyers in their third-party records motion that resumes in Ottawa later this month, it was Brison’s statements to the RCMP — that the leaks about the contract delay, allegedly by Norman, were so grave they hindered his and the government’s ability to do their due diligence on the Davie contact — that acted as the foundation for the Norman prosecution.
Thus, the defence says, did Brison ground both the prosecution theory that Norman’s alleged conduct was “a serious and marked departure” and that he “was not acting in the public good” — by supposedly precluding Brison and the government from having a proper look at the Davie contract — and ground the criminal charge against him.
The motion hearing resumes Jan. 29.
Brison will be long gone out of cabinet by then; Trudeau is to name his successor at Treasury on Monday.
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