Simply a good guy

Take it from a guy who served sandwiches at the Legislature; one of the candidates for premier is, quite simply, a good guy.

Now that Gary Doer has stepped down as premier and the NDP are in the process of deciding who will become the next party leader I feel inclined to talk about my experience working with our MLAs on a daily basis.

Earlier this year I worked at the cafeteria in the basement of the Legislature. While there I got to meet many of our MLAs without the baggage of being a public figure, or a partisan politico. I have a lot of experience in these types of jobs, having worked at Wendy’s, City Hall and, most recently, the Legislature. Working a job like this, you get a unique perspective of individuals from all social and economic backgrounds. Unfortunately, many people come off as either looking down on you, or awkwardly attempting to not look at you at all. However, there are some who manage to treat you as an equal, despite your job.

One of these people happens to be a contender for premier. This person touts a strong green energy policy, and has delivered a string of solid budgets. Of all the people likely to fill Doer’s shoes, the person I feel always came off as a person first and a politician second is finance minister, Greg Selinger.

Since 1999, Selinger has held his seat in the St. Boniface riding and been our province’s finance minister. With over 10 years in the position he has proven he can keep a balanced budget even in the bad times, because he had the foresight to save when things were going well — a lesson many citizens can learn from. He’s managed to weather controversies, like the elections rebate scandal that broke earlier this year and damaged the party’s reputation yet kept his intact, and helped to soften the blow of the global recession in Manitoba.

Beyond these things, Selinger always came off as a class act — partly because he never seemed irritated answering my little questions about the economy while on his lunch break, and partly because he remembered me enough to say “hello” if I ran into him on the weekend, but mostly because he was always kind and courteous and always spoke to me in the same manner and respect in which he spoke to his colleagues.

What needs to be made clear though is that, unlike other kind politicians, it never felt like he was being nice because he saw me as a potential vote, but because he’s genuinely a caring guy. Believe me, you can tell by the smile and the look in their eyes when a politician is talking to you because they feel obliged to do so, and I never got that impression from Selinger. This is not only a sign of a good politician, but of a good person. The type of person we need to have representing us.

What I like most about Selinger though, is not how he treats those of us who have fringe jobs, but how he talks like a bonafide family man. I recall him often talking excitedly about spending quality time with his family on an upcoming weekend, just like any other burger flipping Joe would. It was touching in a way that doesn’t happen often in a political setting, because many seem too uptight to be themselves.

A final sign that having him as our premier would be a great asset for Manitoba is how he was always calm and collected under pressure. When the rest of the Legislature seemed to reach a fever-pitch, Selinger maintained his cool, even days before finishing his 2009 budget. It’s this steady handed, “’stay the course” attitude that Manitoba is all about; something our leaders should be about as well.

Selinger demonstrates many qualities that are rare for a person in his position. A lot of my stories from working at City Hall and the Legislature are not the kind that put our political system in the greatest light, which is why I’m so pleased to be able to tell you one of the good experiences I had. I know I’m of no real significance and that my opinion could be seen as trivial, but that’s exactly why my opinion should matter, because it comes from a genuine distance and perspective.

Rest assured, if Greg Selinger is at the helm of the provincial government, our premier will be a man who respects all people as equals, and is as close as we can probably get to someone of good intentions in Manitoba’s highest office. But what do I know; I just served the guy sandwiches.

Corey King is just some guy.