So I go to this Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce Christmas party, and who’s there, but the Federal Heritage Minister, Sheila Copps. It’s not surprising that she’s there, really. She’s a the Member of Parliament for Hamilton East, and her riding is going to expand to include Stoney Creek in the next federal election. Shaking hands and making contacts in the Chamber of Commerce is a good way to get votes.
I’m not a big fan of her politics and never have been. But she snagged me as I was walking by and I talked to her for about half an hour. She spotted me about 10 feet away, and locked on, sticking out her hand for a handshake. She addressed me by name (I was wearing a nametag) and introduced herself as Sheila. Within minutes she had quizzed me about my business, and what I did, and where I lived. Somehow I ended up telling her I had bought a loft on Garfield Avenue. She proceeded to make all kinds of connections with that. She told me about friends she had who had met in that building and had gotten married, and how she used to know different people who worked there when it was a radio station, and how she had lived a block away from there, and how at one time she thought about buying a loft there too. She introduced me to every person walking by: “Have you met Kevin? He just bought a loft on Garfield Avenue.” Or, “Have you met Kevin? He owns a computer business.” She even switched instantly into fluent Italian at one point to address an Italian lawyer who was there. It’s easy to see why she’s so successful. She’s a masterful networker. Plus, she’s charismatic, and I found myself liking her as a person, despite what I think of her political ideas.
Anyway, I was feeling cocky, so I decided to throw a wrench into the works. She had just been defeated in the race to lead the Liberal party (and become the next Prime Minister, because there’s no real opposition to the Liberals right now). The guy who beat her, Paul Martin, has been clearing house lately, getting rid of people who were faithful to the old Prime Minister. Sheila Copps falls into that category. So, I said, “Lots of changes happening lately, eh?” and she said something diplomatic, like, “Yes, but change can be good.” So, I said, “Where do you see yourself next year?” She almost broke, because I saw her eyes narrow, and she backed up a little bit. I don’t think she was planning on facing much more than ass-kissing tonight. But she recovered nicely and said, “I’m not quitting. I’ll still be a Member of Parliament. There are too many cool things left to do in Parliament for me to leave.” Then she changed the subject. Hehe.
Talking to her was quite interesting. She stood close, almost invading personal space, so she could talk at a normal level, and make good eye contact. She gave you the impression that she was making a personal connection, yet I got the feeling that she was very carefully guarded about each and every word she said, even though she was speaking very casually. I guess that comes from a lifetime of politically “watching your back.”
It was very educational to meet a high-profile politician and get to examine her methods up close. I do have a healthy respect for how hard they work at what they do, and how good they are at it. Yet, I’m still glad it’s not my job. 🙂