The author is a former conservative strategist. He was a political adviser in the Harper government as well as in the opposition.
Every minister must exercise judgment. The privilege of apologizing is rare and should remain the prerogative of the Prime Minister. The overwhelming majority of the Coalition avenir Québec in the National Assembly means that it will be very easy for Mr. Legault to move on in the event of errors. About sixty deputies relegated to the wings want your post as minister. The possible errors are innumerable. And there is no appeal process.
First of all, always keep in mind the airtight division that separates politics from the judiciary. In case of conflict, do not call a judge. In 1990, Jean Charest, then federal sports minister in the Mulroney government, did it. He had to resign.
Ethical rules apply. They may look complicated, but they are quite simple. You cannot hold assets in a company that receives government money. This rule applies to everyone except Pierre Fitzgibbon. Your assets will have to be disclosed in full, without secret. It’s hard to justify forgetting a villa in Provence, as Finance Minister Bill Morneau did at the time.
You will benefit from a company car with driver, who will also ensure your protection. You are in luck, because federal ministers are not automatically protected. Sensitive information will be communicated to you. No leaking to the media (without prior authorization) will be tolerated.
Confidential documents will be distributed to you. Store them in a secure case. Do not leave it in the car unattended. Don’t leave documents with your “ex” either, like former Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier.
Do not use a private company credit card to cover personal expenses. Former Liberal cabinet minister Tony Tomassi has been found guilty of fraud for paying for his petrol…sixty times over.
Be careful of your friendships, especially if your friends are lobbyists. The appropriate setting for meetings is a ministry conference room, not a restaurant or a CH match. This undermines public trust and has all the appearance of a conflict of interest.
You will be required to travel domestically and internationally. You are responsible for scrutinizing all of your expenses. Minister Bev Oda had to leave her post in the Harper government for a $16 orange juice in London.
When travelling, avoid bar hopping. In 1985, Federal Minister Robert Coates lost his job for visiting a strip club during a trip to Germany. Embassies report on all your activities.
During parties, you should anticipate that a video will end up online. The Finnish Prime Minister had to “voluntarily” submit to a drug test to dispel all suspicions. It was misogynistic, I grant you. In fact, don’t dance. Leave that to Dominique Anglade.
Don’t travel for free. Do not accept any gifts, it is easier to manage. Also avoid singing in a hotel lobby. Take the example of Minister Christian Dubé, who does not go to karaoke evenings.
The government has planes, but you will have to justify each use. A colleague of yours from Saskatchewan got busted for stealing $8,000 to travel 400 km. Choose the car and avoid speeding. The rule also applies to helicopters during a fishing trip, which Minister Peter MacKay had to defend.
Be very careful with your phone. A private server is not used to manage confidential government information. Talk to Hillary Clinton! You don’t tweet in the middle of the night only to change your mind the next day. Nor do we send compromising photos. It’s in very bad taste and you risk being blackmailed. Ask former MP Tony Clement.
Be professional and sober in all circumstances. We don’t dress up like Justin Trudeau. Communicate with your federal counterparts through your department. Text messages are not official government communications. Sonia LeBel will no longer make this mistake.
Pay your bills, taxes and duties on time. We managed to put Éric Duhaime on the defensive during the election campaign because he hadn’t done it. If you are doing work in your home, a permit is often required. Denis Coderre got caught for a swimming pool. Don’t use your political aides to maintain your garden. Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne was found guilty of fraud for this reason.
Holidays at Christmas? It’s ok, but not on the private island of your billionaire “friend”. If your passport has expired, do not use your ministerial title to expedite its renewal. No preferential treatment.
If you are facing personal and mental health issues, talk to your inner circle and your Prime Minister. No secrets, no surprises.