The Low and Winding Road to the Upper Chambre
by Liam Laviche

By day, I toil manufacturing the words of "wit" and "wisdom" uttered by federal Ministers to the media who relay them back to you in sound-bytes and quotations.  

One day I got sick of responding to the Minister's demands and of feeling like nothing more than a replaceable, interchangeable cog in the big bureaucratic machine; of no force or effect.

That night, I decided to lay a demand upon the Minister of all Ministers. I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister compelling him to change the Senate's eligibility criteria so that I, a twenty-something owning no property, could gain an appointment.

Amazingly, the PM ended-up responding to both my letter and, in a roundabout way, my demands.

What lies before you is my letter and ... my story.


TO: The Right Honourable Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chretien MP, PCO

FROM: Liam Laviche

Dear Mr. Chrétien:

Like you, I strongly believe that Canada is the greatest country in the world. Also, like you and your mentor, Pierre Trudeau, I believe this nation can be made even greater through vigilantly maintaining the principle of strong central government and promoting bilingualism from sea to sea to sea. These, along with strict adherence to Canada's three founding principles of peace, order and good government, are what have made, and will keep, our nation the world's greatest.

Today, I write you rife with concern, as you commandeer this country, rich with the legislative power gained by winning your third straight Parliamentary majority. My concern is that the principle of good government has not been well-to adhered by you nor any of our nation's leaders throughout history.

At the heart of my concern is the eligibility criteria overseeing who is permitted to serve the people from Parliament's Upper Chambre.

Mr. Chretien, I love Canada. I love it with all my heart, mind and soul. My single wish, desire and dream is to serve it from the Upper Chambre. Yet, since I own no property and have yet to reach the age of 45, I am barred from the Senate. Why is this so?

The Senate's eligibility criteria say, to Canadians and the world, that the rich and old are the only ones fit to dictate the Senate's agenda. Yet Liberal values call for serving children and youth so they may not be poor forever, and that individual greed brings ill to Canada's collective, sharing spirit. At least this is what I gathered from your rhetoric during last Fall's federal election campaign.

Throughout time, people have brought themselves into communities to achieve collectively what cannot be gotten individually. By means of your unparalleled political whiles, you have earned the power to widen our nation's democracy and broaden Canadians' public participation, honour and enthusiasm by striking down an offensive, unjust and dated law.

The Senate's eligibility criteria are nothing but antiquated vestiges of British elitism. They are no more relevant today than the United States of America's Second Amendment, and just as archaic. Handguns and assault rifles may be justly kept out of Canadians' hands, but the Senate's eligibility criteria unjustly tie Canadians' hands; at least those of whom wish to serve in the Upper Chambre and have yet to live for 45 years and/or be fortunate enough to lay claim to an acre of land.

My wish is that you will allow for the possibility that the wishes of many, and mine, may come true. Mr. Chrétien, this can be a cornerstone of your legacy. And, by the way, once this cornerstone is established, may I be appointed? I really dislike my current job and am ready to explore new opportunities and take on greater responsibility.


Liam Laviche


After dropping it in the mailbox, in empathy, my heart sank with the letter.

I knew that some poor correspondence officer would have to make a reply. I'd been there before, having to, in my Minister's name, craft responses to letters on peculiar things like soliciting birthday greetings for renowned aerobics instructors, to run-of-the-mill explanations on "what does a Minister do?" from schoolchildren tasked with politics assignments.

My letter, however , made a pretty strong case. Crafting a politically-safe response to it would be a fairly daunting task.

Within a few days, though, I learned that no flack was to suffer. My response arrived. It came in the form of a phone call; one from the Prime Minister himself.


"Hey, allo there! This is the Prime Minister. I receive your letter today."

At first I'd thought it must be a joke. But, I hadn't told anyone about the letter.

"Uh... Hello?," I replied.

