And so it came to pass, the night before the adjournment of the Chamber on the eve of the 21st as the Premier was returning to his office. Now it is a fact that the Premier having his key card in hand saw in his reflection in the glass of his office door, not his own face, but that of Don Mills, pollster of some renown.
“How now,” said the Premier, cautious and curious as ever. “What do you want with me? Tell me Don Mills, why do you appear before me?”
“I am here tonight to warn you about the next election. You will be haunted” returned the apparition of Don Mills, “by three spirits.”
The Premier’s countenance fell almost as quickly as his approval rating according to Angus Reid.
“Without the visits from these apparitions,” said Mills, “you cannot hope to shun the path Shaun Graham and David Alward both tread. Expect the first tonight when the Cathedral’s bell tolls one.”
And so the Premier settled in to wait. At length the chimes broke upon his listening ear. Ding Dong. The hour was upon him.
Lights flashed in the long abandoned Centennial Building, though power has not lit its musty halls for years. Then the curtains of the Premier’s window were drawn aside and the Premier, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them.
“Are you the spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?” asked the Premier.
“I am! I am the ghost of elections past.”
As the words were spoken, the ghost and he floated out through the office wall and stood upon the rug of a room not unfamiliar to the Premier.
“Good heavens,” said the Premier. “This is but my cabinet table. But who is this I see now? My dear friends Victor, Donald, Denis, Rick, Ed and Brian. It is them, but there is an aspect of youth in their faces with which I am unacquainted. And what now are they saying? $50M to be extended? What is this of waiving the security on a loan guarantee? Speak now, ghost of elections past!”
“I told you, these were the shadows of things that have been,” said the ghost. “Learn and consider all the Auditor General has recommended on this Atcon affair.”
With a wave of his hand, the Premier was deposited back at his office and the apparition had left him. Yet morning had not come, and the cathedral bell was chiming the first hour past midnight again.
With much confusion the Premier surveyed his office, and all seemed the same, that is until a strange voice called him by name.
“Gallant, I am the ghost of elections present. Look upon me.”
The Premier did, and in an instant they were transported to the dooryard of a humble dwelling.
“I can’t believe it!” cried a fervent voice. “Our property tax bill has gone through the roof. Whatever shall we do? The money we put aside to repair the roof must now be dedicated to pay the tax.”
“How can that be?” cried the Premier. “Service NB flew over this roof to evaluate its work, and it surely is in need of repair, not more tax.”
“Fast Track” said the ghost. His face was awash with horror.
“No, no,” said the Premier. “Oh no, kind spirit, say I will be spared of this scandal.”
“I see vacant seats,” replied the ghost, “in the front benches of the House of Assembly if these shadows remain unaltered in the future.”
In a flash the Premier was once again returned to the warmth of his office. The Premier looked about him for the ghost and saw it not. He remembered the prediction of Don Mills, knowing the pollster never to be wrong – plus or minus 6.4%, 19 times out of 20. Then he heard chilling moans, worse than any Premier had ever heard from any member of the opposition, not Higgs, nor Fitch, nay Coon, nor Weir – not even the dreadful wailing of a long dead CORite. He hid his eyes, but felt a deathly chill in the room, so peeked through his fingers. Gallant beheld a terrifying spectre, a phantom draped in chains, dragging walkers, wheel-chairs, and oxygen tanks behind him. It moved like the Fundy fog up King St. toward his regional minister’s office in the ancient port city of Saint John. The phantom gravely, silently, relentlessly moved toward him.
“I am in the presence of the ghost of elections yet to come?” whispered the Premier. His voice, that no longer seemed to belong to him barely managed to squeak out, “ Are you to show me shadows of the things that have not yet happened, but will happen in the time before us?”
The terrifying specter replied not, but reached out a bony finger, bereft of flesh, and pointed. A knot of people drinking coffee in a Tim Horton’s appeared.
“What happened,” one asked the group. It was the 1st of January upon the coming into effect of the accord between he and Medavie,” replied the other. “ New Brunswickers loved their Extra-Mural Program,” a third added.
The vision vanished as fast as it had appeared, and the terrifying figure was now pointing at the Chamber he had known each of these past four years. He looked about in the very place for his own image, but a woman sat in his accustomed seat. And though the bells were drawing in the members, he saw no likeness of himself among the 48 that poured into the chamber, but from among the familiar comforting reds and blues, emerged greens in such numbers Gallant was petrified. A majority government this was not.
“Spirit this is a fearful place,” said the Premier, “Good spirit assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me by an altered agenda. I will seek the common good and hold the role of the Legislature in my heart and try to keep it all the year.”
He closed his eyes and lowered his head to solemnly reflect upon his deeds and when he opened them, he was returned to his office and the sun was rising over the city of elms.
He flung open his door. “What’s today?” he called to a young commissionaire.
“Why it’s the last day of the session before Christmas”, she replied.
“The last day of the session before Christmas,” the Premier sighed to himself. “I haven’t missed it. The spirits have done it all in one night.”
Gallant was better than his word. He did it all. He withdrew Bill 5, released his caucus to vote as they wanted, permitted them to accept amendments to bills at committee, and withdrew his objection to committees to send for persons, papers and records. He had no further intercourse with the election spirits, but it was always said of him that he had taken on the mantle of parliamentarian, though none knew how this had transpired.
And so, from far away, outside the boundaries of the parliamentary precinct, a voice rose up, boldly and without hesitation, from the Blogger Charles, and carried through the Chamber to be heard by each and every member, “God bless us, everyone.”
MLA, Fredericton South and Leader, Green Party of NB