"Yes, I just read your letter. And, well, you know, I find this proposal very interesting. How about you come to my office where we can talk a while, eh? Come soon. In like an hour."

I accepted the invitation.

Reaching the lobby of the Langevin Bloc, the Ottawa Building housing the Prime Minister's Office, I approached the commissionaire.

"Yeah, I'm Liam. Liam Laviche. The PM invited me here for a chat." I thought to myself, "OK. This is where it all ends."

The guard looked in his book, then looked up at me and asked for some ID. After checking it, he led me to the PM's receptionist. Before I had half-finished the coffee I was given I was called into the Prime Minister's office.

I entered and sat down. The PM's back was turned to me as he tended to some unviewable matters behind his desk.

Turning to face me, his hands behind his back, he said, "Well, Mr. Laviche. Thank you for coming today." With these words, he extended his right hand. I shook it, saying, "No! Thank you for having me. This is both an honour and a thrill. And completely unbelievable!"

And then, as his left hand fell to his side, I saw it.

The PM was caressing in his hand a bloodstained carpet-knife.

Just then, I thought that meeting the PM on such short notice was a bad idea.

"Sir, uh, what-what's goin' on?."

"Well, you know, there are sometimes some things that are not usual, but they must happen for me if I am to keep together this nation, which we both agree is the best in the world."

The PM was grinning. His eyes, dark, determined and demented.

Frozen with fear, I thought I was going to die.

"But, before I talk about that, let me find out some more about you. From your letter, it seems that you are both a politically-smart and ambitious young man. You know, it's people like this that I, and Canada, need. Would you like to work for me?"

I was dumbfounded.

"Well, sir, I think that I ... uh ... I'd be more comfortable in answering that question if you first explained why you're holding that bloody knife."

And so he did.


It turned out that we were not alone in his office. Behind the desk lay the freshly-slain corpse of John Manley, the Foreign Affairs Minister. You may have seen him on TV sporting a flesh-toned patch on his left eye, for which the more cynical of my bureaucratic colleagues called him "Cyclops." This was in preparation for laser eye surgery to rid himself of the thick glasses that laid on the bridge of his nose and, consequently, laid his leadership aspirations to waste.

This initial step toward corrective surgery led the PM to think that yet another of his Ministers was jockeying for leadership position and thus, trying to force him into retirement. The PM angrily confronted his Minister, lost his temper, then jabbed a fountain pen into Cyclops' neck, piercing his jugular vein.

"So, then, I thought, well if the people find this out, they will lose confidence in the government and breed anarchy amongst themselves. So, Canada cannot know about this. Now, let's talk about you taking a job for me."

I thought of calling the police. But I couldn't. The demented PM was between myself and the phone.

"Well, it never hurts to listen, I guess."

"OK then! Tell me, Liam. Do you like travel?"

"Of course. I mean this is the greatest country in the world, but it's nice to go to other nations to be reassured of this fact."

"Well then, how would you like to take the place of my now deceased Foreign Affairs Minister?"

I wondered if the PM had become painfully senile.

"You see, after John bleed on the floor, I thought of a contingency plan."

And that's when he held aloft the end-product of the carpet-knife. The PM had skinned the dead Minister of his face and scalp.

"Now, you will wear this as a mask and you will name yourself 'John Manley.' I looked at your CSIS file and see that you are his height and build. Now, all you need is a predictable navy blue suit and you will be Minister of Foreign Affairs."

Now it was clear. I wasn't summoned to PMO because of my masterfully-composed letter. I was simply an unwitting pawn in the PM's insane game of contingency chess.

As I stared with horror-filled wonderment at the PM as he spun John Manley's dead face in his fist like a drunken baseball fan waving a homer-hankie, I felt sickened with myself: here I was, over the dead, mutilated body of John Manley, actually considering the PM's demented offer.

And seriously. So seriously, in fact, that I accepted. Deadskin mask and all.


Liam Laviche will be back tomorrow to finish the story, all things being equal.


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